5 Steps to Effective Employee Feedback

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Effective managers know that in order to get the most out of their employees, they need to give them timely feedback all year round.

Now there are lots of definitions out there about what constitutes effective feedback. Here’s my take on it:

Specific – Feedback should tell the employee specifically what they’re doing well, and why you value the behavior or action by describing its impact on the team, the organization, the customer, etc. Or it should tell them specifically what they need to change/improve and why, again by describing its impact. Ideally, you should give a specific example of when the behavior in question was demonstrated; examples are much more helpful and effective than generalizations.

Honest – Be straightforward and honest, especially with corrective feedback. Don’t beat around the bush and minimize your praise or criticism, or on the other end of the spectrum, exaggerate your feedback.

Timely – Give feedback as soon as it’s possible or practical, preferably right after the behavior is exhibited. The only exception to this is when emotions are running high and you or your employee need time to let these settle before you can communicate effectively

Helpful – Always remember – the goal of feedback is to help the employee improve their performance. So make sure you include helpful coaching, and when needed, suggestions for how to act differently next time.

Ongoing – Don’t reserve your feedback for annual performance appraisals or other formal settings. Make it a weekly if not daily occurrence. Encourage desirable behaviors and actions and be persistent yet patient while trying to redirect poor performance.

A lot of managers don’t give their employees ongoing feedback because they don’t feel comfortable doing so. Here are some tips to help you learn how to give more effective feedback.

  • There are lots of great books, courses, articles, podcasts and other resources on giving effective feedback. Search some of them out, and create a development plan for yourself to increase your skill and comfort in giving feedback.
  • Ask your manager or a mentor to coach you in how to give better feedback. Or observe and try to mimic another manager who’s great at giving feedback.
  • Book one hour each week in your calendar to make notes on your employees’ performance over the past week. You can use these notes as guidance to give your employees verbal or written feedback.
  • Hold frequent regular meetings with your employees to discuss performance, check in on goals and development plans, provide coaching, etc. This could be a weekly one-on-one chat or a monthly review.
  • Set up some form of automatic task reminder to give your employees feedback.
  • Tell your employees that you want to give them regular, ongoing feedback, and ask them to remind you if you forget.
  • Solicit feedback from others who work closely with your employees, and use their input to guide your feedback.
  • If your organization doesn’t already run them, conduct mini performance appraisals with your employees every quarter. Meet with each of your employees, do a quick review of their goals and development plans, and give them feedback on their performance.

Giving employees effective feedback on their performance all year round not only encourages high performance, it increases employee engagement and retention. This valuable activity should be one of the primary tools in every manager’s toolkit.