Employees are the pulse of the organization. They can make or break the working landscape. For many of us, "employee feedback" sparks memories of uncomfortable conversations with unapproachable managers. However, employee feedback has evolved into ongoing listening strategies that build trust between managers and employees in today's world. Regular employee feedback results in significantly higher engagement, with a plethora of benefits.
Employee feedback is becoming a significant point of emphasis. Managers utilize feedback to make workplaces better and recognize their employees by giving them more than the metaphoric pat on the back.
The value of positive employee feedback is obvious. It reinforces the right behaviors, and it is directly linked to increased morale and productivity. Negative employee feedback is equally important. When provided constructively, it reduces unfavorable behaviors and helps employees understand their strengths and weaknesses. The right feedback, given at a critical time, can significantly impact behaviors, skills, careers, and the company's bottom line.
Ongoing employee feedback is the key to moving forward from outdated performance reviews to track employee progress and improve them on time. Such feedback breaks bad habits, reinforces positive behavior, and enables teams to work more effectively toward their goals. One employee's feedback is a survival guide for another.
With more employees working from home, independently, and remotely, building connections between employees and managers is more important than ever. Employee feedback is critical to building these connections.
What is employee feedback?
Feedback represents the exchange of information about the performance of a person or product. This information is the starting point, the purpose being the improvement of that performance. Also, feedback consists of the opinion we present to a person following a specific action taken by this person.
Employee feedback is the process of giving constructive suggestions to employees by their reporting managers, supervisors, and peers. However, this is not restricted here; employee feedback also comprises the employee's feedback to the manager, peers, or the organization.
Employee feedback is an integral part of the employee experience process and a mechanism that will increasingly help employees get better at their job and for the organization to develop a better workplace culture.
When employees start getting feedback, they feel they are part of the company. Employee recognition plays a huge role in boosting performance and maintaining high levels of engagement. It is also one of the manager's best tools and an essential part of organizational communication. When done regularly, feedback stops being a thing to be anxious about and becomes another part of work.
Types of employee feedback
While there are many feedback qualities, we'll be focusing on positive, constructive, and negative feedback:
- Positive/ appreciative feedback – is given promptly and with interest in it. This type of feedback builds the confidence and self-esteem of the person to whom the manager addresses it. The recipient of the positive feedback will repeat the appreciated behavior and will self-overcome by increasing personal productivity and permanently improving the results. Positive feedback strengthens performance. Positive feedback gives clarity to the employee about good performance. Moreover, it increases appropriate risk-taking, innovation, and involvement. Plus, it makes an employee feel acknowledged.
- Constructive/ corrective feedback – this is oriented towards those elements that can and should be improved. Constructive feedback is meant to lead to a positive change, and it comes as recommendations for obtaining better results. Corrective feedback must be delivered in such a way and by such a person that it will be attended to, rather than simply arousing defensiveness, denial, or anger. It should be followed by a session of re-evaluation and checking the progress of implementing the recommendation.
- Negative feedback - is only the expression of negative opinions over somebody's actions, without including recommendations necessary for change; this type of feedback leads to no result. It only produces frustrations, resistance, and some degree of unwillingness in its acceptance.
Feedback represents the most direct way of communicating a reasoned opinion about a person's performance. But, as simple as it might seem, giving feedback is an incredibly complex and intimidating process because of how delicate we are as humans. There are many reasons why managers hesitate to offer feedback to their employees, among which we find:
- Managers do not know how to give positive feedback effectively because they did not receive much praise either.
- People generally believe that there is no need to praise someone for doing their jobs.
- Some managers may believe that their employees' performance would suffer if they were told they were already doing an excellent job.
- A type of manager thinks that only corrective feedback can help their employees improve and grow.
The tone of employee feedback
Like any other communication, feedback has a tone that can be informal and formal. Let's see what the difference between these two types of communication is:
- Informal feedback - happens spontaneously and in casual settings. It doesn't follow a set schedule with structure. Sometimes informal feedback can happen while walking down the hall, break room, or even at a water cooler. This ad-hoc communication has no limits: it can be communicated between colleagues, managers, or other teams. There's less pressure when it comes to informal feedback. Knowing in advance may build up anxiety, but due to informal feedback's spontaneous nature, those feelings don't have a chance to rise. However, since it can happen at any time, there's no time for preparation.
- Formal feedback - focuses on information-based observations. It usually includes work performance documentation, an overview of project results, and peer surveys. Formal feedback involves managers and leadership. Formal feedback has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, if employees know when the performance review is coming up, they have time to prepare, tie up loose ends, and showcase their best work. However, it can be stressful. With so many people involved, staff may feel under a microscope. Formal feedback may take the form of annual performance reviews, evaluation scores, HR reports, or surveys.
While each tone has its advantages and disadvantages, you should expect to see both in the workplace.
What are the benefits of giving feedback in a company?
The practice has shown that giving positive feedback to your employees brings many more benefits than simple recognition and a pleasant working environment. Employees receiving constant feedback from managers feel involved and motivated, and their work gets appreciated.
