Now, when in-house talents define companies’ success, the way those talents are managed, treated, and developed becomes crucial. When it comes to the essential communication skills for every manager, feedback is on the top of the list. This is mainly because it helps build capabilities and empowers people to provide a better service level to customers internally and externally.
Of course, it only works when we use feedback correctly. Unfortunately, I can often see and hear that people associate feedback with something very unpleasant, something that you have to “swallow” and be grateful for. Otherwise, you’ll hardly survive in this corporate world. However, it’s not really about feedback, but rather about hostile opinions that people mistakenly call feedback. The latter, when provided properly, will more likely motivate than discourage people.
Having stated that, how should managers give feedback to not knock the wind out of employees’ sails? In this article, we’ll share only proven techniques and methods that we use here at TEAM International. But first things first.
HR Performance Management: The Introduction to Effective Feedback
We describe ‘feedback’ as a process in which the output or effect of activity is ‘returned’ (fed-back) to refine the next action. Here are some fundamental characteristics of effective feedback on employee performance:
- Aim to help people become better. The desire to help is essential here because your intrinsic motive will definitely be translated through non-verbal and para-verbal communication. These signs are always read, usually unconsciously. If your internal motivation isn’t aligned with what you are actually saying, the other person will feel falseness. The mission of the feedback is to help people grow and achieve better results in the future;
- Talk only about facts and behavior, not the person. There’s a big difference between saying “You’re not organized” and “You’ve delayed the last task for two days. Meanwhile, for our client, it was crucial to get it on time. What was the reason for that? And how can it be prevented in the future?”. In the first case, it accuses the person. The second option turns the spotlight on the task delay, so it doesn’t sound that personal anymore, and it allows finding the real reason, why it has happened;
- Feedback is communication. Similar to any other type of communication, its effectiveness depends on how involved all the participants are. So, both the manager and the employee should equally participate in the conversation. Otherwise, if only one person talks, we can’t be sure that another one actually accepts this feedback;
- Be concrete. Include examples to make your thought as detailed as possible. It’s not enough to say, “You are doing great,” because it doesn’t explain what activities or results are appreciated. Performance feedback is most effective when managers provide details like “You are doing great. I appreciate that you always come up with new ideas and complete all tasks beforehand“. Consequently, you’ll motivate the person to keep up the good work in the future;
- Find the right time. Feedback won’t be effective if we give it too early when emotions run high. Meanwhile, it may be irrelevant one month later, because the precious time for improvements will be already wasted;
- Choose the right place. If you provide constructive feedback to a person, do it in person. If you praise a person for something, do it in public;
- Do not compare. There is a famous quote by Friedrich Nietzsche: “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” Your job as a manager is to help the person find their unique way since there is no “one size fits all” solution;
- Be straightforward and honest. Instead of trying to hide the real issue, be honest. Managers are often reluctant to provide clear and honest feedback, merely trying to avoid an unpleasant conversation. However, our decades-long experience proves that people appreciate honesty, and they want to hear directly what’s the issue. Moreover, it’s impossible to solve it without defining it immediately.
Giving Effective Feedback: Top Four Approaches for Human Resources Performance Review
The most popular method is called “Sandwich,” when you start with positive things, proceed with what should be changed, and finish with positive things as well. In my personal opinion, this approach is not that effective as others, because it’s hard to keep the balance between positive and constructive comments. Moreover, when you talk about good things 70 percent of the time, it diminishes the value of the constructive part. So, how to give effective feedback? — I want to share four proven methods that work well for me and my colleagues:
Delivering Effective Performance Feedback: To Listen and To Hear Is Not the Same
It’s important to mention that most people remember only around 17-25 percent of the things they hear because while listening, our brain isn’t fully occupied. Most of us speak at a rate of about 125 words per minute; meanwhile, we have the mental capacity to understand someone speaking 400 words per minute. This means that while listening, we use only 31 percent of our mental capacity, and the rest 69 percent is free to wander, so people get distracted very easily.
To deal with this, managers can double-check the effectiveness at the end of the feedback session by asking questions like, “Could you please summarize what we’ve discussed today?”. Indeed, something will be misunderstood or missed out, but this way, you get a chance to correct the understanding and emphasize the missed points.
In the end, I would like to stress once again that effective feedback can encourage and empower your workers to achieve better results in the long-run. It shows them the direction for change and a greater future. And eventually helps your company thrive because one of the components of today’s business success is the way we work with our people, as they are our most valuable assets and biggest competitive advantage.