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How to give effective feedback

Updated: Feb 1, 2022

According to recent studies, 65 percent of employees say they want more feedback. Companies committed to providing effective feedback experience higher employee engagement rates, which in turn lead to greater productivity and profitability. There’s no denying that effective feedback benefits everyone and should be encouraged at all levels of an organization.

Here are our top tips for providing effective feedback.

Deliver it in a timely manner.

Gallup data shows that employees are more motivated to do outstanding work when provided with daily (not just annual) feedback. Positive feedback can often be given in the moment, while negative feedback may be better suited for a one-on-one environment. Whatever the case, don’t wait until a performance review to share recognition or concerns. If an employee knows you recognize their strengths, they will be more eager to continue working hard. If they are made aware of an issue, they will appreciate the opportunity to course correct early.

Keep it consistent.

As we’ve mentioned, employees want feedback more regularly. Providing feedback on a consistent basis eliminates the likelihood of an employee being surprised by what you have to say. Fear arises from the unknown, but when expectations are communicated clearly and consistently, everyone wins. You help to eliminate the negative association with feedback and instead make it part of the regular conversation. Additionally, consistent feedback helps both leaders and employees maintain a better understanding of strengths and weaknesses on the team. By examining issues more frequently, you help set your employees up for success.

Use objective and respectful language.

When addressing an issue you would like to improve, it is important for it to be grounded in specific behaviors or actions rather than your feelings about those behaviors or actions. When feelings impede your message, feedback can go from a two-way conversation to an emotionally-charged event quite quickly. If you need some help, consider the Golden Rule. Before you give any feedback, consider how you yourself would interpret the message you plan to deliver. Would you feel attacked, or would you feel okay about the fact that the issue was brought up so you can improve? Next, prepare to deliver your message with respect. Avoid using phrases that begin with you, such as, “you always,” or “you constantly,” that can be taken as more of a personal jab than a desire to solve a problem together.

Be specific.

The best feedback is specific and actionable. When providing positive feedback, be sure to state the behavior you’re recognizing, as well as the impact. When providing corrective feedback or bringing up a problem, address the observable behaviors and result of the problem, and talk through a solution together. Instead of using a statement like, “You’ve been in a really bad mood lately and it’s impacting the team,” try something like, “I noticed you’ve raised your voice in our team meetings in the last few days. Can we talk about how things are going?” By doing this, you’ve brought up your concern in a way that is not accusatory. If you’re hesitant to give feedback about an issue, just remember that even employees who receive negative feedback would prefer more feedback.

Keep it concise.

There’s no need to provide an entire presentation of proof to address an issue with an employee. Deliver your message with clarity and confidence rather than tiptoeing around the problem. The more you hesitate or try to “build your case,” the more likely a person is to become disengaged or defensive. Rather than expanding upon the problem too much, focus on stating the specific issue as we discussed earlier. Then, leave space for the employee to engage in a meaningful conversation with you. This is especially beneficial if your feedback is going to involve some form of coaching.

Focus on the future.

Your greatest employees - the top talent that you want to keep around - are committed to growth and development. If they’re doing well, they want to know you recognize their strengths and successes. If there is a problem and it is addressed correctly, they’re eager to do better. When addressing an issue, you can encourage growth by speaking about the future. You may begin the conversation by recognizing their current strengths and then move into a discussion about how they could improve even more. Perhaps you have a future role or project in mind for them you could mention.

The One-Minute Takeaway

Time and time again, studies show that regular feedback increases retention, innovation, productivity, and profitability. Employees want more regular feedback - even if it’s negative.

Effective feedback is:

  • Timely

  • Consistent

  • Objective

  • Respectful

  • Specific

  • Concise

  • Future focused

Using effective feedback can take your organization from okay to awesome, but it must start from the top and be an integral part of your company culture.


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