6 February 2015

Are you giving effective, constructive feedback?

Feedback is essential in helping employees improve their performance and is seen as a sign of good management. But giving feedback that really works is an art.

Regular feedback is crucial in ensuring organisational growth and success as well as a tool in making employees feel valued.

The absence of feedback, on the other hand, is likely to lead to difficulties – without receiving comments on their work, team members will never know if they’re going in the right direction.

Effective, constructive feedback will:

  • Help employees improve their performance and advance their careers: effective feedback will identify strengths and weaknesses, letting team members know what to build on and what to improve.
  • Clarify and reinforce boundaries: without feedback, employees may become unsure of what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour.
  • Help everyone understand what’s expected of them: effective feedback will update the team on how well they’re fulfilling their roles and working towards the company’s objectives.

There are a number of ways managers can give feedback that works:

Have feedback mechanisms in place
Feedback can be given through various mechanisms including team meetings and one-to-one reviews and appraisals. You can also introduce feedback vehicles like personal development plans. It’s important not to limit feedback to these though.

Give positive feedback
Managers are often compelled to give negative feedback when something goes wrong or a team member behaves in a way that’s unacceptable. But it’s easy to forget to give praise when things are going right. Reinforce desired behaviour and boost employees’ confidence by telling them when they’ve performed well.

Be specific
If you praise a team member, be clear about exactly what they’ve done well and why it works. This will help reinforce the behaviour. Similarly, if you need to talk to them about negative behaviour or underperformance, make it clear what the problem is. Don’t talk about general attitudes or impressions – be specific about where they’re getting it wrong.

Tailor the feedback method to the person
Different people like to receive feedback in different ways. For example, some people like to be praised in front of the team, while public plaudits may embarrass others. Get to know your staff so you can identify the best way to give them comments on their work.

Never give negative feedback in public
Telling someone off in front of other team members is a sign of poor management. Embarrassing a team member will make them feel resentful and it’s unlikely that they will take the feedback on board. If an employee’s behaviour or performance is unsatisfactory, talk to them about it in private. Get tips on dealing with underperformance

Always start with the positive
Even if you’re giving negative feedback, always try to begin with what the employee does well. That way they won’t feel as if they’re being attacked or undermined, and will be more prepared to accept the negative feedback.

Set objectives
Make sure your feedback is constructive by working with the employee to set clear goals for improvement. Discuss what the team member is aiming for and what they need to do to get there.

Be timely
Don’t limit feedback to a six-monthly appraisal. Employees should regularly be made aware of how well they’re doing. If a team member performs well, praise them immediately. Conversely, if they behave in a way that causes you concern, deal with it as soon as possible rather than putting it off.

Monitor performance
For feedback to be effective you need to know it has been taken on board. Employees also need to know if they’re succeeding in improving. Schedule future reviews to check up on progress and tackle any issues that may have arisen.


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