Wondering how to make the feedback process more constructive? For managers and employees alike, this is a process that sometimes sparks dread, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, feedback can — and should — be a rewarding experience for everyone involved.
When you provide effective feedback on a regular basis, you open up communication pathways so that your employees can respond in kind. This helps transform your team culture into a positive environment where employees are happy and productivity is high. Below, we’ve compiled some helpful tips and examples that will help you build a better feedback system.
It’s interesting how, in many workplaces, feedback is something that employees dread. While many employers do provide feedback, for a variety of reasons, that feedback just isn’t constructive.
So, why is constructive feedback so important when it comes to your team’s overall success? Here are just a few of the most significant benefits of what solid, helpful feedback can do:
As you can see, those who are giving feedback should be doing more than just pointing out where employees need to improve. These meetings are crucial to your business’s overall success because they can — or should — give space for a back and forth discussion that allows everyone involved to improve in some way.
Have you been saving feedback for yearly assessments? It’s a common practice at a lot of companies, but feedback can be a lot more beneficial not only when you give it regularly, but when you learn how to deliver it effectively. Below are 12 tips for giving feedback that will help you get results.
Keeping feedback private is one of the top rules for providing effective feedback — and it’s surprising that more managers don’t realize it! But the truth is simple: Public spaces are not the place for providing constructive criticism, ever. Here’s why:
Specificity is another crucial component to providing good feedback. If you’re too vague, employees may not fully understand what you meant. As a result, you’ll have to revisit the issue in the future.
Being specific means delivering feedback in clear, concise terms. Be careful to avoid “dumbing it down” in order to make sure your point gets across, since most people will view this as condescending. Consider writing down examples that support your feedback prior to the meeting. These notes will help you share the right information for the employee to understand your feedback.
Keep the discussion on topic, too. Feedback sessions that devolve into chatter about unimportant or unrelated things often leave people thinking, “wait, what were we discussing?” once the session is over.
Focus on solutions. As mentioned, criticism comes across as negative by default. By keeping your discussion solution-oriented, you’ll avoid making the employee feel like a punching bag.
Start and end your session with a clear purpose. This means that from beginning to end, you have a clear goal to achieve with the feedback you are giving.
Ah, the sandwich approach. Even if you don’t know the term, you know the tactic. It’s when criticism is delivered sandwiched between two pieces of positive feedback to “soften the blow.” And be warned: It doesn’t work.
There are a couple of reasons why the sandwich approach doesn’t work. First and foremost, most people dislike giving negative feedback. Spending all that time at the beginning of the session giving praise is only delaying the inevitable, likely making you more anxious when the time comes to deliver the negative feedback.
Sandwiching feedback also dilutes the criticism (and the praise). For the employee, it’s an emotional rollercoaster. At first, they’ll be pleased with the praise that you’re giving — but that praise will be forgotten as soon as you bring up the critical points. Then another pivot back to praise, and chances are, the employee will leave the session feeling rather confused.
Instead, consider how the employee can use their strengths to improve on the feedback. Pointing out where they’re already implementing a skill well can help them understand how to apply that same skill elsewhere.
Rather than sandwiching the bad in with the good, the best way to soften the blow is to deliver feedback with a deep level of empathy. In this context, empathy means being able to relate to the emotions your employee may be experiencing and acting accordingly.
Empathy also means managing your own emotions. But what does that mean? Managing your own emotions in an empathetic way means slowing down and taking your time with this discussion.
Organizational consultant Ron Carucci said, “Before you even approach your colleague, be prepared to give them the space they’ll need to feel shocked upon receiving your feedback. Remember not to interpret it as intensified resistance to your message.”
Often, an employee’s reaction might seem defensive or resistant from your perspective, but this may not always be the case. Slow down, think about it, and be sensitive to what employees may be feeling. Give your employees space to feel surprise or dismay rather than reacting poorly and escalating the situation.
Always make space for the employee to share their reaction or feedback — sometimes you don’t have all the information, and understanding the employee’s viewpoint may change your feedback.
It should be obvious, but showing appreciation for an employee’s efforts is one of those things that are easy to overlook, particularly for busy managers who are already juggling so much. However, it must be said: Appreciation is important. Show it to your employees to reap the benefits, which include:
Sometimes, a simple (but sincere) “thank you so much for all of your hard work on Project A. I’m thrilled with the results, and think you did a great job” will suffice. But if you’re not great with words, there are several ways to show appreciation to your team. Skip the hackneyed, impersonal office pizza party and try one of these ideas instead:
Who are the biggest influencers among your employees? Their peers. This is crucial to remember because your employees listen to each other.
You can offer more than one type of feedback by offering positive remarks when they are warranted. When an employee is doing good work, something that you’d like others to do, it’s time to offer some praise. Let that employee know that they’re leading by example, and that you appreciate what they are doing. Other employees will follow their lead, and before long, you’ll notice a difference in the way everyone works.
