How to give feedback that is productive for your employees
For many, the idea of receiving feedback is nothing short of intimidating. Those simple words, “Can I see you in my office?” are enough to make anyone’s heart begin to race.
But Kyle Menig, co-founder and president of The Two10 Group and University of Massachusetts Global Corporate Training instructor, also points out that feedback is essential for both employees and supervisors. And Menig would know — he’s spent two and a half decades helping teams become more effective, specifically in the areas of leadership and development.
“Feedback is critical to experience growth for both employees and for the organization as a whole,” he says. “As employees experience their organization investing in their development, they naturally become more satisfied — people want to grow, be challenged and feel like they are cared for and invested in.”
We consulted a handful of seasoned professionals to learn some actionable ways managers and supervisors can improve their constructive criticism processes. Read on to learn how to provide productive feedback that will inspire your employees.
6 Tips on how to give feedback that motivates your employees
Just 27 percent of today’s workers would strongly agree that the feedback they currently receive helps them do their work more effectively. But they do want constructive criticism that inspires them to do better work. In fact, companies that implement regular employee feedback have turnover rates that are 14.9 percent lower than those with employees who receive no such communication.
Considering a career in leadership?
Explore professional pathways that span industries from business to education and learn about degree options that fit your future.
As you mull over those statistics, consider the following six ways you can make your feedback more inspiring and effective for your employees.
1. Make your feedback time sensitive
Timeliness matters. One of Menig’s primary pieces of advice for giving feedback is to provide it as close as possible to the event or project being reviewed. He points toward the example of a coach reviewing a highlight reel of the previous night’s game, and then waiting until the end of the season to actually provide the players with feedback related to that game.
“Who does that actually help? And yet that’s the kind of culture that’s typically out there when it comes to feedback,” he says. “Do your best to connect with employees in real-time — as things are happening, try to be in there giving your feedback when it can still be effective.”
2. Give feedback regularly
Effective feedback, Menig explains, is not an annual or biannual opportunity to tell an employee your thoughts in a performance review. He suggests doing it at least once a month and making sure the employee knows it’s coming up. Offering regular feedback takes the fear out of the process, and it can also help employees stay on track.
Consider the sport of archery. Menig says you could give someone a bow and arrow and just tell them to start shooting it at things. That person would be left constantly wondering how they’re doing, though.
“But once I give you a target, you’re able to see if you’re hitting the bull’s-eye or if you’re not even close,” he explains. “Feedback sets boundaries and keeps people moving in a direction that is productive to them and the organization. Without feedback, people are drifting around wondering if what they are doing is what they should be doing.”
3. Give feedback in private
Nate Masterson, business development expert and CEO of Maple Holistics, has a central practice he thinks everyone should adhere to when offering constructive criticism: “You should never give productive feedback publicly.” He even thinks praise is better delivered privately. “If you want your employee to take you seriously, you should speak with them one-on-one,” Masterson adds.
It may even be beneficial to make the circumstances surrounding the feedback more casual.
“Instead of setting up a formal meeting or calling them into your office, the conversation can happen on a walk or over a cup of coffee,” Masterson says. “It will be a much calmer atmosphere if your employee doesn’t feel like they’re in trouble.”
4. Tie your feedback back to organizational goals
Laura Handrick, HR expert and workplace analyst for Fit Small Business, stresses the importance of keeping feedback work-focused. It should be centered on things like performance, productivity, goals or metrics. But note that in order to accomplish this, you’ll need to communicate those goals from the start. If you set a specific key performance indicator (KPI) and your employee surpasses it, congratulate them and ask them how they did it. And if the employee falls short?
“If they’re below the average, ask them what they need from you to be able to reach the goal,” Handrick offers. “The KPI speaks for itself. Telling someone they need to improve without finding why they’re struggling in the first place is a recipe for failure.”
Greg Bullock, marketing manager for TheraSpecs, agrees that feedback should be tied to larger organizational goals.
“Then the feedback process comes off as a collaborative conversation that is focused on learning about what led to certain outcomes and identifying future changes instead of a directive from the top designed to course correct.”
5. Make it a dialogue
When done properly, providing suggestions for improvement should be mutually beneficial to both an organization and its employees. “Feedback should be more of a dialogue with back-and-forth between both parties, where the employee can also use the opportunity to extend feedback to their manager,” Menig says. Having that conversation, he adds, can help lead to more satisfied employees, greater productivity and a more successful company.
Menig does acknowledge, however, that initiating a dialogue can feel a bit awkward at first. Employees aren’t always accustomed to being empowered to actively participate in the feedback process. Menig offers the following list of questions managers can ask to start soliciting feedback from their employees:
- What do you think customers/clients say about our business?
- If you could change one thing about the way we do things here, what would it be and why?
- How would you want to be rewarded for good work?
- What can I do to help you in your role?
- What would help me in my role, from your perspective?
- What’s the biggest challenge in your job right now?
- How can we make work more satisfying?
6. Adopt a coaching mentality
While people often correlate feedback with criticism, Menig says it should be more closely tied to growth. He suggests organizations think about feedback as a coaching opportunity.
“Coaches are always looking at what they have and trying to create a better future,” he explains. “They’re seeking outcomes that not only benefit the greater team, but also benefit the individual contributors. If you give your managers the tools to coach people well, you’ll see improvements to your bottom line.”
Start practicing the art of productive feedback
Companies across a range of industries are beginning to acknowledge effective feedback as an integral element of organizational leadership that drive success. One survey found that 68 percent of employees who receive accurate and consistent feedback feel fulfilled in their careers. That fulfillment is a key element for cultivating the levels of employee engagement that can increase success across an organization.
As you review the six practical tips on how to give feedback that will engage and motivate your employees, consider the ways you can implement them within your organization. For even more valuable insight, be sure to tune into Kyle Menig and University of Massachusetts Global’s recorded webinar, “Strengthen your workforce with effective feedback.”