9 Ways to Give Impactful Employee Feedback

June 13, 2023
9 Ways to Give Impactful Employee Feedback

Employee feedback is a super powerful tool. When done right, it can work wonders for the growth and development of your team, boost trust and communication, and strengthen the bond between employees and managers. Sadly, though, many managers tend to shy away from giving feedback because they fear discomfort or simply overlook its importance.

But fear not! I've got nine awesome tips to help you, as a manager or leader, provide feedback to your employees that's not only frequent but also highly effective. These tips will ensure you get the outcomes you desire.

1. Say goodbye to unsolicited advice

Believe it or not, only about a third of people find the feedback they receive helpful. One major reason is that it's often unsolicited, which can make the person on the receiving end feel incredibly stressed out. So, unless your direct report specifically asks for feedback, make sure to have a conversation with them about when and how they'd like to receive it. By giving them control over the feedback process, you increase the chances that they'll take action on what you share. Empower your employees to steer the feedback ship by making them feel comfortable enough to ask for it.

2. Get down to specifics

When giving feedback, be solutions-oriented, crystal clear, and straight to the point. Generic comments like "Your work needs improvement" or "Those reports were unimpressive. Step up your game!" can leave your employees confused and clueless about what exactly needs fixing. Instead, be specific about what you want them to do differently and offer guidance on how they can apply the feedback. For example, say something like, "I noticed you missed the last two deadlines. Let's work together on your time management to ensure you're not taking on too much and completing tasks on time."

Pro tip: Don't get stuck on just corrective feedback. Remember to also share positive feedback with your employees so they know what they're doing right (but hey, don't do it at the same time as corrective feedback – check out tip #6 for more on that).

3. Show empathy like a pro

When it comes to giving feedback that reveals a significant gap in self-awareness, it requires an extra dose of sensitivity. Think of it like ripping off a scab—ouch! Discovering such a profound gap can stir up strong emotions that might be mistaken for defensiveness. So, if you're dealing with a colleague's challenging behavior, put aside your frustrations and tap into the empathy you'll need for this conversation. Before approaching your colleague, be ready to give them the space to feel shocked when they receive your feedback. Remember, their initial reaction doesn't necessarily mean they're resisting your message—it's a lot to process. This sage advice comes from organizational consultant Ron Carucci.

4. Don't wait for the quarterly review

Timing is everything! Providing feedback immediately after an event has the most impact on performance. In fact, engagement levels soar when employees receive feedback on a weekly basis. If you let issues go unaddressed, they can multiply like a domino effect. So, by the time the quarterly performance review rolls around, you'll be dealing with a slew of problems that could've been nipped in the bud earlier.

Saving all feedback for the big review is also flawed because problems may be forgotten, and the valuable feedback window will have closed. Offering feedback daily or weekly helps avoid the recency bias, which tends to focus on recent work and occurs too infrequently to align with the employee's workflow. Plus, it makes tracking and analyzing a colleague's work much easier for everyone involved.

5. Keep it confidential

Never criticize publicly—ever. Even praise is often best delivered in a private setting. Some folks just don't enjoy being in the spotlight. You can also consider giving feedback in writing, which allows you time to reflect and provide a thoughtful response.

Remember, feedback isn't only uncomfortable for the person receiving it; it can also be a bit uncomfortable for the giver. By choosing a more informal setting, you can help ease some of the underlying pressure and create a safer space for open dialogue.

employee feedback

6. Skip the sandwich technique

While the goal of feedback is to help someone improve, sandwiching corrective feedback between two slices of praise doesn't quite hit the mark. This approach confuses the receiver, undermines the impact of your feedback, and can erode trust.

Although it may feel more uncomfortable for the person giving the feedback, being upfront and transparent with constructive criticism lays the foundation for an authentic conversation. Focus on delivering feedback tactfully without beating around the bush.

7. Make it a two-way conversation

Trying to improve someone's performance by lecturing them is like talking to a brick wall—it's just not effective. Remember, respect plays a crucial role when discussing sensitive topics, so instead of talking at someone, open up the conversation and talk with them.

Give the receiver the opportunity to respond to your feedback and encourage them to ask follow-up questions. Once you both have a clear understanding of the issue, you can work together to find a solution or course of action. Collaboration is key!

8. Performance over personality

When giving feedback, focus on an employee's behaviors rather than their personality traits. Let's compare two examples from "The Secret to Giving Constructive Criticism" and think about which type of feedback you'd prefer to receive:

Example 1: "Your arrogance is causing a problem."

Example 2: "When you interrupt me in front of a client, it causes a problem."

See the difference? Example 2 is better because it addresses the person's behavior, whereas Example 1 takes a dig at their character. Constructive feedback should always be about helping someone improve, not attacking who they are as a person.

9. Keep the conversation flowing with follow-ups

Evaluation is no walk in the park—it requires careful thought and energy to do it right. Instead of treating feedback conversations as one-time events, follow up with your direct report and acknowledge their progress along the way. This shows them that you genuinely care about their success and can motivate them to continue doing great work.

Remember, employee feedback is an essential part of growth and development. These tips will help managers and leaders deliver feedback more effectively, fostering collaborative, communicative, and high-performing cultures. So, go forth and create a feedback-friendly environment!

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