Employee feedback, when not baulked at, rushed, or avoided altogether, is an all-powerful tool. When done right, it can mean the difference between a business that’s getting by and one that’s growing alongside the people that hold it together.
A quality employee feedback process can boost trust, strengthen communication, and fortify your bonds with employees. While positive employee feedback reinforces employee engagement and productivity, it can also help employees feel they are working toward specific and attainable goals. Negative feedback (given constructively) is just as important because it lessens problematic or inadequate behaviours and helps employees better understand their strengths and weaknesses. Think of feedback as an opportunity to mentor your crew, increase motivation, and improve your leadership skills all at once. After all, engaged employees are more satisfied employees.
Sadly, feedback is often ignored or even omitted. It could be due to fear of confrontation or fear of direct communication (for many people, they’re the same thing).
A Harvard Business Review survey reveals that 58% of people trust strangers, while just 42% trust their boss. Takeaway: there’s a communication problem in many workplaces and employee feedback is a great stride in the direction of tackling this. After all, only 29% of employees are “very satisfied” with the career advancement opportunities available to them, while 41% consider this a key factor in job satisfaction. It’s in any business’s best interests, therefore, to give quality employee feedback (which includes helping employees set professional goals) in order to both retain talent and keep operations on an upward trajectory.
5 ways to give employee feedback
While formal employee performance management systems create opportunities to connect with employees, they are most effective when complemented by other more informal and frequent ways of collecting feedback.
Here are just a few of the ways you might consider providing feedback:
Performance reviews, typically scheduled quarterly or annually, present a formal opportunity to assess an employee’s performance, identify strengths and weaknesses, and help with long-term goal setting. The existence of performance reviews is a positive as it creates formal space for feedback, yet traditional performance management (PM) is commonly disliked. Among managers, 95% are dissatisfied with their PM systems, and 59% of employees feel PM reviews are not worth the time they take, while 56% say they don’t receive feedback that will help them improve. Meanwhile, close to 90% of HR heads feel their PM systems don’t produce accurate information. Many experts agree that the key to better PM is a better PM system!
360-degree feedback is multidirectional, which means that self-evaluation, peer reviews, and/or feedback that travels both ways between employee and manager are all fair game. This type of feedback often provides more accurate information than one or two perspectives might. Multiple sources create a “3D” view of an employee so they can better comprehend both their strengths and any gaps that may be looming in their personal development. The 360 approach is also a great way to obtain valuable data which informs talent management processes such as promotion, succession, and transfers.
Although it may seem time-consuming, chances are it’s in your business’s best interest to carve out a regular time slot for one-on-one meetings. These are weekly or monthly meetings devoted to maintaining positive relationships, staying on top of the latest developments in your team, and becoming informed of any team issues or roadblocks up ahead. This is the perfect opportunity for employees to ask in-depth questions, receive coaching, and provide feedback about the business, the team, or your management style—the types of things not typically encouraged at a team meeting. It’s also a great opportunity to offer employees positive and constructive feedback on their performance.
When providing employee feedback, consider bolstering your messaging by including feedback from their peers. It’s hardly a revelation that the people with the most accurate sense of an employee’s work ethic/style/persona are most often their coworkers. Try having your employees rate one another on perceived performance—either orally, in an interview setting, or via questionnaire (or both). This can be anonymous or otherwise.
Peer reviews can help to identify performance gaps that may have been overlooked. An employee who receives constructive feedback collected from peers will be better equipped to improve and will typically have the support needed to do so, as employee bonding is often strengthened by the peer-review process. Peer reviews can also act as an indirect way of assessing how effective your business processes are, and whether adjustments need to be made.
The Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) is a method of measuring employee satisfaction and loyalty. eNPS surveys help organizations measure the employee experience based on their answers to questions like, “On a scale from 0-10, how likely are you to recommend our organization to your family or friends?” It’s worth noting that your business’s eNPS is likely to be lower than its NPS (which measures customer satisfaction), as employees tend to expect more from a company than customers do. The survey will yield better results if it is strictly anonymous, and can be easily accessed, even with hand-held devices. Many companies send eNPS surveys out quarterly to better track employee experiences and accompanying sentiments about the business as a whole.
Employee feedback best practices
As with most things in life, it’s not just what you do, but how you do it that matters. Regardless of what forms(s) of employee feedback you decide to harness, the following best practices are good rules of thumb for making strong communication and employee happiness a priority. They’re inseparable, in case you missed the memo.
Rather than save your feedback for an annual meeting, say what needs to be said—when it needs to be said. Whether positive or negative, giving immediate feedback is much more relevant and helpful to your employees in the moment.
Clarity is king (and queen), here. Don’t be vague. Focus your feedback on specific actions. Whether you’re happy or unhappy with an employee, tell them exactly why, so they can keep it up or change things up, as the case may be.
Try not to get neurotic about wanting your staff to adopt your personal working style. This is a difficult but worthwhile effort! Just because an employee works differently, does not necessarily mean they are ineffective—the opposite may be true. Also: avoid criticizing small errors.
Don’t be reactive
If something you perceive as negative employee behaviour has triggered a strong reaction, take the time needed to cool down and regain a stable mind frame before engaging in a discussion with your employee.
Accentuate the positive—to a limit
Unsurprisingly, employees react up to six times more strongly to negative comments than positive ones. While it helps to begin a feedback session by showing genuine appreciation for the employee’s more positive attributes or achievements, try not to let a fear of discomfort bury constructive criticism.
Listening is a skill worth honing. If you’re displeased with an employee’s behaviour, start out by asking questions to ascertain that you understand what was behind said employee’s actions rather than launching into statements of fact that you don’t have the facts to back up.
While public recognition of an employee’s contributions and efforts can be a great motivator, negative feedback should be given in private. No one should be criticized in front of their peers, or even their subordinates, as humiliation is never the goal. Also, whenever possible, give negative feedback in person rather than via email.
Always follow up
Feedback works best with regular follow-ups. Outline next steps, schedule a future discussion, and provide any needed support to help employees meet the goals you’ve set together. Keep a record of all feedback-oriented discussions to help you track their progress.
Be willing to receive feedback
Getting employee feedback is just as important as giving quality feedback. In fact, you should encourage it. If needed, make sure you take action to improve your own performance—just as you’d expect of your employees. This will help build an open and honest workplace and ultimately strengthen your leadership!
Bottom line: employee happiness is never a one-off. If you can’t remember the last time you assessed employee satisfaction, then the time is now, and a strong feedback loop is the key.
If you’re fed up with your performance management system, unsure how to access the information you need, or are struggling to see the results you want, PurelyHR’s performance module can make it oh-so-easy easy to balance continuous feedback with traditional performance reviews. Even if your current system seems alright for now, anticipating the inevitable need for improvement is always the way to go—especially when it comes to your finest asset: people power.