Workplace feedback can facilitate better communication between managers and their staff, increase employee engagement and promote a positive workplace culture.
However, integrating employee feedback seamlessly into an organisation’s everyday processes is easier said than done.
For feedback to have a positive impact, it needs to be consistent and regular, be given formally and informally, and used as a tool for ongoing professional development.
This article discusses in more detail what feedback means, why it’s important, the different types of feedback, and how and when to provide it.
What is feedback?
Workplace feedback is a process of communication where employees are given information about their performance.
It’s an opportunity to celebrate the strengths of employees, to reinforce good performance and behaviour, and to identify opportunities for growth, development and, if required, improvement.
Why is it critical?
A solid team culture based on feedback is crucial for the positive growth of an organisation.
Harvard Business Review conducted a study of over 22,000 leaders and found that employee engagement was directly impacted by the ability of management to provide honest, helpful feedback.
When management takes the time to provide honest feedback to employees, they feel like they’re valued as part of the team. And an employee who feels like they’ve been recognised and acknowledged by an organisation has higher job satisfaction, leading to increased levels of productivity, higher job retention and a healthier workplace environment.
A manager who provides regular feedback to their employees, in turn, becomes more aware of their strengths and weaknesses. This makes them better equipped to delegate responsibilities and tasks, to establish high-performing teams, and ultimately, to get work done faster and more efficiently.
Therefore, it’s plain to see that when done correctly, workplace feedback is an essential management tool. It increases motivation, encourages communication, improves performance and promotes continuous learning and positive working relationships.
However, further research suggests 65% of employees said they wanted more feedback than they were currently receiving.
Not only are employees not receiving the amount of feedback they desire, but in another survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, 92% of respondents agreed that negative feedback, when delivered appropriately, was effective at improving performance.
Different types of feedback
Corrective feedback is information provided to the employee about the way in which their work performance or behaviour can be improved.
While this feedback may be viewed as negative, if it’s delivered objectively and with specific examples, it can be a way to show employees how to grow and develop, resulting in increased productivity.
In fact, the same survey conducted by Harvard Business Review found that 57% of people preferred receiving corrective feedback, compared to 43% preferring praise-recognition.
Constructive feedback is also seen as a way of correcting behaviour or performance, but it should not be critical. The intention of constructive feedback is to foster a positive change in the employee by providing meaningful observation on their behaviour or performance.
Complimentary feedback lets an employee know when they’ve done a good job. It seeks to reinforce good performance and behaviour and to motivate the employee to grow and develop.
While everyone loves to hear they’ve done a great job, and while it’s true that positive feedback should make up the bulk of feedback, it needs to be balanced with the constructive and corrective.
How and when to give feedback
When is it appropriate to provide employee feedback and how often? This depends on certain factors such as the type of feedback given and how the employee in question prefers to receive feedback.
For example, consider the many varied methods, both formal and informal.
Formal feedback might include:
– Annual performance reviews
– Scheduled meetings
– Regular one-on-one catch-ups between management and employees
– Initiatives such as staff and experience surveys, 360-degree assessment tools, self-assessments, etc.
Informal feedback might include:
– Ad-hoc e-mails
– Casual informal chats that occur without being scheduled
– Group discussions
A strong culture of feedback is one where the feedback is regular, consistent and delivered as a mix of both formal and informal.
Forbes recommends asking your employees to complete a worksheet with a series of open-ended questions about how they’d like to receive feedback and their past experiences receiving it.
Feedback as a performance management tool
As a rule of thumb, feedback should always be given in a timely manner. It is ineffectual if the employee only receives it once a year during their performance review.
The annual review also isn’t the time to raise ongoing performance management issues, as these matters should be addressed as and when they occur, allowing the employee the opportunity to provide a response.
Formal performance reviews work best when they’re supported by other types of feedback such as weekly or fortnightly catch-ups and informal conversations. This can also be supplemented with employees assessing their own performance and associated strengths and areas for improvement.
Seek suggests managers should aim to schedule ten 15-minute conversations each year with each of their employees.
Creating a workplace environment that welcomes feedback means you’ll be working towards an increase in productivity, a higher retention of employees and a vast improvement in employee performance.
How to structure your workplace feedback efforts
First of all, establish a time and non-threatening space to provide feedback and make sure the employee understands the purpose of the discussion prior to attending.
Start by clarifying the objective of the conversation. For example, refer to a specific task or project completed by the employee and explain that you’d like to share some feedback on that task with the intention of contributing to their ongoing development.
Provide clear examples of the action the employee took, focusing on facts and behaviours and avoiding any vague or general statements.
Discuss any areas for change or improvement, ensuring these areas are actionable by connecting them with upcoming projects and tasks, and the career goals of the employee.
Make sure the employee understands the feedback they’ve been given and give them the opportunity to respond. Let them know about support systems and any development opportunities available to them.
Last but not least, follow-up with the employee after the conversation at a time when it’s appropriate to check-in and see how they’re feeling about the feedback they received and how they’ve been progressing since then.
How good are you at giving feedback?
Having meaningful conversations about feedback and performance can be difficult for managers. Providing employees with honest feedback, especially when it’s corrective or constructive feedback, can be uncomfortable and stressful.
However, providing regular feedback, both positive and negative, is an integral part of effective staff management.
Assess how good you might be at giving feedback by identifying the ways you currently provide it. What performance systems do you use? Are they formal or informal? Are they regular and consistent? Are you and your employees making the most of those systems?
What can you do to begin improving?
Make time to give feedback. Working in a leadership role is demanding and often requires dealing with multiple matters simultaneously. However, it doesn’t take much time to provide your employees with informal, candid feedback.
Squeeze in a quick five-minute conversation, make giving feedback a priority and find the time to fit it into your schedule.
Where possible, give feedback face-to-face. Make sure your intention in providing the feedback is to assist and empower the employee, not to have your opinion heard.
Encourage a two-way discussion with the employee and listen to what they have to say. Employee are more inclined to take feedback on board when you demonstrate that you’re listening to them.
Finally, lead by example. Involve your employees by asking them for feedback on your management performance, perhaps using 360-degree assessment tools or surveys. This shows that you’re asking for feedback too and that you’re prepared to listen.
A culture of feedback is one that makes time for and welcomes open discussion with the intention of growing individuals, work teams and ultimately the broader organisation.
As managers, we can’t ignore the statistics. Employees are telling us they want to receive feedback and more of it. They agree that, when delivered appropriately, feedback is effective at improving their performance.
Ensure that the practice of giving and receiving feedback becomes a habit in your workplace by making time for regular conversations rather than relying on annual performance appraisals.
By making feedback a priority in your organisation, you’ll be paving the way for increased productivity, higher job satisfaction and a happier, healthier workplace.
Your comments and insights are welcome.
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The Aptitude Team