Employee feedback is the gift that helps teams continually improve. It’s a joy when you can praise your staff for a job well done. But criticism – even when constructive – can end up falling on deaf ears if the delivery lacks empathy. How can you offer feedback that helps employees reach their full potential without putting them on the defense? The Aldrich human resources team can help you facilitate these conversations.
Whether it’s the annual performance review or an informal debrief after a presentation, receiving regular feedback is an important part of developing as a professional. And providing it is part of your responsibility as a manager. Here are some ways you can offer feedback that will earn your staff’s respect and yield results.
Explain the purpose of feedback
Laying some groundwork can help make even the most difficult conversations a bit easier. Start by explaining the purpose of feedback. Remind your employee that criticism, if done in a constructive manner, is actually a good thing. It’s a valuable tool in the workplace that allows employees to learn and grow. If someone doesn’t know their
weaknesses, how can they grow or change?
It’s also a smart idea to set goals for the conversation. Are you trying to improve efficiency in a particular department? Break bad habits that someone has developed over time? Encourage an employee to develop the skills necessary for a promotion? Having a clear understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish and sharing that information with your employee can help put you both on the same team during a performance review.
Nobody should ever be completely surprised by the criticism they receive—otherwise, it can instantly put people in a “flight or fight” mode. If an employee is completely blindsided at a performance review, the manager probably hasn’t been communicating enough. How can you provide feedback that doesn’t surprise your employees?
Don’t wait for the annual performance review. Integrate regular feedback into your relationship with your employees. Let individuals know throughout the year what they’re doing right and where there’s room for improvement. These conversations can take place casually, say over a cup of coffee or during an informal one-on-one meeting. Continuous feedback gets employees used to hearing criticism and gives them opportunities to change their behavior well before their annual performance review.
Your feedback should be crystal clear. Zero in on specific issues that an employee can work on. Instead of just saying you didn’t like a report from an employee, pinpoint exactly what parts of it didn’t meet expectations and what they should do to improve the next one. The most effective employee feedback focuses on very specific issues.
Create dialogues, not monologues
Employee feedback should never be a monologue. Instead, focus on making it a two-way conversation. Share constructive criticism, praise and areas you’d like to see your employee build upon. Then, allow the employee to explain their side of the story. Ask them how you, as a manager, can provide the support they need to improve their
The responsibility for successful dialogue rests on both management and employees. Don’t allow the conversation to turn into a game of excuses, though. If an employee is putting up defensive behavior, reiterate the goals of overcoming the criticism and moving forward strategically. Set reasonable expectations and help them develop an action-oriented plan to meet them. This will help keep people receptive to feedback and focused on next steps.
During a performance review, don’t forget to be positive. Recognizing an employee’s achievements is just as important as pointing out ares of deficiency. Plus, employees will respond better to criticism if they also receive positive feedback in the same conversation.
Just like criticism, praise should be specific. Avoid generic statements like, “You’re doing great work!” Instead, explain what is making their performance successful so they learn which behaviors to keep up in the future. Detailed praise also gives managers the opportunity to motivate staff to step up their game. If an employee hears positive feedback about the visuals they used in a presentation, for example, they’ll be more inclined to continue developing those skills and produce even better diagrams for future projects.
Offer ways to take action
Never walk away from a difficult conversation without setting next steps. What are the expectations moving forward and what’s the plan to accomplish them? You don’t want the employee to leave the conversation without clear guidance.
Nail down a multi-step action plan that employees can begin implementing right away. Point employees to helpful resources available at the company, such as a databank of research for future reports, a leadership training program or a workshop on improving time-management skills. The best feedback leaves employees feeling empowered to make positive changes.
Employee feedback is one of the most useful instruments in a manager’s toolbox. It can help employees feel their work is appreciated and their manager cares about their professional development, ultimately leading to a more motivated and loyal workforce.
Ready to learn more?
For more on delivering constructive feedback to your employees, reach out to human resources advisor Kelly Neil.
Human Resources Advisor
Kelly Neil, PHR
Aldrich Core Consulting LLP
Kelly Neil joined the Aldrich team in 2013 and has 15 years of diverse experience in multiple industries. Her background includes human resources, business operational flow and customer experience. She helps companies develop new and update HR policies and procedures, provides HR support to management teams, builds and implements employee performance reviews, creates job descriptions…
- HR consulting
- Executive recruiting
- HR compliance
- Patient experience
- Employee learning and development