For generations, supervisors across every industry have been dogged by a similar question during the review process: How can feedback, both positive and negative, be delivered in a way that actually makes employee performance improve? How can constructive criticism be delivered without de-motivating employees, and how can praise be delivered in a way that supports continued growth? What makes an employee take feedback to heart without taking it personally? What makes feedback stick, last, add value, and bring real change?
There are no simple answers to these questions, but while HR departments search and wait for a collective epiphany, here are five key points that managers and supervisors need to keep in mind:
1. The value of feedback stays high when channels remain open.
A sudden blast of unaccustomed feedback once a year, whether positive or negative, isn’t likely to have much impact on long term performance. A manager who rarely offers feedback will eventually seem disconnected from an employee’s daily activities. And how much can praise or criticism mean when it comes from someone with little knowledge of what we actually do? When feedback is rare, it’s jarring, questionable, and ultimately dismissible. Especially the negative kind.
On the other hand, regular doses of meaningful feedback build trust on both sides. Trust leads to credibility, and credibility leads to open ears and a calm, flexible response to performance assessment. Regular feedback transforms the process from an intimidating event to an every-day communication tool. Think of feedback and constant nudges keeping employees on-track and helping them to reach their goals.
2. Employees appreciate it more than managers may realize.
A manger may spend an hour searching for a way to phrase criticism delicately while, meanwhile, an employee continues to fumble in the dark, wanting nothing more than a clear indication that she is or isn’t on the right track. Employees are often less concerned with displays of approval then they are with doing a good job. Don’t underestimate their resilience. Most employees WANT to learn, want to improve, and want continuous feedback.
3. Don’t expect employees to read between the lines.
This is a common practice. Managers are hesitant to confront employees or simply do not make the time to properly plan or schedule proper feedback sessions. Instead, they make a comment or sent a small email and sandwich the feedback in other content. Employees cannot be expected to analyze their supervisors words or intents – and for good reason. No organization wants their employees spending time deducing meaning. If managers have something relevant and productive to say – positive or constructive – have on with it and be clear.
4. Be timely, specific, and focus on behavior.
The best employee feedback is timely, specific, and focuses on behavior and not the person or the intent. Solution-oriented feedback revolves around managers being committed to development and improvement rather than stone sold critique. Vague comments leave room for employee confusion and interpretation and feedback that isn’t timely can be a complete waste of time if the incident or project has passed.
5. Feedback represents valuable data, but only when it’s handled properly.
No matter how it’s collected or received, feedback represents a two-way data stream between a company and an employee. And like any form of data, feedback will have more value if it’s stored, managed, and aggregated effectively. No matter how you choose to shape your HR management strategy, a sophisticated software platform like emPerform can help you process feedback and get the most out of your employee-supervisor relationships.