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How to give effective employee feedback

There are so many benefits to a business by incorporating a more open dialogue around feedback. Employee retention is something that nearly all firms are conscious of [read our article on employee retention strategies] and studies have shown that employees are generally more engaged and happier in their work if they feel that their manager is paying attention to their development and can offer constructive criticism [read our article on line management skills]. 

Whether we realise it or not, we are all constantly giving feedback implicitly through our body language and tone of voice (both verbal and written). In the day-to-day, most of us are conscious of how we come across, as we understand its importance in building trust and productive relationships with our colleagues and line managees. However, the problem is that when it comes to formally expressing this many people don’t know how to address the tougher points. According to Forbes around nine out of ten managers have avoided delivering feedback for fear of it going poorly. But obviously, if an employee begins to perform better from receiving feedback, the business performs better. 

The temptation is to hold off and deliver all information in the process-driven annual review. But giving these comments more frequently in bite-sized chunks will make the process less painful for both parties. Also, employees inevitably won’t come out feeling ecstatic if all criticisms are saved up for one meeting. Plus, if problems are addressed as soon as they arise then they can be nipped in the bud, rather than growing into more of an issue than necessary. Also, mastering the art of delivering useful feedback in a tactful manner will only encourage an honest and open relationship. 

So what are the most important things to remember when delivering feedback, contributing towards driving productivity and employee satisfaction?

  • Make it part of your process - If you set a regular time to meet, you can establish a culture of open conversation and create a space for feedback. Having it normalised into your routine will make it far less intimidating when larger points need to be addressed. 
  • Make it prompt - Picking up on things as and when they occur can make feedback seem more natural. If you wait a month to address something it may no longer be as relevant, or the situation may have even developed into a bigger issue. 
  • Focus on actionable improvements - The point of feedback is to help people improve, so give specific points that can be developed. It can help to avoid criticisms such as ‘your attitude isn’t right’, which can come across as a personal attack. Instead, finding solutions to the problem such as ‘we would like to see you contribute more in team meetings’ can be more effective.  Plus, not only does being specific make it easier for people to understand, but also easier for you to see if the advice is being taken on board. 
  • Be honest, polite and fair - At the end of the day as a manager, or even as a colleague, if you have someone’s best interest at heart and your feedback is relevant and actionable you should not be afraid to share it. Think about how you would want to receive the feedback and use that to help dictate how you share the information. 

Being confident at delivering effective feedback is not something everyone is naturally comfortable with, but it is definitely a skill worth developing. Mastering effective feedback is a way to keep people more engaged with their work, improve performance and take your business to the next level. It removes complacency, instead encouraging staff to want to be better and helping them to do so. On top of the benefits to your business’ bottom line, a culture of open and helpful feedback creates a nicer environment to work in. Building open and honest relationships lead to happy workers and happy workers lead to happy managers.