Giving positive feedback has numerous proven benefits, including:
- Higher employee engagement
A Gallup survey found that 67% of employees whose managers focused on their strengths were fully engaged in their work, compared to only 31% of employees whose managers focused on their weaknesses.
- Improved employee productivity
Another Gallup study found that teams with managers who focus on strengths daily have 12.5% greater productivity.
- Lower turnover rate
The Secret of Higher Performance study on 65,672 employees shows that those who received strong feedback had turnover rates that were 14.9% lower than for employees who received no feedback.
- Greater profitability
Employees who receive effective, positive feedback regularly are more engaged, productive, stay longer with the company, and show greater profitability. Thus, every manager should learn how to give meaningful positive feedback.
Although it seems complicated to quantify, the statistics demonstrate the importance of feedback in a company. That is why now is the right moment to start building a culture of the feedback given in impromptu moments, using the best practices.
How to give efficient feedback?
For feedback to be efficient and reach its goal, it must have three well-defined phases:
I. Analyzing and understanding the employee and what they are doing
Giving feedback from the manager to the employee is a very specific process, performed after objectively analyzing the employee and is oriented towards a particular goal.
Feedback like: "You did good""Good job!"," You need to improve yourself" can be confusing. The employee does not know what exactly has the managers appreciate or what needs improvement. Instead, feedback oriented precisely on a specific action performed at a particular moment by an employee brings value to their activity. The worker feels appreciated and observed, not just a part of a machine; they are an important resource for the company.
Also, the manager should tailor the feedback be to the personality of each employee. For example, some employees feel great when recognized in public, while others prefer receiving positive feedback privately. You will know, at this phase, when you, as a manager, get to know your employees, their personalities, and preferences!
II. Giving the actual feedback
Ideally, the manager provides feedback during a face-to-face meeting outside the office, preferably during a walk or a coffee. Your message is better understood and received if it is accompanied by appropriate body language: smile, keep eye contact, and use appropriate facial expressions and hand gestures.
Keep in mind basic human psychology. People tend to respond better to positive information, so always open your feedback session with praise and then continue with constructive comments. In no way does this mean you have to sugar-coat your opinion, but there is a reason we still use the idiom "take the bitter with the sweet".
The sooner you communicate some of the challenges and problems, the sooner they will investigate them. When reviewing their work, use numbers and data. Embrace the metrics. Please find all the evidence to support your opinion; otherwise, there is little value in it. Be specific about what was done and what was not. The feedback session is useless if it is about hypothetical situations, which are not depending on the recipient of the feedback.
Before ending the session, confirm understanding and establish an action plan. Offer suggestions for improvement and expectations going forward.
III. Follow up on the feedback
Simply delivering the feedback is not enough for a successful session. Monitoring the progress of the ideas and recommendations presented during the session is an essential phase of the feedback.
Whenever someone gives you feedback, flag those notes and follow up at the next meeting. In between meetings, do some serious introspection and see what you can learn from the feedback. Also, consider sharing the feedback with trusted colleagues so you can figure out whether others see your behavior in a similar light. When the next meeting rolls around, let the feedback provider know what you learned from it and how you have worked to change (if that is indeed the case).
Following up shows your employees you have taken their feedback seriously, and it will give you a chance to improve yourself.
When should a manager offer feedback?
The easiest answer would be "Whenever it is deserved". However, when we talk about humans, nothing is easy. Here are seven situations when it is crucial to give positive feedback to employees, plus examples to inspire from:
# 1: Employees meet or exceed goals
"I received your sales report for the current week. You have exceeded your goal by 30%! Such performance is a significant contribution to the entire department goal. Excellent."
# 2: Go an extra mile
"Last week, I was struggling with a tight deadline and asked for your help. Not only did you send the report two days before the deadline, but you also included all the necessary information. Without your help, I would not be able to organize the whole event on time. The extra effort and time you put into this really made a difference. Thank you!"
# 3: Help colleagues or customer
"Thank you for helping with the onboarding of our new hires/ customers. The presentation you gave yesterday was simple and easy to understand. The clear way you presented our sales process is going to help them get up to speed quickly. Thank you so much. Your presentation really made a difference!"
# 4: Overcome an obstacle
" I know that you have been nervous about giving a presentation in front of such a huge audience, but you did really well. Your tone of voice was authoritative, and your message was clear and focused. I especially liked how you used interesting examples that the whole group could relate to. Great "ob!"
# 5: Take initiative
" You noticed that the sales report for last week is not updated. I want to let you know that I really appreciate how you took it upon yourself and called the colleagues from the Sales Department and so the report was updated before it was too late. Well done!"
# 6: Need a confidence boost
"I appreciate the way you handled that customer issue yesterday. I admire your capacity to stay calm in difficult situations. Also, your ability to understand customers' problems and quickly develop solutions is a real next-level problem-solving s"ill."
# 7: Model good behavior
"You did an excellent job yesterday by gathering all of your team members and asking for their input. I liked how you asked everyone a question related to their expertise. It was a great way to encourage participation. What you did yesterday with that meeting is a great example of true teamwork we encourage in our company. Nicely "one!"
