“We all need people who will give us feedback.
That’s how we improve.”
Many managers shy away from giving feedback to employees – especially negative feedback. If they don’t know how to give constructive feedback to employees in an effective way, it can be tough—and nerve wracking— to do.
Many worry it may result in an emotional or angry reaction from their employee.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.
When feedback is a part of your company culture and is given on a regular basis, it becomes something employees expect and appreciate. When a company culture acknowledges that everyone has areas they excel in and areas that need improvement, constructive feedback isn’t received as negative, but as coaching for growth.
It lets your employees know what is expected of them, and how they are performing.
Do Employees Want Constructive Feedback?
Let’s look at a study that explored this question.
A 2014 Harvard Business Review survey looked at the extent to which participants preferred to give and to receive both positive and corrective feedback.
Surprisingly, a significantly larger number of respondents (57%) preferred corrective feedback; only 43% preferred praise/recognition, and 72% said they thought their performance would improve if their managers would provide corrective feedback.
The biggest takeaway? 92% of the respondents agreed with the assertion, “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.”
What this tells you as a manager is that constructive feedback will be welcomed, IF delivered effectively. Which leads us to the next question, how do you give constructive feedback to your employees—effectively?
How To Give Constructive Feedback To Employees
Part of delivering constructive feedback effectively is creating a culture in which feedback is well-timed and has positive intentions.
This means that providing constructive feedback to employees not only involves the actual act of giving the feedback, but also involves building a foundation and culture that portrays feedback as a positive vehicle to achieving personal and professional growth.
The following list contains tips for building this culture, as well as how to deliver constructive feedback effectively:
- Build a company culture in which feedback is given regularly and is perceived as a vehicle of growth and improvement.
Create a culture in which it’s OK to make mistakes; they are seen as part of the learning and growth process. Employees in this environment are more willing to try new approaches, and feel that they are an important part of the company’s success. They see feedback, both positive and constructive, as vehicles for career and skill growth because you are delivering the feedback in a constructive way that helps them look at performance issues and develop plans to improve.
- Schedule regular, one-on-one meetings with your employees.
A key to this culture is having regular, one-on-one meetings with your employees in which you provide them with both positive and constructive feedback. Communicate goals and expectations clearly, point out areas in which the employee is making positive contributions, and work with them to define action plans in areas where they need to improve.
- Give feedback to ALL employees, not just those needing improvement.
As the Harvard study indicated, employees crave feedback and direction about their performance. Failing to provide feedback to your top performers could lower their employee satisfaction and jeopardize job retention rates—even high performing employees want to refine and expand their skills.
- Give feedback in person—privately.
No one wants to hear constructive feedback in front of their peers or in an email. This is another reason to schedule one-on-one meetings that occur on a regular basis.
- Give feedback in a timely manner.
Don’t wait until performance reviews to give constructive feedback, and don’t put off addressing problems. As the saying goes, “there should be no surprises in performance reviews.” Establishing habits of timely feedback stop a problem before it gets even bigger.
- It’s about the action, not the person.
When giving constructive feedback about areas where improvement is needed, focus on the action, not the person. State the problem clearly, and ask the employee to suggest ways the problem could be avoided in the future.
Another way to think about this is to focus on the performance, not the personality. Discussion should focus on job performance, not personal traits.
- Give direct, concise feedback.
Don’t try and “soften” the feedback with compliments. Positive feedback is good to give, but if you mix it up with constructive feedback you convolute the message.
Use concrete examples so the employee understands what situation you are referring to. In addition to directly identifying the problem, you also need to identify the ramifications of the problem to help the employee understand why change is needed:
“I see that you have missed the last two deadlines by a few days. This caused a delay in production and shipment. Why do you think this happened, and what could you do to prevent it for future deadlines?”
- Along with feedback, coach them to find a path to improvement.
This is where employee growth and improvement occur. Without managerial guidance, constructive feedback can be frustrating for employees. Don’t give you employee the solution, but coach them through the solution process.
Questions like “Why do you think this happened?” or “How do you think you could prevent this from happening in the future?” empower the employee to think of possible solutions. You can add your suggestions to theirs, and ask clarifying questions that make them think through what they are proposing.
- Help your employee develop a list of action items.
Once a possible solution has been identified, work with the employee to develop a list of action items. Then, at the next meeting, go through these action items, discuss how they are or aren’t working, and adjust accordingly.
- Follow up regularly.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is another item a regular one-on-one meeting with your employees takes care of. Feedback should not be one-and-done, it should be ongoing.
Touch base on action items from the previous meeting, note improvements, and troubleshoot any areas that aren’t progressing.
Master How To Give Constructive Feedback To Your Employees– Effectively!
Mastering the art of constructive feedback takes practice and intentionality by any manager. Model how to give positive feedback by specifying what the person did and why it was so effective.
Convey constructive feedback using specific, clear communication about the action as well as support and direction for finding a solution.
By making this kind of communication commonplace in your company culture, you will boost your employees’ confidence, increase their motivation, and empower your employees to strive for improvement.
Can’t Find The Time To Communicate With Your Employees?
Are you struggling to find time to meet with and coach your employees?
Robin Kramer is an Online Business Manager that has been working with small businesses for 23 years. She can help you analyze your overwhelming to-do list to identify what tasks need your executive expertise, and which ones she can manage for you to free your valuable time.
To learn more about Robin’s skills and how she could help your business, contact her for a free consultation today
Next Month’s Article Preview: Innovative Employee Retention Strategies