How to give daily feedback to employees: 12 tips to be more constructive

April 11, 2022Yellow Squiggle

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.

Constructive employee feedback is critical to overall success

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:

  • Helps talent grow and develop
  • Provides an opportunity to build trust between managers and employees
  • Builds better communication skills
  • Allows you to use feedback sessions to strengthen relationships
  • Provides an opportunity to learn what employees need for success
  • Gives employees a chance to discuss things that are causing them stress, and presents an opportunity to discuss solutions

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.

12 tips to improve how you give feedback to employees on a daily basis

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.

1. Keep it private

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:

  • It can be challenging to receive feedback. Deliver it privately to give employees space to manage their emotions.
  • Getting feedback can sometimes feel embarrassing, and nobody likes to be embarrassed in front of everyone. Feeling like they’ve been publicly shamed could erase your rapport with that individual.
  • Public call-outs can alienate you from your entire team. No one wants to come into work every day wondering if they’ll be called out next.
  • Public criticism can make it harder for people to process feedback. When you have a remark about something that could be done better, and you deliver that remark publicly, the employee is more likely to be worrying about what their coworkers are thinking than the feedback you’re delivering.
  • Criticism has a negative connotation, even when delivered in the nicest terms possible. In public, you can come across as much harsher than intended.
  • Even positive feedback is sometimes best reserved for private conversations unless you know the employee appreciates public praise.

2. Be specific to avoid confusion

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.

3. Don’t dilute criticism

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.

4. Be honest and empathetic

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.

5. Show appreciation

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:

  • A positive work environment: Appreciation makes people happier and helps them feel safer in their roles.
  • Better employee performance: People who are rewarded are more willing to work harder, and even small gestures of appreciation can encourage them to perform better.
  • More employee engagement: Happy employees are the ones who care about the work they do. They’re more likely to be engaged, and to feel more connected to their work and the company.
  • Greater creativity: When employees feel neglected, they’re unlikely to feel inspired to come up with great ideas. Appreciated employees are more willing to contribute creative ideas that will help the company — and its employees — succeed.

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:

  • Buy lunch for your team. Not pizza — I repeat, not pizza. Put some thought into it, and make it a special occasion. If there’s time to take them off site, even better!
  • Recognize top performers on your social media accounts (or company newsletter). We live in a heavily digital world, and most businesses have social media accounts. Highlighting the top performers of the month or quarter on your company page (with employee consent) is a nice way to draw attention to your employees’ hard work. If you don’t use social media, consider adding a “performers of the month” section to your company newsletter.
  • Host a quarterly game day. The best team-building activities are the ones that no one realizes are team-building activities. Sponsoring a quarterly game day can give your team something to look forward to, to keep morale high and encourage teamwork along the way. Even fully remote teams can take advantage of online multiplayer games like Virtual Clue — which even has a video conferencing feature.

6. Let employees know when they’re leading by example

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.

7. Ensure that conversations go both ways

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:

  • Utilize a platform for anonymous feedback. Sometimes, certain matters are just too sensitive to discuss openly. Empower employees by allowing for anonymous feedback — and build trust by acting on that feedback.
  • Be curious. Not everyone is forthcoming, and that’s especially true of the more introverted in your ranks. Check in, ask questions, and prove that you’re willing to listen.
  • Foster inclusivity. Recognize that everyone has a different personality and that everyone reacts differently to feedback, socialization, and other factors. Your team members will range from the extremely extroverted to the quiet introverts and everything in between. Each person will have a different threshold for feedback, too.
  • Be flexible. As mentioned above, everyone is different. When asked for feedback, some employees will be able to rattle it off immediately. Others would prefer time to think their answers through. Let each person respond in their own way.
  • Give a heads up about important discussions. Have you ever felt ambushed by a question, such as "Do you have a few minutes to chat?" If you don’t want employees to feel the same way, give them some time to prepare for your conversation.

8. Follow up when employees miss their goals

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.

9. Address changes in performance promptly (positive and negative)

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.

10. Stay up to date with your team’s daily experience

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.

11. Give your team tools and resources to grow and succeed

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:

  • Certifications in various areas of expertise
  • Online classes to boost your team’s knowledge base
  • Coaching and mentoring programs to develop various skills
  • Cross-training, which allows employees to learn other roles within the company
  • Job shadowing, which is another method to help employees learn more about the organization as a whole

12. Follow up to keep the conversation flowing

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.

Employee feedback examples: Dos and don’ts

Need some concrete feedback examples to see how it works? We’ve got some examples below.

When you’re giving feedback on performance:

  • Don’t say, “The fact that you’ve not been meeting goals is a big problem that I expect you to resolve immediately.” Notice the implied “or else" tacked on to the end of that statement. This kind of approach inspires fear while offering nothing helpful.
  • Do say, “I’ve noticed you’ve missed some goals lately. Can you share more about what’s been going on for you?” Approaching an issue like this expresses that yes, there is an issue — but you’re approaching it from a place of curiosity and collaboration instead of blame.

When you’re giving feedback on communication:

  • Don’t say, “I expect you to bring concerns to me immediately.” Commanding communication rather than encouraging it suggests employees could face repercussions if the things they communicate aren’t what you want to hear.
  • Do say, “How can I make it easier for you to share updates or issues you might be seeing? Knowing in advance makes it easier for us to collaborate on solutions to problems.” This tells employees that they’re not going to automatically be in trouble if something goes awry, and it assures them that you’re focused on finding a way to work with them on solutions rather than doling out punishments.

When you’re giving feedback on absences:

  • Don’t say, “You need to bring attendance numbers up. All of these absences are unacceptable.” All this does is build resentment, and make the employee less likely to show up.
  • Do say, “You’ve been taking more time off than usual lately. Is everything OK? Is there something we can do to help?” Encourage the employee to discuss issues without pushing them to reveal private matters. Let them know you may be able to help. Companies often offer things like family leave, sick leave, or counseling for mental health matters. If poor attendance stems from work issues, like disagreements with coworkers, you can help mediate.

How to incorporate feedback daily

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.

Range makes daily check-ins a natural part of your workflow

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.

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12 Tips for Constructive Daily Employee Feedback
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