Alternatively, feedback can also be used to steer employees in the right direction when they don’t meet all expectations.
Here are a few tips for giving feedback to employees:
- Be timely. Feedback that is given too long after the fact will not have nearly the same impact. It may even be a source of frustration if it feels like old issues are being rehashed.
- Give feedback often, not just when problems arise. Besides being timely, it’s also helpful to give feedback often—don’t wait for the next review session or planned discussion. By the time you get to a planned performance review or other similar discussion, none of the information in it should be new or unexpected.
- Critical feedback can help correct course. When delivered well, feedback can provide employees with more of an understanding of what is expected of them and how to deliver on those expectations. Have discussions about performance or work progress on a regular basis to keep things on track.
- Positive feedback can keep employees motivated and encouraged. Be sure to provide both (not just negative or critical feedback), and try to focus on providing more positive feedback in general.
- When providing employees with input, be sure it is always something they can take action on. If something needs to be changed, spell out exactly what needs to happen. If someone is being praised, explain exactly what the individual should continue doing. Be clear and specific.
- Train management (and anyone else who will be giving feedback to others on a regular basis) on the importance of how to communicate. Tone matters, timing matters, and consistency matters.
- Ensure feedback is focused on the actions that need to be taken or stopped. Feedback shouldn’t be about someone’s personality or individual traits but rather the actions that can be changed. (Doing this can be as simple as changing word choice when providing the feedback.) Focus on the specific things that need to be continued or stopped, and try to give specific examples of actions.
- Consider encouraging employees to give one another positive feedback to promote continued good performance.
- Keep in mind that even with the simplest of critiques, it’s best to deliver this type of information privately, not publicly. There’s no need to create a situation in which someone may get embarrassed. Even when giving positive feedback, not everyone appreciates being put on the spot, so be aware of that.
- Be open to receiving feedback, too. This goes for managers, as well as company representatives like the HR team. Employees likely have input they would like to provide on how the team or organization could improve—and it is usually beneficial to listen to them, even if not everything mentioned can be implemented.
What has your experience been with giving feedback to employees? Have you encountered any particularly positive or negative situations? What would you add to this list?
Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.