How to Provide Effective Employee Feedback to Your Team

Giving feedback to employees is not always an easy thing to do. Negative feedback may not always be well received and yet honesty is absolutely necessary. Without effective employee feedback, your team will not know what they need to improve or change.

Feedback is the most cost-effective, most powerful, and yet, most under-utilised management tool that any business could have at its disposal. Feedback is essential as it helps people get on track, and also serves as a guide to help people to figure out how they and others perceive their performance as well as the quality of their relationships with their colleagues, fellow team players and managers.

The benefits of feedback

Improves productivity

Feedback is not easy to take; we all want it, but none of us really want to hear it (especially when it’s leaning more on the negative end of the scale). But honestly, we all need it.

It helps us discover our strong spots faster and do our job much better. In the long run, productivity improves because employees learn the most effective approaches to effectively tackling to the task to be handled at hand.

Builds strong relationships

The process of regularly gathering effective employee feedback fosters regular interactions between employees and managers.

They both get to know each other better on both professional and personal bases which helps establish strong bonds within a work space. This also improves on the level of teamwork and also reinforces company culture.

Keeps employees engaged

Effective employee feedback requires managers to take active roles in their employees’ work lives.

Whether feedback is attained on a monthly, or even quarterly basis, workers will do their jobs better knowing that their supervisors and managers are invested in making sure they are doing things correctly and learning every detail of their roles.

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Increases employee retention

It’s much easier for employees to feel motivated at work when management is more invested in their development. On the other hand, when managers are less interested in aiding their employees to achieve their full potential, workers might be less inclined to stick around.

It is also worth noting  that millennials, in particular, are very much more interested in opportunities that facilitate professional development.

Eliminates surprises during review time

When managers constantly provide their employees with feedback, it becomes easier for workers to know for certain how well they are doing their jobs. Effective employee feedback involves managers convening with employees or workers on a regular basis.

Ongoing feedback lets employees know where they stand with their work performance and whether they are hitting their goals. This increases chances that, when performance review time comes around, all parties are on the same page and nobody is surprised.

Helps introverted employees learn

Many employees might be too nervous or shy to speak up or ask questions, which is usual considering that it is just human nature.

Making effective employee feedback a top priority makes these kinds of workers much more likely to ask questions which would otherwise be left unsaid. As a result, they will be more open to learning new skills.

Managers learn something too

As much as employees have a lot to benefit from feedback, managers also have a lot to learn too. Always note that every single worker approaches their job differently. An employee might say something during a feedback session that gives their boss a whole new perspective on how the job should be done.

Furthermore, it helps managers easier interact with a diverse set of personalities thus sharpening their management skills.

Encourages new ideas

Feedback is a great way to facilitate conversations between all members of the team and their managers and this where the magic happens. You never know when a simple statement or observation can get the creative juices flowing and help everyone see something from a new perspective.

By encouraging effective employee feedback, your company can increase the chances that an amazing new idea is discovered. Not only can a new idea help grow your company’s bottom line, it can also help managers and employees feel more valuable to the organisation after such an idea is put into practice.

Improves self-awareness

It is very difficult to be very self-aware without constructive feedback from others. Self-awareness and monitoring provide a good platform but feedback from others informs us in ways that enriches our self-knowledge.

Working without feedback is similar to setting out an important journey minus a map or signposts. You may have a great sense of direction but this may not be sufficient to keep you on track.

When people receive little feedback they tend to either be overly self-critical or self-congratulatory. This is because they are relying upon events rather than specific feedback to measure their performance and impact.

effective employee feedback

Image: Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Stats on effective employee feedback

According to PwC, nearly 60% of survey respondents reported that they would like feedback on a daily or weekly basis—a number that increased to 72% for employees under age 30. More than 75% of respondents believe that feedback is valuable. About 45% of respondents also value feedback from their peers and clients or customers, yet less than 30% said they receive it. WHAT?

According to the folks over at Gallup, people who know and use their strengths – and the companies they work for – tend to be better performers. In one study of 65,672 employees, Gallup found those who received strengths feedback had turnover rates that were 14.9% lower than for employees who received no feedback (controlling for job type and tenure).

A study of 530 work units with productivity data found that teams with managers who received strengths feedback showed 12.5% greater productivity post-intervention than teams with managers who received no feedback.

And in a study of 469 business units ranging from retail stores to large manufacturing facilities, Gallup found that units with managers who received strengths feedback showed 8.9% greater profitability post-intervention relative to units in which the manager received no feedback.

