Ken Blanchard once stated: “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” This holds true and is essential for any endeavor, whether athletics, business or academia.
Feedback is necessary to adjust the rudder of your organization's "ship." The more feedback you give and receive, as long as it’s quality feedback, the better for your employees and for your organization.
Quality feedback increases worker engagement, which increases productivity. In fact, companies with engaged employees outperformed those with disengaged employees by 202%.
So, what constitutes great feedback? There are several qualities of positive employee feedback that are a must, we’ll look at five of them.
1. Positive Employee Feedback Must be (Somewhat) Positive
This goes without saying, employee feedback should include some positivity and it must be constructive. Many leaders have suffered from being too hard and negative. Some like to believe that the harsh, authoritarian leader is the best, but the old adage proves true: You can get more with honey than vinegar. People prefer working for positive, enthusiastic, kind bosses over difficult, negative, dour leaders.
When delivering difficult feedback to your workers, you must learn the art of communication and conveying negative news in a positive way. Master how to have crucial conversations without destroying employee confidence or ruining workplace morale. This is truly a skill that must be taught for most people, and once learned, honed by all.
If you have to deliver negative feedback, or even something like explain a termination, it’s important to deliver it in such a way that you don’t crush your employees. Even if you’re cutting them from the company, keep it positive.
For one, it’s always a good idea to not burn bridges. Secondly, word-of-mouth and referral are still important. When you can, let them go while being honest about their deficiencies and where they can improve, but don't allow the discussion to turn wholly negative.
2. Positive Employee Feedback Must be Honest
Honest employee feedback is tied into the quality of being positive. Your employees desire feedback that's positive, yet still rings true. Feedback that's positive and false, sounds tinny to their ears and diminishes the value of what you say. They’ll know you’re lying and won’t respect you or your words if they realize you're not being honest. Honesty in your feedback is a must.
While ensuring that your feedback is honest, remember to also keep it kind. A supervisor can easily give feedback that is mean and petty and couch it with, “Oh! I’m just being brutally honest.” Make sure you don’t use truthfulness and honesty to disguise callousness.
Not only is honesty important in your feedback, it’s a must for every aspect of your work. Your dealings with colleagues and superiors must be honest and straightforward. Your interactions with customers must be truthful. When people perceive deceit, they lose trust and respect. You want to be known for your integrity and trustworthiness.
3. Positive Employee Feedback Should be Immediate and Frequent
It's easy to lag in giving employee feedback. You get busy. Demands are overwhelming and suddenly that feedback that was meant for a project two weeks ago is now long overdue. This is a challenging quality to meet consistently; but it’s one of the most important.
Research shows that 95% of workers fail to be engaged when they receive little or no feedback from their supervisors. Further, 65% of employees want more feedback.You can’t give too much quality feedback. Your employees crave it. They want to know when they’re doing a good job, they want to know that you know, and they want to know this often. One study found that 60% of respondents wanted daily or weekly feedback, and that number increases to 72% for millennials.
Of course, your organization should have opportunities for giving formal feedback - such as performance reviews and work evaluations; but, the bulk of your feedback should be informal and oftentimes impromptu. The moment you see an employee doing something that's beneficial to the company or growing their strengths for the betterment of all, stop and tell them. If you wait until a performance review, it may not be as effective.
4. Positive Employee Feedback Must be Detailed and Specific
The feedback you give your employees must be detailed and specific. “Good job,” is fine every once in a while, but the bulk of your feedback must be detailed and specific, especially if you want to see it produce fruit. Individuals need to know exactly what it is they’re doing well and in what way, particularly if you want them to replicate what they did. You also need to be detailed and specific when you see an employee doing something you don’t want them to do. It isn't helpful to say, “Don’t do that!” or “You’ll get a write up” without giving clear details on what exactly they did wrong as well as explaining what a better option would be. Always strive to clearly outline what it is they’re doing right or wrong in a positive, constructive way.
5. Positive Employee Feedback Must Encourage Fruitful Conversation
Strong positive employee feedback must be a two-way conversation. If your employee doesn’t feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, it’s not going to be an extremely productive exchange. Further, they’re not likely to retain much of what you’re saying. People retain more of what you say when you have a positive relationship with them, so you must encourage rich conversation and deep, authentic relationships.