Tips for giving feedback to remote teams
In the not-so-distant past, it was easy to schedule lunch or an in-office meeting for a regular or pop-up feedback conversation, where you could make eye contact and evaluate body language. We're in a new world these days. The pandemic necessitates that many leaders and team members are staying away from the office all the time. They rely on a phone call or video tool - but even with video, a huge amount of communication is missing, such as unconscious body language. It may be tempting to take"the easy way out" and take feedback off your to-do list, but avoiding feedback for weeks, months or years is a direct path for making your work a lot harder. Here are several steps to mastering remote feedback:
A. Create and maintain trust
Since you don't see your team members in person, don't have close working conditions, eye contact, or informal conversation's it's important to begin phone contact with them more frequently to build and maintain personal rapport. Call them to chat and ask how they are doing in general. Listen, keep it authentic and share a bit about your own life. This approach helps to make up for a lack of face-to-face communication when it comes time to give feedback. You may notice that it requires a little more attention than when you talk to people in the hallway on a day-to-day basis, but the trust that you build will pay off.
B. Spend more time on goals and priorities
Ask team members what they are focusing on, review their understanding of their goals and help them work through possible conflicting priorities. Find out what is creating delays or problems and have an open-minded conversation about how to proceed. Make it crystal clear when goals have changed and share new information from the management team about what is important this week.
C. Ask them to share their story
Think about a behavioral interview question that you might ask a job candidate. Ask your employees to tell stories about a particular situation: What did they do, step by step? In the case of remote employees, use these descriptive stories like observations of their behavior.
D. Track what people are doing
You may wonder how you can track what employees are doing from week to week; the good news is that doing so can be part of the feedback process. Explore with them how they are handling their assignments and offer positive and corrective feedback, on the approaches they give you and how they are performing in general.
E. Ask for feedback from each of your remote colleagues
Allocate time to solicit employees' feedback, and let them know that you value their suggestions. Thank them for the honesty and acknowledge it's an important point. Ifcan'tcan't think of how or why to implement their feedback (which is unlikely), tell them you want to think about it and develop some ideas on how to implement it before your next meeting. Avoid a quick answer that hurts your mutual trust.
F. See feedback as the best solutions
Instead of seeing it as a chore, see feedback as the fastest route to better business conversations with teams working remotely. They will feel closer to you and your company. You are coaching them. If you handle it well, you will appreciate and respect one another even more, and your employees will be more likely to ask for help and stay on course for better performance.
How to give positive feedback to your employees?
Make your input count: give factual feedback, based on numbers and data, rather than emotional; examine both sides of an issue.
Make the feedback timely. Don't wait days or weeks to offer input. Be spontaneous. This will ensure that the feedback is relevant and helpful.
Provide advance notification and respect recipient' sent's other priorities: secure recipient' sent's undivided attention, free from distractions. Catch the recipient during a peaceful time of day so that they are emotionally available. Remember, being present is not the same as being there.
Build people up rather than tearing them down: complement people in public; present them shortcomings in private. Avoid shaming or threatening the recipient at all costs.
Focus on the act: base your input on recipients' effort and behavior (what they do) rather than on their personality traits or talent (what they are like).
Encourage meaningful communication rather than just taking turns talking. Make feedback a two-way conversation and give the recipient ample time to respond.
Confirm understanding and establish a plan: make sure you and the recipient are on the same page and offer suggestions for improvement before ending the conversation.
Follow up: establish a specific time to review actions taken and progress being made!
How to receive feedback from your employee?
Company communications should always be a two-way street.
The manager can conclude the feedback session by offering the opportunity to the employee to express his opinion, ask questions, and offer feedback.
Getting feedback to your feedback may sound silly at first, but we never get better by ourselves. We always need a new perspective to assess things objectively. Take note of what kind of feedback works and what does not.
Feedback is a tool that can be used unilaterally from top to bottom, from manager to employee, according to the organization chart. Still, in a company that values its employees and their expertise, authentic feedback is bilateral. It is granted in certain contexts and scheduled meetings to improve all employees, no matter their occupation.
In a business where work is based on mutual respect, feedback is well received both by the employee and by the manager. Nevertheless, the practice has shown that the managers tend to receive less feedback as they evolve on the career path.
If the feedback given by the employee is honest and justified, it will undoubtedly be well received by the manager. When receiving the feedback, the manager may not react or react negatively, but if there is a culture of feedback in the company and the manager is a true leader, in the end, he will appreciate the feedback.
Honest and concrete feedback offered by the employee to the manager during a private meeting is beneficial for both and implicitly for the company.
Giving feedback whenever is necessary can be challenging even for the most experienced managers. But it should be in the DNA of every company that wants balanced employees and a pleasant working environment, based on trust and communication between employees and managers.
It would be absurd to believe that financial rewards are not desired, but these are harder to access. That is why feedback is so efficient, can be delivered almost immediately, and the results can be observed in the attitude of the employees.
Feedback is the shortest route from words to results!