How to provide effective employee feedback

How then, can we give accurate, candid feedback without damaging work relationships or hurting those we are trying to help? Here are the key steps you should follow:

Set the context

This is basically the when and where of your feedback. It is imperative to note the context so that everyone is thinking about the same issue and you get the opportunity to be specific.

It sets the path for objectivity whereby you can focus on a particular behaviour you may have observed rather than commenting on someone’s general character.

State your observation

This is the part where you state what you saw – as plainly as possible, without exaggerating anything or brushing over any facts. This is where your feedback gets real — this is the beef and potatoes of it. What did your eyes observe ? What specific behaviours did you notice?

This is the hardest part of giving good feedback. Humans love storytelling so we are predisposed to creating narratives, which cause us to jump to conclusions and assign agency or blame without first considering other data or other possible interpretations. It’s critical here to talk about behaviours, because behaviours can be changed.

There’s a big difference between stating, “You were waving their hands and yelling,” and saying, “You were being a jerk.”

Explain the result

Let your employee know what you thought, or what kind of reaction you may have observed in others. For example, if your employee raised their voice when presented with questions in a client meeting, you could tell them it made you think they were unprepared (rather than it made you feel uncomfortable).

Furthermore, you could say you saw the clients lean back in their chairs and appeared to be turned off.

Remember these questions when preparing your feedback:

  • What impact did that behaviour have on others? On the business?
  • What was the effect of the behaviour? What did you think, how did you feel?

Don’t assume you’re right

Even after you’ve collected your data, you might not have the complete picture. Other people may not see this person’s behaviour as you do. Furthermore, the employee will have their own side of the story.

Keep in mind that difficult feedback is rarely about getting the facts right. It’s more about consolidating conflicting views, feelings, and values. Reasonable people differ about all these things all the time.

The very same way you would want your employee to listen with a willingness to be swayed by what you have to say, you need to be willing to be influenced by what they have to tell you in return.

Ask questions

To make the process a learning conversation for you and your employee, ask questions along the lines of:

  • what is your view on the situation?
  • how could you go about approaching this situation differently next time?
  • what do you think we did well and what do we have room to improve in?

Such questions establish a supportive atmosphere in which the employee can explore different approaches that might produce better results. The more an employee thinks about improving their performance, the more committed they are to actually making it happen.

Focus on business outcomes

Your starting place for giving feedback should be business outcomes: you need to develop talent, improve service delivery or increase sales. Feedback becomes an opportunity to solve a problem when it is framed as a means to reach a specific business goal.

When feedback is focused on the employee’s development, it becomes a gift to them from the manager in form of investing in their career.

Give feedback often

Feedback works best when it’s a continual process rather than a formal session once or twice a year that simply creates unnecessary nerves and tension in both the manager and employee, especially in the face of negative feedback.

With pulse rates shooting up and adrenaline flowing more, the natural response is fight or flight, not the thoughtfulness an effective employee feedback session requires.

Practice giving feedback often; soon it will become a habit. Praise good performance right away. When negative feedback is required, talk with the employee within 24 hours.

Reaffirm (or establish) your expectations

Use feedback as an opportunity  to communicate your future expectations whether it’s a certain type of improvement or more of the same type of behaviour. By doing this, you aid your employees in managing their own expectations and understanding what’s required of them to succeed.

In the previous example, rather than saying you expect your employee to be prepared, say that you expect him to answer questions from clients with a cool, calm and collected voice. This could then lead to a conversation about how to better prepare in the future.

Remember to ‌articulate what your expectations are of the employee, both entering the meeting and going forward after it, as well as ‌how exactly your observations meet/not meet your expectations.

Follow through

Managers like to feel that once they have had the conversation, they’re done with the feedback process. However, there is a vast difference between understanding and changing. Your employees’ ability to make that jump requires ongoing support. So, following up on this is very vital.

Find out the next steps you will take, and how you can support their progress. Plan to meet again within the space of a month after the feedback session. Consider yourself an irreplaceable driving factor for the change you would like to see happen. Suggest certain steps that will help the employee work on any performance gaps they might have or even have them collect their own data by asking peers or fellow employees for feedback on a particular performance area.

In Summary

Effective employee feedback starts with those at the top and it always flows two ways. Implement a platform that allows employees to respond to your feedback and then take it.

Nobody is perfect so there is always room for improvement. Maintaining a respectful relationship will help make any information you must share easier to learn from.

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.