10 ways to give constructive feedback to your employees
Read time: 3 minutes
As an entrepreneur, it's part of your job to give feedback—both positive and negative—to your employees as part of a good performance management system.
It's difficult for your people to know how they're doing if no one tells them they've produced great work or given less than their best effort. Think of feedback as an opportunity to mentor your people, boost employee engagement and improve your leadership skills.
Here are 10 tips to help employees keep up the good work or get better at what they do.
1. Don't wait
If something needs to be said, say it. A common mistake is to reserve feedback for the annual appraisal meeting. Make time to give immediate feedback, so employees know right away what they did right or wrong, and where they stand.
2. Do it often
Positive feedback is a strong tool for promoting employee engagement and an essential part of performance management. Negative feedback—carefully expressed and backed by coaching and training, if needed—helps your employees improve and ultimately contributes to creating a positive work atmosphere.
3. Be specific
Focus your feedback on specific employee actions rather than vague generalities. Accompany comments such as "good job" with a clear description of the actions you're happy with and wish to see repeated. When giving negative feedback, it's even more important to be specific. Keep in mind the purpose is to improve the performance of your employees, not discourage them.
4. Be fair and don't go overboard
Strive to be objective and avoid micro-managing. Don't get hung up on seeing staff adopt your personal working style and avoid criticizing small errors.
5. Chill out
If something has triggered a strong emotional reaction in you, take time to calm down and regain your cool before engaging in a conversation.
6. Focus on the positive
According to research, employees react up to six times more strongly to negative comments than to positive ones. The study, quoted in the Harvard Business Review article "The delicate art of giving feedback", also suggests that repetitive negative feedback has a destructive impact on employee engagement. A simple strategy is to start a feedback discussion by outlining some of the employee's accomplishments and show sincere appreciation for their efforts before pointing to areas that need improvement. Nevertheless, don't let positive comments bury the purpose of the conversation and avoid sending mixed messages.
7. Dig deeper
Start a feedback discussion by asking questions to make sure you understand what triggered a certain action or behaviour. When you believe your employee has done something wrong, make sure you listen to their version of the story.
8. The medium is the message
Recognizing the contribution and efforts of employees—especially publicly—helps to keep them motivated. Negative feedback, on the other hand, is best given behind closed doors. No one wants to be criticized in front of peers, or worse, in front of subordinates. Ideally, you should give feedback—especially negative comments—in person rather than by email or through a subordinate.
9. Follow up
End the conversation by planning a next step and a future discussion. Follow up and provide support to help the employee meet the goals you've set together. Keep a record of these discussions and consider including them in the employee's annual performance evaluation. This helps you monitor progress.
10. Accept feedback
Encourage employees to give you feedback. Then, make sure you take action on it, if warranted. This contributes to a healthy and open workplace and will make you a better leader.