Be sure to ask open-ended questions to understand why the employee decided to do one thing rather than another. Ask why they chose one company for a project over another or why they choose one software package over another. Ask what they feel are their strengths and limitations. Often in a performance evaluation, if you ask individuals to share their strengths and limitations, you may see that they’re much more aware of their limitations than you thought and offer great insight.
BONUS: Your Employee Feedback Should be Growth-Focused
Make sure that your employee feedback is focused on growth. To give feedback for the sake of feedback isn’t very effective. Make sure you’ve thought through your feedback: Yes, you see their strong and weak points, but what effect does that have on their completion of the job, and even more importantly, what can they do to improve and grow? If they’re already a master at a particular task, make sure to tell them and let them know exactly how that skill helps the company.
This is where being detailed and specific is very helpful. Employees often get feedback stating what they’re doing right and wrong; however, that feedback rarely states explicitly what can be done to improve and grow, with strategies delineating how to go about it. Make sure your feedback always has a focus on growth.
Provide Plenty Of Positive Employee Feedback For A More Productive Team
Remember to provide your employees with plenty of feedback. Employees thrive on abundant, quality feedback that is honest, frequent, detailed and specific. Done right, your feedback will encourage fruitful conversations and push your employees and your company toward growth.
Examples Of Positive Employee Feedback For Better Performance Reviews
“When you have a moment, I’d like you to come by my office to discuss your evaluation.” How many times, year after year, can this one sentence cause fear and anxiety to clutch an employee’s heart?
Employee feedback. Yearly evaluation. Biannual performance review. No matter how it’s termed, the mere thought of it can strike fear in the hearts of your workers. How can you alleviate some of this fear and anxiety and turn the dreaded performance review into a positive experience? How can you make it an opportunity for growth and improvement?
Delivery is Key in Giving Positive Employee Feedback
Delivery is everything when it comes to providing positive employee feedback. Often, a supervisor can spend so much time observing, reviewing and evaluating an employee but doesn't consider the best way to convey that feedback. It's critical not to overlook this step because the delivery makes all the difference.
Scenario #1: That Crucial Conversation that Can’t be 100% Positive
Lester struggles with being on time. He also has a hard time following instructions. It’s not that he’s obviously insubordinate; it’s just that he has a penchant for revising directives to best suit him.
How often have you had an employee with these issues? How do you handle that uncomfortable conversation when it’s time to have it? When difficult feedback must be given, it’s often a good idea to use “the hamburger method”:
- Give positive feedback, which is the bun.
- Give the corrective feedback, which is the meat.
- Make sure to provide strategies for how to deal with the issues.
- Remember to state what you plan to do if the employee is unable or unwilling to turn things around.
- Finish with positive feedback, which is the bun on top.
Here’s an example of the hamburger method.
Positive feedback: “Lester, I really like what you’re doing in our department. Your creativity and innovative ideas are a breath of fresh air to the company. Your recent input with the Branning project kept us under budget, and the client liked your adjustments. Those are pluses for the company."
Corrective feedback: "However, we need talk about your tardiness. I'd like for you to share with me what's causing you to be late to work. I’d also like to hear your thoughts on following the directives that I give you. I’d like to understand your position.”
Note: When there's a problem, you want your employee to share what may be influencing their behavior. This part of the conversation can’t be rushed. You’re working for a win-win solution, which you can’t reach if your employee doesn’t feel heard. You’re also looking for your employees to take responsibility for their choices and the consequences that come with their choices.
Positive feedback: “I’m sure we can work through this together. I’m confident you can do this. You’re such an asset to the company. Your creativity and vision have been a breath of fresh air. Let’s work to keep this going.”
Scenario #2: Going Wrong with Negative Feedback
Ann is in charge of a jam-packed, three-day new employee orientation for a large corporation. Her team is expecting close to 200 new employees. At the outset of the training, she notices that too much time has been embedded in the schedule and the new hires are sitting in the auditorium doing nothing as they wait for the next event. Ann understands that idle time is a dangerous thing, especially for new employees. It makes the company look ill-prepared and wasteful of time. Quickly, Ann steps up and leads the 200 employees through an impromptu technology training on their new company-issued laptops. Additionally, she has a team of five helpers fan out to assist.
