Employee feedback is critical for personal and professional growth. In fact, most employees crave feedback and feel that they are not getting enough of it. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report, only 20 percent of employees strongly agree that they have had a conversation with their manager in the past six months about how to reach their goals. Approximately the same number have not reviewed successes with their manager in the same time period. However, employees who have had goal-setting conversations with their managers in the past six months are 2.8 times more likely to be engaged.
It’s important to note that the feedback must be not only frequent, but also meaningful. Unfortunately, only 23 percent of employees strongly agree that their manager provides meaningful feedback to them, and 26 percent strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do better work. Clearly, there is room to improve the feedback we are giving employees.
Therefore, here are some practical and effective ways you can deliver meaningful employee feedback:
Establish a Connection
Employees should feel that they can come to their leader at any time about anything they are facing in their role. To facilitate this, have conversations about more than just work to establish an authentic, personal connection. This will take time, but it’s well worth it in the end. Establishing this type of rapport makes ongoing feedback come more naturally, and therefore more frequently. This ongoing dialogue works both ways. When employees feel comfortable around you, they are more likely to open up and come to you when issues arise, before those issues become much larger problems.
Before providing feedback, ask questions about what the employee is currently excited about and what challenges he or she is facing. This opens the door to discussing performance issues and also creates an opportunity for recognition. You might also learn about personal issues that are impacting work performance, or about things your employees are excited or passionate about that could positively impact the organization. When you open a discussion on goals, ask if there is anything your employee needs (resources, advice, etc.) to help achieve his or her goals. Employees might be reluctant to ask for help, but if you prompt the discussion with a question, everybody benefits, because employees will get what they need to be truly successful.
One of the goals of providing employee feedback is to help improve performance and engagement. Keep the conversation positive, even when addressing challenges or performance issues. Add constructive feedback between praise to keep the conversation encouraging. Rather than just stating what is wrong, discuss specific steps that can be taken to help employees reach their goals. Offer advice and ways to help them overcome obstacles or challenges. Without this type of positive reinforcement, employees can be left feeling dejected and frustrated after receiving feedback from a leader. This can potentially lead to a loss of motivation and disengagement with their role.
Set New Goals
Keep the feedback momentum going and set up the topic for your next conversation by setting new goals. Focus on the most recent successes and how the employee can build on them. Although it’s important to address weaknesses, focusing on strengths will keep employees energized to do the work that makes them most successful. Rather than defining all of the goals yourself, work together to come up with realistic objectives that employees are excited about working toward. This will ensure that they are just as invested in meeting those goals as you are.
Employee feedback does not need to be in a formal setting. In fact, the most successful employees receive informal feedback on a weekly basis. Engaged leaders lead to engaged employees, so it is incumbent on leadership to start the conversation and keep it going. Many leaders can benefit from ongoing training to learn how to better communicate, set priorities, and cultivate high-performance employees.