Employee feedback typically tops the list of things a staff wants. Whether it’s a big hullaballoo or a quiet “well done,” everyone wants to be recognized for their achievements. But if an employee is in need of a course correction, they want to know that, as well.
If your company is still waiting for the annual performance review to give employees feedback, you’re way behind the curve. For employees waiting for recognition, and those needing guidance and correction, once a year meetings are too little, too late. Most employers today are responding to the needs of their staff: providing feedback on an ongoing basis informally, and on a routine, more frequent, basis for formal discussions.
The numbers don’t lie
The result, so far, is positive. Employees are better equipped to respond and react, and managers are better able to reward and correct when the situation is fresh in everyone’s mind.
LinkedIn recently compiled data from a variety of sources on the value of providing feedback. The results are enlightening:
- From PwC, 60% of staffers want feedback on a daily or weekly basis — for employees under 30 that figure stands at 72%.
- Employees who received strengths feedback had 14.9% less turnover than employees who received none, according to Gallup.
- A survey by Zenger and Folkman revealed 92% of respondents agreed, “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.”
- In their own survey, LinkedIn found nearly 70% of employees said they would work harder if their efforts were recognized.
Feedback is an essential component to every employee’s work day. Managers who look for opportunities to provide positive, productive commentary are valued. In a Globoforce study, even peers were appreciated; 56% of employees believe performance is more likely to improve if feedback is crowdsourced from both peers and management.
The key is providing actionable feedback that’s mutually beneficial. There’s no point telling an employee they’ll never be able to do x, y or z. That type of feedback demotivates. But even for the hardest hurdles, feedback that creates achievable steps and a path to success can motivate even the most uncooperative staffer to excel.
When and how?
Knowing your audience should guide you to the “when” to provide feedback. While one employee may cringe at PDAs (public displays of appreciation), others may look for the spotlight to shine. When providing short bursts of feedback, consider who you’re talking to and what you’re saying before deciding whether to go with a public display.
Often, employers may try to separate such decisions based on generational grounds, but the delineation for who likes what form of appreciation isn't so cleanly cut. Luckily, for all employees, the desire to be appreciated and recognized is inherent. From a quick “nice save,” to “happy work anniversary today,” employees that consistently hear that they are valued will feel more engaged overall.
Jason Roberts, global head of technology and analytics at Randstad Sourceright's Talent Innovation Center told HR Dive he uses kudos and high fives along the way, interacting with staff on a regular basis. “That’s become a foundational piece of our feedback strategy,” he told HR Dive. “Conversations are held once a quarter at minimum, to discuss how they’re doing and how we can help. Career focus is built into every conversation we hold.”
Behind closed doors
Unless there is an imminent threat of harm, correcting an employee in front of their peers is generally bad form. Even the most emotionally mature employee who tolerates correction well won’t likely receive that type of feedback gladly.
For corrective feedback, privacy is always the best policy. In addition to respecting the employee, privacy affords the opportunity to speak candidly about the problem and how to reverse it. It also adds gravitas. If the issue is significant enough to warrant correction, managers can demonstrate its importance by taking time away from busy schedules to deal with it.
Some managers use the "Oreo approach" to negative feedback: two compliments for every correction. For a rare few employees, the need to cushion correction with praise is not necessary, but for the majority, it's a solid practice. If there is a threat (i.e. an employee not using machinery correctly that could cause injury), don’t try to soften the blow. But if possible, couch correction in strength, and engage the employee in resolution. For example:
You’re terrific with customers, but not as strong on the registers. I know we can fix that easily – since you’re such a great learner. Let’s come up with a plan.
Being corrected is difficult; no one likes to know they’re doing something wrong. Participating in the solution with the employee emphasizes you believe they’re capable enough to get there with guidance and help.
“Many employers are still using feedback cycles that lack consistency meaning they happen infrequently or only when something happens,” Kim Dawson, director of employee experience at YouEarnedIt, said. Rather, employers should create an atmosphere of continuous listening: “the crux of a strong communication foundation.”
“The hard part about feedback is many employees associate it with criticism or an opportunity to vent, rather than a chance to learn, share, and understand,” Dawson added. Employers who provide feedback as an opportunity, rather than a correction, can boost engagement as well as employee learning.
Don’t want employees to think that being called into the office means they are about to be corrected? Call them in to compliment them as frequently, if possible.
Deciding how often to provide feedback
The type of employee should also dictate the frequency of feedback. New hires will need more hand-holding as they get past the learning curve, so feedback should be very frequent. Mid-level employees may need less frequency but more deep discussions into training options and career development. High-level staffers may need even less, but the commonality among all remains: feedback is necessary.
How does an employer guess frequency? For new hires, set time weekly or daily to get them over their first hurdles. For other employees, the best way to know what they want is simply to ask. District managers should ensure their regional and unit managers are passing kudos along to their staff, as well.
Rachel Ernst, Reflektive’s head of employee success, knows many companies are eliminating the annual review for performance management platforms that are customizable for quarterly, monthly or even more frequent feedback — and for good reason. “When employees are given more frequent opportunities to give and receive feedback, they feel more comfortable participating in growth conversations with their managers,” she said.
“Check-ins are another form of feedback employers are implementing,” Ernst continued. These lighter conversations, “create a culture of transparency and development that allow managers and employees to more closely align on performance and progress.”
Putting it on paper...
Roberts says even though a manager may not be using an evaluation form, documenting what was said is still important, as is transparency. He uses shared documents to list what was discussed, action items and long-term plans. Employees are free to review, comment and correct the document that grows along with them. “We’re shifting to collaboration rather than reviews,” he says.
...or to the cloud
Ernst suggests a host of platforms that offer tools like “real-time feedback mechanisms, goal management, check-ins and performance reviews.” The goal is progress, not performance, according to Reflektive.
Feedback is a form of learning, and learning should be continuous. Providing feedback to staff members that helps them grow and develop is a win for them as well as for business.