Ten minutes into the tech training, a senior supervisor from a different department, Nicole, blasts into the auditorium angry about the change in program. Nicole strides up to Ann, who's in the back of the auditorium helping a small cluster of new employees, and asks loudly, “What are you doing?”
“We’re working on technology in the break. We have too much time in the schedule,” Ann responds calmly under her breath.
Nicole, who is a micromanager, craves control and isn’t very technologically proficient, vents loudly, “This is chaos! Technology? Do you know that the thing we scored lowest on in our evaluation last year was Technology? You need to do something about this!”
“We’ll be done with technology in 10 minutes. It would be great if you joined in and helped us,” Ann calmly responds as she turns away to help the cluster of new employees who were sitting behind her listening to the entire exchange.
This is NOT an example of positive employee feedback. Such feedback won’t grow an employee. It won’t increase productivity, engagement or loyalty. Yet, it's common. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s wrong with Nicole’s feedback. First off, it was negative and inaccurate. Further, it was inapplicable because Ann isn't in Nicole’s department. Nicole's harsh feedback didn’t encourage any sort of fruitful conversation. It didn’t serve any positive purpose.
What would have been positive employee feedback that produced beneficial results? This one instance of Ann's impromptu tech class provides a dual lesson in negative and positive feedback
Scenario #3: Doing it Right with Positive Employee Feedback
Later that day Ann ran into her supervisor, Douglas, as she was walking down the hallway. She didn’t know that Douglas was in the auditorium before her confrontation with Nicole. He’d observed Ann jump in and turn “too much free time” into a crash course in technology.
“Great work with that quick Tech 101,” Douglas said as he slowed to a stop. “I was concerned about the time gap, but I should have known that you’d take care of it. That was quick thinking on your feet. I appreciate how you were able to deploy your helpers to assist while you led the new hires into learning the apps, websites and tools they’ll need.”
Ann smiles as her heart lifts. “Thank you, Douglas! I wasn’t too sure…”
“No, no, great work. Sharp thinking. You know, we may need to incorporate something like that from now on with all of our new hires...a Technology 101, perhaps. What do you think?” Before she can answer, he continues, “I’ll have you head it up. You did great work. Thank you!” Douglas strides off as Ann’s smile grows bigger.
Douglas’s feedback was positive, immediate and specific. He's made it a habit to to give kudos to his staff for a job well done, no matter how insignificant, and he gives it frequently. In this case, as in many others, Douglas just hit a home run in terms of employee management and motivation. Who do you think will draw more out of their workers in the long-term? Nicole or Douglas?
Negative or Positive Employee Feedback Makes All the Difference
Don’t take employee feedback lightly. It makes all the difference between motivated, engaged employees and disinterested, disengaged workers. Take the time to learn the art of providing quality, effective positive employee feedback. It will serve you and your organization well.
The Relationship between Positive Employee Feedback and 360 Degree Feedback
Even when the feedback isn't “glowing” and full of “praise,” it still needs to be positive, honest, immediate and frequent, detailed and specific. If done right, it will encourage fruitful conversation that increases communication and trust between individuals.
How exactly does 360 degree feedback/training work with positive employee feedback?
With close inspection, you can see that each of these qualities must be present for 360 degree feedback and training to work and when 360 degree feedback and training are done right, you will get the five qualities. The two function in a relationship where each creates and augments the other.
360 degree feedback delivers positive employee feedback
The nature of 360 degree feedback hinges upon being positive. Being that this particular type of feedback is rooted in Johari’s Window, the purpose is for individuals to discover themselves and each other and, in the process, forge better relationships with each other. Relationship building can only be done in the presence of positive dialogue.
One of the core points of 360 degree feedback is that respondents - employees, subordinates, coworkers, supervisors and clients - are trained in how to answer properly. They must be trained to answer positively and constructively. Of course, they must be honest, critical and point out areas needing improvement, but they should do it in a constructive and positive manner.
Another aspect of 360 degree feedback is that the one receiving the feedback must be positive too. They are to take the information given in a positive manner. They are trained to not take it in a negative light or be offended. They’re not to argue against the feedback and be defensive. They’re not to seek out the respondents, particularly if the feedback points to weaknesses and areas of improvement.