Incidentally, this is also a great way to not only reward great work, but also foster leadership skills.
Feedback and discussions should always be a two-way street. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes managers discourage open discourse, and sometimes employees worry that providing feedback or opinions of their own will come with negative repercussions.
How can you inspire thoughtful back-and-forth? Here are some strategies:
People miss goals — it happens. When it happens among your employees, it’s best to avoid coming out with harsh criticisms. Most people don’t miss goals for nefarious reasons. Rather, it generally happens when there’s a genuine problem somewhere in the mix.
It could be outside stressors from home and family life showing up as declines in productivity, or it could be a roadblock occurring somewhere within the team and your processes. It may also be that the employee needs guidance in order to better accomplish their goals.
Follow up when employees miss goals or OKRs, and approach the situation with sensitivity. Listen well, and provide constructive feedback rather than focusing on the negative. Consider using a blameless retro format if a team misses their goals, as there are often multiple formats.
Over time, you’ll probably notice changes in individual performance among employees. Sometimes it’ll be a dip, but other times you’ll see positive changes.
When an employee is experiencing a dip, it’s a great chance to sit down with them one-on-one to address it promptly. What happens when an employee is allowed to make the same mistake again and again without it being addressed? It becomes a habit that is much harder to break.
If you note positive changes, make sure you recognize them promptly, as well. Most employees like recognition for a job well done, and positive timely feedback affirms to the employee that they are on the right track. Be sure to encourage them to continue, and make note of any changes they’ve made that may be helpful to other employees.
Delivering effective feedback means offering the feedback in clear terms while being empathetic and mindful of the employee’s emotional response — whether your feedback is negative or positive. Effective employee feedback builds trust and solidifies teams.
For managers, it’s often easy to become disconnected from the team’s day-to-day happenings. Keeping a pulse on what’s going on with your team members on a daily basis can help you stay ahead of potential issues before they become out of control.
Daily check-ins are common, whether your team is in an office, fully remote, or hybrid. These are generally very brief — a few minutes, or a few chat exchanges maximum — but can often provide valuable insights about your team’s daily experience. When you have a solid understanding of how your team operates daily, you gain a clearer sense of how to guide them from a higher level.
These brief exchanges also present the opportunity for feedback. While heavy, more serious feedback should always be reserved for longer, private sessions, daily updates allow managers to ask questions and provide feedback that can help guide your team with a lighter, gentler hand. It’s important to keep complexity and brevity in mind for these daily conversations: Too many probing questions may be perceived as micromanagement.
Sometimes feedback isn’t enough. You wouldn’t tell a carpenter to build you a set of furniture, but refuse to pay for the lumber, would you? The same thing sometimes happens in the workplace. Bosses expect their employees to complete a task, but fail to provide the resources the employee needs to achieve those goals.
As a manager, there are lots of resources you can provide to help employees do particular jobs, expand on professional development, build good habits, and develop new skills. This includes:
We’ve already discussed following up when employees miss goals, but it’s important to follow up after giving any kind of feedback. This is especially true when you’re giving daily feedback. Following up keeps the conversation going and allows you to identify areas where the employee may need assistance. On a daily basis, it creates a sense of continuity to help the employee succeed.
Need some concrete feedback examples to see how it works? We’ve got some examples below.
When you’re giving feedback on performance:
When you’re giving feedback on communication:
When you’re giving feedback on absences:
We’ve discussed the benefits of daily feedback, but how can you implement it without seeming like a micromanager? When you touch base with your employees each day, provide small directional nudges where improvement is needed, or offer praise and encouraging words to employees who are already on the right path.
If an employee is distracted by one project when another should take priority, assure them that the distracting project can wait and lead them back to the more important task. Similarly, if an employee lands a new client, take notice and congratulate them enthusiastically. Whether you notice that someone is struggling or doing well, it’s much more effective to address changes in the moment rather than days or weeks after the fact.
A byproduct of daily feedback is that staff and managers alike become more comfortable and confident both giving and receiving feedback. This strengthens relationships between managers and employees, and even helps improve conversational skills between individuals.
Giving feedback is a tough, but necessary part of management. While many shudder at the word, the tips and best practices above can make it painless to provide helpful, constructive criticism. Incorporating regular feedback and recognizing your employees for their contributions in a genuine way is key to fostering a healthy, productive, and successful working environment.
Range surfaces daily work, which allows for daily feedback and makes it easier to provide more in-depth feedback over time because you have a history of work. Our platform gives you the tools you need to build communications with your team, including daily check-ins that allow you and your team to discuss issues and find solutions. Get in touch with us today to find out more about how Range can streamline your feedback process.