Feedback is necessary for success. It’s a key variable in every relationship, be it work, sports, play or your personal life. In order for feedback to be fruitful, it has to be delivered in a way that sticks. Further, feedback needs to be a mutual exchange. Employees need to feel free and secure enough to provide you–their leader–with honest feedback; however, they can only do this when you receive their feedback in a manner that facilitates growth.
Often leaders fail to consider the importance of employee performance feedback. When they do consider it, they tend to look at only one side of the coin: How to give feedback, not how to receive it themselves. This blog examines the two parts: How to give employee performance feedback and how to receive feedback from employees.
How Leaders Should Deliver Employee Performance Feedback
How should you give employee performance feedback? How can you provide positive and negative employee feedback so that it empowers and motivates your workers?
Employees Must Feel Safe to Properly Receive Feedback
Much hinges on how people feel when they’re receiving feedback. The more positive the environment and the more positively they feel about the deliverer of the feedback, the more likely they are to receive and retain it. If they feel threatened or insecure, retention is less likely.
Give Employee Feedback in a Positive Manner
Research shows that feedback is used only 30% of the time in workplaces. That means it’s disregarded 70% of the time. In general, unpleasant, negative information is more likely to be disregarded. You want to make sure that your employee feedback is delivered in a positive manner and that you share it in such a way that the worker is more likely to hear it, accept it and then implement it.
One study reports that workers react to negative interactions with a supervisor six times more strongly than positive interactions with the same person. Clearly, negative feedback strongly affects employee morale and is more difficult to manage. It also adversely affects productivity. Employees who feel belittled, shamed or overly criticized tend to decrease productivity by almost 50%. That doesn't mean that you can't give negative feedback, it simply means you must be careful to avoid contributing to the negative interactions in your organization.
The "Hamburger" Method of Employee Feedback
What do you do when you have negative employee feedback or you want to share points for improvement? The best way to deliver this sort of feedback is by using the hamburger technique. Couch the negative feedback between two pieces of positive employee feedback. With this concept you have:
- The “soft” bun. You state a positive trait or behavior of the person you’re evaluating. You can also share a positive outcome they've produced.
The “hard” meat. You share the area of concern that you have with their performance, discuss what they need to work on, give a correction, etc.
The “soft” bun. You share another positive trait or behavior and explain their value to your organization and to you.
Frequent Feedback is a Must
The more frequent the feedback, the better. The more frequent the feedback, the less often it must be formal and lengthy. Quick notes and brief conversations are very helpful when feedback is often. Frequent feedback creates a relaxed environment where ideas and concepts move freely back and forth.
Frequent feedback allows for constant calibration. This helps your employees stay on track. They don’t have to wait anxiously for the bi-annual formal visit that will make or break their career. If they see you often and there’s plenty of feedback and dialog, they know where they stand and have the opportunity to calibrate themselves. Feedback is no longer a stressful, high-stakes venture. It’s a natural day-to-day interaction.
Employee Feedback Must be Detailed and Specific
The best feedback is detailed and specific, whether it’s corrective or affirmative. State for your employees exactly what it is that you’re seeing, good or bad. Vague feedback leaves them wondering what you mean. It leaves them open to guessing how to replicate what it is they’re doing well, and it makes it harder for them to cease what it is they’re doing poorly.
Feedback Should be Immediate
All feedback needs to be immediate. The closer to the event the feedback is, the more the feedback is associated with the actual event. This is a powerful concept. Delayed feedback is often not attributed to the causal event.
If you go to observe an employee on a given day, but you fail to provide your feedback within a day or two, by the time he has received the feedback, it has lost its importance and relevance. In fact, the causal event may have been forgotten altogether. Strive to provide immediate feedback.
How Leaders Should Receive Feedback from Their Employees
Let’s look at the less-considered side of the coin. How do you as a leader receive feedback from your employees? It’s important to model for your employees how to receive feedback appropriately.
Allow Room for Employee Feedback
Make sure to allow your employees to give their feedback. This provides them a voice and creates buy-in. Permitting them to agree, disagree or offer a rebuttal empowers them and helps them to feel that they’re being heard and that what they have to say is important to you.
Have a Positive, Gracious Attitude
Regardless of whether your employees’ feedback is positive or negative, the questions are: How do you handle it? Do you remain positive and gracious? Or do you get offended and angry if they disagree? Do you grow condescending?
Having a positive attitude toward the feedback you receive from your employees is a must, particularly when it’s negative. It’s easy to be positive and gracious when their feedback is glowing. It’s a greater challenge to be enthusiastic and thankful with negative performance feedback. This is where you have to step up to the plate and meet the challenge. Show your employees that whatever you expect of them, you expect of yourself.
Listen and be Open to Learning
Listen closely to your employees. Take notes. Ask questions. Open yourself to learn something new. Staying in a state of expectation to learn something new is a precursor to innovation and transformation. You can’t have all the answers. Many answers and solutions are hidden in your employees. Be open to discovering them.
No one likes to talk to someone who is distracted. Typing on your computer, scrolling through your iPad and/or answering the phone while you’re receiving employee feedback is off-putting. Your employees will feel as if they don’t matter and that they’re one of many competing interests. Give your workers your focused attention when you’re receiving employee performance feedback.
Deliver & Receive Employee Feedback More Effectively
These strategies can help you to make employee performance feedback effective, regardless of whether you're delivering or receiving it. You want to ensure that the information you share is received and processed, not cast off and ignored. Additionally having your own positive attitude and being open to learning new things is the best way to receive feedback from your own employees. Leadership can be tricky terrain, particularly when navigating the waters of employee performance feedback. Make sure to handle it in a way that ensures your organization’s success.