Employees consistently report that they want more feedback. This continues to be an issue in 2018, according to a new study from Reflective, which found that 94 percent of employees would like to receive feedback in real time. Another 74 percent agreed that they’d be more effective if they were privy to frequent feedback.
If you’re thinking, “Well, we make feedback a part of our annual reviews,” think again. The same study found that more than half of employees, 62 percent, feel their annual review feedback is incomplete.
It’s clear that most organizations not only need to make feedback a priority but that the feedback given needs to be more complete to be effective. If your organization is struggling through a feedback drought, keep reading to learn the signs of great feedback and how to make it happen more often.
Sign #1: It’s Balanced
The reason many businesses struggle with feedback, between employees or from leaders to employees, is because it’s seen as negative. Francis Briers explains this in Feedback: How Teams Learn, Fast:
“In most organizations, ‘feedback’ is the same as “complaint’ because it has come to mean me telling you I am not happy about something you have done. Is it any wonder that so many of us feel uncomfortable delivering it and feel an inner groan when someone says they have some for us?”
That’s where the balance between appreciative (positive) and formative (constructive) comes into play. This is important in two ways. First, it reframes the idea of feedback to being something that helps us improve and know when we’ve done well.
Secondly, Briers explains, “Feedback is like a bank account. Every time I give you formative feedback, I draw on our relational capital. Every time I give you appreciative feedback, I invest in our relationship. It is not quite that transactional, of course, but it is a fair metaphor.”
Give More Feedback: Use this balanced approach to give more feedback. Every time someone has feedback, they have to share something that’s both appreciative and formative. In this way, they’re not only being balanced but providing two insights instead of just one.
Sign #2: It’s Focused on the Future
Good feedback is meant to help someone improve, therefore, it should be focused on the future. “Effective feedback understands that you can’t change any event that has already happened. Instead, you need to be focused solely on the future and how you can help someone change course to get closer to their end goal,” says Jory MacKay, in 7 Essential Qualities of Effective Feedback.
Give More Feedback: Use quarterly company meetings as an opportunity to give feedback. During this time, employees are already thinking about the future of the company, which makes it a good time to reinforce that idea. Use the week leading up the meeting as a time for feedback. You can use a tool to facilitate this, or simply rely on the team leads to make sure everyone is participating.
Sign #3: It’s Descriptive and Specific
It’s easy to look at feedback as a complaint when there’s little information offered. “By describing one’s own reaction, it leaves the individual free to use it or to use it as he or she sees fit. By avoiding evaluative language, it reduces the need for the individual receiving feedback to react defensively,” suggests Arts FWD, a publication for arts leaders.
In addition to being descriptive, feedback should be specific. This requires the feedback giver to formulate their insights with greater clarity, which allows the person receiving to derive more value.
For example, rather than saying, “That newsletter was not on brand and that’s bad,” the person might say, “I was caught off guard when I saw that the newsletter was missing our brand colors and the logo was in a different place. It’s important that we maintain consistency in all marketing materials, including the newsletter.” The latter is both descriptive and specific.
Give More Feedback: Create an automated email that sends a templated feedback form to everyone in the company on Friday mornings. Before EOD, the form needs to be filled out and given to a co-worker or manager within the organization. The template encourages everyone to use this format while giving feedback on a weekly basis.
Sign #4: It’s Personalized
Personalized feedback is more effective because it resonates better with the receiving person. This is especially important for managers, whose job it is to develop employees. While it may seem like all feedback is “personalized,” Glassdoor shares two ways in which leaders can tailor their feedback even more effectively:
- Ask about motivations and goals in 1-on-1 meetings, allowing you to link positive feedback with the unique passions of that individual. Without this, you may not have a solid foundation to work from when “something praise-worthy happens.”
- Lead with a question before giving the feedback. Glassdoor gives the example of asking, “What do you think went best in the meeting you just facilitated?” You can then tailor the praise based on the answer. Sticking the same example, the leader might say, “I agree—I love how we all walked away with clear action items that will help move the project forward more quickly”
Give More Feedback: Build feedback into weekly or monthly 1-on-1 meetings, which can often feel more like a status update than a conversation. Use this time to ask the right questions and then provide feedback.
Sign #5: It’s Actionable and Private
Feedback isn’t helpful if you simply tell someone what they did wrong—even if you tell someone what they did right. The key is making it actionable: How can that person avoid this issue in the future? How do you see that same successful idea replaying again in the future?
The best way to to do this is to prepare ahead of time. If someone says something poorly in a meeting, don’t use that chance to jump in with feedback. Think first about what happened and how it could have been improved before sharing your thoughts.
Amanda Augustine, in 6 Tips for Giving Feedback in the Workplace, warns not to wait too long, however: “Feedback is best given shortly after you’ve observed the behavior or event. Do not wait a month after a bad incident to broach the subject with your colleague. If the issue is rather small, perhaps it can wait until your weekly one-on-one. However, if the incident was more severe, address it as soon as possible.”
Give More Feedback: Make a company-wide rule to wait no more than three days to give necessary feedback, positive or negative. When this is built into the culture of your company, it’s more likely to become the norm among employees.
Give Great Feedback
Use these ideas to give better feedback and encourage your employees to do the same. When you can find a balance, keep it specific and actionable, and stay focused on the future, everyone benefits.