How To Give & Take Employee Feedback

How many managers are going through the motions when it comes to feedback? If you only provide an appraisal on an annual basis, I’m talking to you. 

The fact is, feedback is a powerful business tool when it is used frequently. Regular and open feedback shows a productivity increase of 12.5% and a drop in staff turnover of at least 15%. For Adobe, regular effective feedback meant a 30% drop in staff leaving the company.

As of 2020, Adobe has about 21,000 employees, just by regularly asking for and giving feedback, they save themselves an annual turnover of 6,300 people!

These are the differences between managers who grasp the impact they have on the team and those who are, themselves, disengaged or keeping their head in the sand.

If 65% of workforces want more feedback, what is the best way of using it to make a difference? 

How to give effective employee feedback?

Your feedback has the power to open a dialogue, alleviate problems, navigate challenges, let people feel valued, and enhance employee development. It is your opportunity to acknowledge what is going well and clear a path to success. 

Employees see the employer through their managers. From their perspective, it shows how much you care about their progress and how much you value their contribution. How willing you are to offer constructive feedback determines how long they stay with your company, so getting it right matters.

Here are a few tips on how to get giving and taking employee feedback:

1. Set a Time and Context

Obviously, you need to set a time but the importance is in the tact. It has to work for your employees’ schedules whilst also giving them enough time to prepare. Make sure your team has enough space in their schedules and will not be put under pressure by giving you their time.

To help them prepare, give them the context of the meeting. Let them know if it is a quick check-in or a longer conversation and what you will discuss. Too many managers keep everything under wraps until the door closes. This undermines the trust and transparency in the process. 

2. Be Prepared and Specific

65% of people want feedback because it is valuable to their jobs and careers going forward. 

87% of millennials are looking for roles that create career development and learning opportunities. For you to be prepared, you must know where you are now and set aims for your feedback meeting. What is it you would like to get out of this 1:1? 

In addition to your aims, be personal to the individual. They need to know you see them. Have the specifics of their performance. Don’t be overly robotic with the KPIs and stats because people are not machines. However, you do need to paint a clear picture of where you see things now. 

There are few things worse than getting feedback from a manager who barely knows your name. Know what the person did and how they contributed to success. Be specific.  

3. Acknowledging Good Performance 

“Praise in public criticize in private.” Vince Lombardi

The most important thing in feedback is to be aware of your impact. Managers are accountable for 70% of the engagement scores of their employees so what you say has an impact. You are the embodiment of the company to those on your team. 

Hence why it is important you acknowledge solid performance. If your employee has done well, recognize it. If they are introverted, do so quietly and if not, feel free to recognize them in front of the team but make sure they know you see their success. 

As much as possible, try to reflect the employee’s performance as part of the overall business success. The more an employee feels a sense of belonging and that they are valued, the more ownership of their results they accept. 

4. Addressing Negative Feedback the Right Way

Every so often, the feedback will be negative. Be thoughtful. Negative feedback carries 6 times more weight than positive. If you are overly critical, you risk disenfranchising and disengaging the employee.

Open the conversation by asking them to self-evaluate. They might raise the issue themselves and be relieved to talk it out with you. 

If not, bring up your topic clearly and carefully. The focus needs to be on the future. How can you help them correct their errors or fix a problem? Don’t be blind to the past but don’t get stuck on it either. Address the specific issue and how you think you both need to move forward. 

It is also important that you expect a rebuttal. Your employee might have a very valid reason why something is not working. Be prepared to change your mind. 

Listen intently, challenge tactfully and resolve together.

Set a plan to follow up and how you are going to change also. 

5. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Have you ever watched political debates where candidates are given 30 seconds to respond? This approach is completely farcical. You cannot hope to have a worthwhile conversation where people are not given the platform to express themselves. 

Ask questions that offer the freedom to respond and probe the tangents you think help. Your feedback meetings should be a bidirectional conversation. 

  • What do you need in your role? 
  • How can I do a better job of supporting you?
  • What obstacles do you have at the moment? 
  • What are your career hopes?
  • What would help you achieve your career goals? 
  • Where should we be going with this company?

6. Avoid Gender Bias

Nobody ever wants to admit they got something wrong or that they had an inherent bias. However, that’s exactly what is needed to strengthen performance at times. 

In a linguistic study by Kieran Snyder, women and men are judged differently in reviews for the same work. Where men are considered confident and leader-like, women are considered abrasive and abrupt. Women receive negative feedback based on personality traits 88% of the time in comparison to 59% of men. 

In a study by Stanford University, they found that the language of feedback routinely explains how to be successful for men while it shows women how to do enough to avoid failure. 

Men are encouraged to pursue independence and flex their leadership capacities with granular, actionable advice. Women are appreciated for their ability to perform team roles and so often get moved into positions of service like administration or HR. This is often because women are not expected to want or be prepared for leadership roles.

When feedback is lacking in actionable constructive advice, it puts a ceiling on how far that employee can reach. If you are giving vague feedback to women, you might subconsciously be at odds with their career goals and, in turn, disenfranchising them. This doesn’t just limit their ability but what they can achieve for your company.

7. Reset and Recommit to Targets

Once you have addressed all matters of feedback, it is important to reset new goals and objectives to work toward. Having something specific to work toward gives employees direction and creates a mutual understanding. 

As much as 50% of employees struggle to understand what is expected of them so realigning works wonders. Ensure leaving the meeting that all roles and objectives are completely clear and collectively understood.

8. Meet Consistently. Feedback is a Process, Not an Event

You probably won’t like this but if you can’t meet your employees on a weekly basis, or at least bi-weekly, you may be managing too many people. Studies show that weekly feedback meetings result in a 13% increase in employee engagement

Scheduling this meeting as an on-going meeting on a consistent schedule will signal to your team that feedback is a process and not an event. 

It doesn’t have to be long or too in-depth but weekly feedback gets things done. Set time aside for quick check-ins to see how individuals can be supported. By doing so, you can answer quick questions, steer progress, and coach employees to higher performance. 

Ultimately, the team needs answers when they have questions, not when you have time. 

If you can set time aside on a regular basis, people know where they can ask questions and share ideas. It removes the ineffectiveness of the parent-teacher meetings style many companies have persisted with. 

Conclusion

For the unsophisticated, feedback is a process of telling employees where they can do better on a yearly basis. Unfortunately, this approach is failing employees and employers alike. It leaves incredible potential on the table.

Feedback is one of the best tools for increasing engagement in your arsenal. Offering constructive observations is about empowering employees to succeed for themselves and your business. It is about constructing a foundation and support for unified goal achievement. 

By regularly and attentively sitting down with your employees, you foster engagement and satisfaction in the team. You allow them to feel like you are there for them and that they are a valuable member of your company’s accomplishments. If you want to become a better leader, effective feedback is your route to doing so. 

Need an easy way to get employee feedback and suggestions?

If you want a simple way to gather and automate employee feedback and suggestions, try SurveyBot: the free employee engagement survey tool.