Honest feedback is the root of 360 degree feedbackThe intention of 360 degree feedback is to help an employee develop an understanding of themselves through the eyes of others. Thus, of course, that feedback must be honest. Dishonest feedback is unnecessary, useless and possibly harmful. Whether the feedback is information about the employee's’ strengths or weaknesses, it must be honest.
Immediate and frequent feedback is part of 360 degree training
The 360 degree assessment is not given often, perhaps once a year. Although, if an employee is on an action plan and is working on areas needing improvement, then their 360 degree assessment may be every three to six months.
The actual work on the implementation of the action plan would call for immediate and frequent feedback in order to help the employee make the necessary changes. It's the responsibility of the mentor and/or supervisor to see that this happens. If there isn’t any immediate or frequent feedback, then the training portion will fail.
360 feedback provides detailed and specific feedback
The nature of 360 degree feedback is that it provides detailed and specific feedback. General feedback just isn’t helpful or productive. Further, 360 degree assessments aren't designed to stay at the general level. They're meant to delve deeply into the perceptions of the respondents, the people who work with the employee.
360 degree training encourages fruitful conversation
This particular type of feedback and the training that proceeds from it revolve around fruitful conversation. Recall that one of the aims of 360 degree feedback is to improve relationship between individuals. Part of relationship building is having positive, fruitful conversations where everyone feels heard and seen.
The facilitator and mentor ensure that the five qualities are met
In the process of the 360 degree assessment, feedback and training, the facilitator and mentor play key roles. The facilitator ensures that the participants fill out the 360 degree assessment in a positive, honest and constructive way. This is done through proper training.
The mentor helps the individual who is being evaluated to take the feedback in a positive light. The intention of 360 degree feedback is never to be negative, vindictive or mean. In fact, those individuals receiving the feedback are trained not to respond negatively to feedback that may “ouch.” They may not seek who said what; they can't seek revenge or payback.
Additionally, the mentor ensures that the 360 degree training provides immediate and frequent feedback. If the mentor doesn't maintain the momentum, the training process will fail.
360 Degree Feedback Applied
Let’s revisit Scenario #2: Going Wrong with Negative Feedback. In this scenario, Nicole, a micromanaging supervisor, walked into the orientation of an employee who wasn't in her department and began blasting her with criticism. In truth, Nicole’s issue is deep and pervasive and needs more than just a momentary correction. She needs deep-seated change.
This is where 360 degree feedback and training come in because they produce deep-seated, lasting change. One of the main quotes cited with 360 degree feedback is Abraham Maslow’s observation, “What is necessary to change a person is to change is awareness of himself.” Nicole needs to see herself differently; she needs to see what others are seeing in her in order to change.
If done properly, 360 degree feedback offers Nicole the opportunity to see herself as others do, but in a positive, non-confrontational way. Via the feedback of her peers and subordinates and the coaching of her mentor, Nicole may be helped into seeing her micromanaging behavior that borders on abuse.
Assuming that Nicole’s peers, subordinates, clients, etc., have been trained in properly completing a 360 degree assessment, their answers will be truthful, positive and detailed. The results of the assessment will show the deficiencies in Nicole’s treatment of and interaction with subordinates.
360 Degree Training Applied
To take the scenario with Nicole a step further, once Nicole's supervisor and mentor have the results, they will sit down with her and discuss them. From there, they would set up an action plan to help Nicole improve in the area of micromanaging, especially when it comes to employees that are not in her department.
Nicole would have to stick to the plan. In weekly or bi-weekly check-in sessions with her mentor, Nicole would examine her growth in meeting the terms of her plan. Every three to six months, Nicole would have another 360 degree assessment to see if she’s improved in the eyes of her colleagues, subordinates and others. When the reassessments show that Nicole has changed, she would have successfully completed her action plan.
Positive employee feedback and 360 degree feedback work hand-in-hand.
The five qualities of positive employee feedback work hand-in-hand with 360 degree feedback. In fact, your 360 degree feedback will be ineffective and possibly harmful, if the five qualities are not injected into the process. Yet, properly applied 360 degree feedback ensures that your employee feedback is positive and truly effective.
To learn more about the benefits of employee development, contact Edge Training at 800-305-2025.