Employee Feedback: Why It Matters and How to Use It

Article | Leadership

by | Nov 1, 2017

Here’s how successful leaders in the workplace cultivate more engaged workers by effectively giving and receiving employee feedback.

Effective leaders understand how important it is to provide feedback to their employees. They leverage this communication in a few different ways, as a mini-mentoring tool that guides employees to better understand their strengths and pain points, and as a means of ensuring that employees’ behavior aligns with the company’s expectations. Employee feedback is an important function to making sure staff members are addressed and appreciated for the work they put forward in the organization. Offering feedback from a position of respect can transition an employee from undesirable behavior and performance while cementing the positive thinking and actions that can improve their personal and professional excellence.

Some leaders are proficient at offering feedback to their staff, while others need to hone this crucial leadership skill. What separates the decent leaders from the exceptional leaders is their ability to communicate effectively among their team members. Here are five tips to help you give impactful feedback that will cultivate more engaged workers and improve your overall team performance.

1. Eliminate the negative stigma of feedback

When you call an employee into your office to offer feedback, they might immediately feel nervous. Their heart might race as they enter your office, expecting a metaphorical slap on the wrist for something they’ve done incorrectly. This negative connotation associated with employee feedback is detrimental to the communication in your organization. When employees equate feedback with criticism, they may enter the session braced for confrontation, ready to go into defensive or offensive mode.

To destigmatize the notion of employee feedback, you will need to provide transparent communication in regard to this interaction. You should be able to answer the following two questions:

  • What is the value of feedback?
  • Why is this feedback relevant to this moment in time?

Clarify your goals to your team with respect to employee feedback, to improve communication, spotlight where an employee has gone above and beyond and pinpoint areas in which an employee has room to improve. Invite your employees to ask questions during a feedback session or in the course of everyday business operations, as two-sided conversations are far more effective than one-sided communication. Rather than simply associating feedback with negative reprimanding, your employees should understand that feedback is beneficial to all parties – the employers, the employees and the organization as a whole – in improving employees’ abilities as well as reaching professional goals and quotas.

2. Focus on the positive and potential

One of the most effective ways you can improve the quality and reception of your employee feedback is to frame it as an opportunity for employee development. Look primarily at the present and toward the future when speaking with employees about their productivity. However, you may want to look back at the past when shining light on an employee’s improvement in their quality of work. Cite areas in which employees are currently excelling, then ease into a discussion of areas where they could improve.

You always want your employees to feel valued and respected. Holding them accountable for their actions, both positive and negative, as well as challenging them to exceed their current efforts, can empower and inspire your staff to create their best work.

3. Establish a regular cadence

In addition to monitoring the quality of the feedback you offer your employees, make sure you are engaging in discourse with your staff on a consistent basis. You should set up regular meetings with each of your team members, perhaps once a weekly or bi-monthly basis, to provide both appreciative and constructive feedback. If you wait an entire year for the annual review to provide guidance to your employees, they might feel out of the loop and that you are springing something on them, whether positive or negative. Instead of addressing all of your concerns infrequently and all at once, you will make more of an impact on your employees when you communicate with them in regular intervals.

4. Provide timely feedback

As well as setting up regular meetings with your staff, you will want to make sure you address any issues or successes while they are still timely and relevant. Employees may be frustrated when they hear that the project should have been done differently a week after they’ve submitted it. Instead of waiting for a formal review, or even for the weekly or monthly meeting you’ve set with your employees, provide specific feedback throughout the course of a project. Once the task is completed, work directly with the employee to evaluate its strong points and the areas it could have been improved.

5. Ask for feedback

If employees are subject to feedback, their leader should be too. When your staff sees you asking for feedback, they may feel more comfortable asking for feedback themselves. Many leaders do not want to ask for feedback out of fear of appearing vulnerable. However, the most effective managers are responsive to feedback and will take action to improve their leadership style.

When everyone wins

The ultimate power of communication through feedback is that it supports employee success and growth, which in turn can improve the organizations’ results. By working with employees to improve behaviors and outcomes, leaders can positively impact a multitude of other auxiliary business results, from retention and employee morale to productivity and overall results.