Being a great leader means giving feedback that inspires growth and improves performance. It’s both essential to an employee’s individual growth and development but also to the health and well-being of your company. Contrary to what you might believe, employees find incredible value in receiving feedback from managers and other leaders. In fact, almost 60% of employees and 72% of employees under 30 want feedback from their bosses daily or weekly, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
However, this doesn’t mean that giving feedback is easy—especially if it’s negative feedback. It can be very tough to do. Many managers worry that employees will take feedback the wrong way, or feel undervalued by the organization. That’s why, more often than not, it can seem easier to uphold the status quo and simply give employees a pat on the back.
But, when given with thoughtful consideration, feedback can be a valuable tool that helps employees learn and flourish in new ways. And, as they develop and grow individually, their performance improvements can have real business and customer impact too. That’s why it’s important that you make the effort—it also shows that you care about your employee’s growth and development.
So to get you started, here are 6 tips on how to give feedback that’s productive, constructive, and actionable in the workplace.
1. Set Expectations
No one likes to be surprised, so don’t surprise your employees with a feedback meeting without their knowledge. If you want to give one-on-one feedback to an employee, give them a heads up. Let them know what the purpose of the meeting is and what you want to talk about. This will limit the chances that they’ll get defensive, and can help them to prepare and reflect on their own performance ahead of your discussion.
2. Write it Down
Before you give feedback to an employee, you should have a clear idea of what you’re going to say. To help deliver the messages you wish to convey, write it down and be specific. This is a critical step in the feedback process. Not only will this help you articulate, gather and organize your thoughts constructively, but this record of feedback can be a helpful reference point when you deliver your critiques.
3. Give Specific Examples
When giving feedback, it’s easy to be general, offering up platitudes such as “you need to show more initiative” or “you need to be more detailed.” However, these vague suggestions are difficult for an employee to parse and are easy to brush off. Instead, give specific examples of a time when an employee could’ve been more detailed, such as when they turned in a report with incomplete information.
4. Strike a Balance
Criticism from managers can be tough to swallow so making sure to share positive comments as well is important in the feedback process. Positive comments can be as simple as “I agree with you” or “that’s a terrific idea.” According to research, the proper praise-to-criticism ratio is 6:1. That is, for every negative review, the average employee ideally needs 6 positive pieces of feedback.
5. Ask Questions
If you have feedback to give, it can be tempting to lay everything out. But truly good feedback is a two-way conversation and it’s important to listen to what employees have to say. Ask employees what they think about their performance, about areas in which they accel, how they would like to improve, and how they see you helping them get there. Similarly, you should be open and prepared to receive constructive feedback from them yourself.
6. Help Employees with an Action Plan
Feedback is useless unless it can be acted upon. As a manager and leader, it’s your responsibility to help your employees think through goal-oriented action plans so they can leverage your feedback to improve. Have a discussion with your employee about what changes you expect to see and collaborate with them on an action plan to address key issues or behaviors. An action plan should also include appropriate next steps, milestones, or check-ins, ensuring that both employees and managers stay on top of feedback and progress.
The Gift of Feedback
When done correctly and thoughtfully, feedback can be a gift. It can help employees improve in their roles, grow into their careers, and add more value to your organization long-term. Remember, it’s about leveraging your expertise and experiences to help someone else gain valuable insights about themselves and their work.
"Honesty is a very expensive gift; just don’t expect it from cheap people"
Giving and receiving feedback also helps to build healthy company cultures and can help your organization identify what’s working (and what’s not) so that you can make improvements time over time. If you want to invest more in your people and business, giving feedback is a good place to start.
This post is part of a special blog series on 'Building a Healthy Feedback Culture' in support of ProService’s Growth Series event taking place on September 19, 2018 . Offered exclusively to ProService clients and special guests, the Growth Series are interactive learning experiences that feature industry-leading speakers and networking opportunities that will inspire and provide tools for business leaders to take their organizations to the next level. To register, please visit our event page and register with code GS2018.