Feedback is one of the most important ways employees learn and grow. It gives the supervisor the opportunity to be personal and specific while allowing for two-way communication.
But what are the best ways to give employee feedback? It all starts with listening.
1. Ask employees how they prefer to receive feedback
It may seem obvious, but people learn and communicate in different ways. Some people prefer thorough outlines in writing while others want informal verbal chats. Upon hiring or before a review period, ask your employees how they prefer to receive feedback. Remember to follow any company guidelines, but use this opportunity to tailor how you give feedback and show employees that you value them and their preferences.
2. Be specific
Nothing is more frustrating than receiving feedback – positive or negative – only to realize you aren’t exactly sure what that feedback applies to. While you may be inclined to be vague about your feedback in the interest of being more gentle with your approach, this actually will be more hurtful in the long run. Where possible, you should be specific with both your praise and criticism. Employees need explicit boundaries to better meet expectations.
3. Don’t wait for review periods
Review periods may come only once a year, but feedback is timely when it’s due. Remember this, and schedule regular check-ins with employees beyond any predetermined review period. And don’t hold yourself to this schedule if feedback is due between meeting times. Sometimes feedback is spurred by impressive work or a rare speedbump. Don’t wait for a scheduled review period to respond. Be timely. It’s best to respond to situations within five business days.
4. Where appropriate, provide feedback in public
Sometimes feedback for one person is a teaching moment for the group. This should be done only with positive feedback – or if negative, with the prior consent of the person who receives the feedback. Group teaching moments provide the opportunity to host a conversation about something that is either a common goal or a common problem. Reinforce good habits by making praise public, and address commonly presented issues as a “for the group” note.
5. Do a little digging
In the course of the review, it’s easy to base feedback on the end product. However, this is short-sighted and should be avoided. Instead, use a feedback or review period to interview the employee on what they did or issues they encountered. Sometimes there are things happening you may not be aware of and that require your attention. Never make the assumption that an employee has erred due to incompetence or negligence when you have not done your homework to suss out underlying issues.
6. Make it actionable
When providing feedback, not only are boundaries important but so are timetables. Try to give employees a goal and a time to complete that goal by. This will create a quantitative mark by which you can measure growth and allows the employee to have something concrete to plan around and work up to.
7. When in doubt, sandwich your feedback
There’s a reason the compliment sandwich is still an oft-invoked method: It works. If you are struggling with broaching a touchy topic or tough bit of feedback, start with something the employee does well and that you would like to see more of. This also reminds you that feedback should not always be “room for growth.” It must include “keep doing what works.”