Ways to Give Useful Employee Feedback

Employee productivity is what makes the wheels of any business go ‘round, and every manager or boss has an ideal sort of world in their minds to which they aspire. It’s a magical world where everyone is able to work together effectively, hit sales and performance goals and bosses can adequately reward employees for doing great work, which in turn helps retention, creating  a happy cycle.  We can’t stay in fantasy land forever, so let’s check back into the real world.

Even the highest performers need feedback sometimes, as do the weakest. Sometimes it’s a matter of bringing out the potential, in other instances, there might be outside factors affecting work performance. Whatever the case, bosses need to know how to give useful employee feedback. While a majority of employees say they would like more feedback to increase productivity (72%, actually), and that’s beyond the once-a-year review. Think back to your last review. Did you receive a lot of useful feedback? Wouldn’t it have been better to get it on a more frequent basis?

Nobody is perfect, and consistent, constructive feedback is a great way to build a cycle of continuous improvement. But how do you kick off the cycle? Here are some ideas:

1. Focus on a situation
The worst kind of feedback is regarding something personal, or non-work related. So the first tip might seem like the most obvious--keep it work-related--but also keep it situational. If you have an employee who isn’t the best team player, don’t tell them “You aren’t a team player.” It immediately puts them on the defensive and implies there’s something inherently wrong or bad about their personality. Use an example, like “You have great insight. It would be great if you could share more of your expertise with others on the project.” It gives them a tangible action to work towards, and with enough reinforcement, they’ll do it without your prompting.

2. Give concrete examples
In the example above, using a current project is a good way to provide something clearly doable and measurable. If you’re having to give feedback for something in the past, steer clear of generalities. Only give feedback for which you can point at a specific past incident or habit, and always pair it with a solution or suggestion for improvement. Even better? Work toward a solution with them.

3. Be solution-oriented
Building on the aforementioned suggestion, don’t make an employee guess at what the desired result is. Nobody wants to be told that they’re doing something incorrectly without being told the correct way or given alternatives.  When giving corrective feedback, do your best not to be demoralizing. The easiest way to do this bookends the negative with positive feedback, particularly if it’s a part of the same process. Consider helping to foster  mentor-like relationships between staff to start building an environment that fosters solution-oriented feedback.

While helping your employees become more productive and effective might have some bearing on your performance as well, it’s advisable to deliberately turn the lens on yourself.  Ask your employees for feedback on your performance, too. There’s always something new to learn!