How to give feedback: 5 best practices for managers
Managers know that giving clear, consistent feedback is key to improving employee engagement, and helping them…
The word feedback itself evokes a reaction—whether it’s excitement, fear, or a visceral rolling of the eyes, people have feelings about feedback. Great managers know that feedback is an essential element of ongoing development, improved employee performance, and agile teamwork. Yet, it’s one of the toughest things to get right.
From making regular feedback in one-on-ones more effective to having difficult conversations about performance, having effective feedback exchanges can be challenging for managers. That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive guide on employee feedback, with all the tips, examples, and best practices you need to make your feedback more impactful.
In the development-oriented modern workforce, where people seek out dynamic roles that offer opportunities for continuous learning and growth, feedback is essential to employee satisfaction. People want to feel challenged at work, and with a manager who is personally invested in their growth, they’re well set up to actualize their potential. Managers who offer regular feedback and employee recognition support a company culture of ongoing talent development.
Team leaders have the important (and slightly intimidating) role of giving your employees the feedback that will help them develop their expertise and work in more collaborative, agile ways. This is just one of the ways in which managers play an indispensable role in organizational success.
Just as important as giving employee feedback, is getting employee feedback—and getting it on an ongoing basis. Not only does this help you improve in your role as a manager, it also creates a sense of security for your team to share how they really feel with you. Asking for feedback is a great start, but offering a dedicated channel for it shows just how serious you are. Officevibe creates a direct line of communication between employees and managers, with the option of anonymity.
Why is anonymity important?
Providing the option for anonymous feedback creates a safe space to broach difficult topics, helps build trust, support, and authentic connections, and allows employees to ask questions with confidence.
1-on-1 software that makes planning quick and conversations meaningful.
So what are some employee pain points regarding feedback, and how can you help counter them? We took a look at Officevibe’s Pulse Survey data to find out.
According to Officevibe’s Pulse Survey data…
23% of employees are unsatisfied with the frequency of feedback coming from their direct manager.
28% of employees report that feedback is not frequent enough to help them understand how to improve.
17% of employees feel that the feedback they get is not specific.
Feedback scores in the bottom half of our 10 Metrics of Employee Engagement
While there are issues with both the quality of feedback that employees are receiving and the frequency at which they’re receiving it, both need to be adjusted to make feedback truly effective. Great feedback doesn’t do people much good if they only get it once a year at an annual performance review, and having a 15-minute feedback session daily won’t help employees if there’s no substance to them. This guide covers tactics, tips, and examples to help you finetune your feedback in timing and value, so stick around.
Feedback Frequency holds the 7th lowest score of Officevibe’s 26 Sub-Metrics of Employe Engagement, and 21% of employees say they are unsatisfied with the frequency at which they meet their manager for a feedback session.
What does this tell us? Working on your timing is a good place to start. In the fast-paced workforce of today, employees don’t want to wait until the end of the year (or even the end of the month) for feedback. It’s important for managers to establish ongoing conversations with employees, and create dedicated moments for delivering regular employee feedback.
By setting aside a time and place for feedback, employees and managers alike can feel prepared—dare we say even excited—about their exchanges. Use recurring one-on-one meetings for giving feedback, or set up dedicated feedback sessions at an interval that works for each team member. Try Officevibe as a single source of truth to plan, track, and follow-up on every one-on-one.
Timing tip: check in first
You never know what people have going on or what headspace they’re in, so be sure to ask if it’s a good time before diving into your feedback. Checking in shows that you care, which should ultimately be the intention behind feedback in the first place (more on that next).
Feedback can take many forms, and the more comfortable you get with giving it, the more you can adapt your approach based on your employees’ preferences and the relationships you have with them. The following examples outline some high-level ideas of what feedback should look like—and what it should not look like.
Example: Next time, you can plan to do research ahead of time.
→ Specific and clear
Example: Your last workflow improved efficiency, can you use it again this time?
→ Actionable and applicable
Example: Since we’re working within a tight budget, let’s be detail-oriented so we’re not compromising on quality.
→ Ideas or thought-starters
Example: The contrast of the colours might reduce the readability of the text.
→ Intended to improve
Example: Before you finalize, I have a few suggestions.
→ Reviewing past work
Example: It would have been more efficient to do your research first.
→ Vague or general
Example: Whatever you did last time seemed to work, do that again next time.
→ Impractical or irrelevant
Example: If we had a bigger budget we could really refine the quality of this and make it ten times better.
→ An opinion or critique
Example: The colour palate is not really to my taste, and I prefer a serif font.
→ Intended to prove a point
Example: To be totally clear, I’m disappointed in the result.
One of the most important elements here is the intention behind feedback. Genuine feedback comes from a place of caring and altruism, and should be intended to help the receiver improve or develop, and not for the giver to simply have their voice heard.
With the right intentions, a dedicated time, and a safe space, there’s only one thing left to prepare for: your delivery. So, how do you ensure your feedback resonates? Here, we outline 5 key principles for giving effective employee feedback, with examples for each.
You may know what your motivations are, but you want to be sure to clearly communicate them to your team member and reach a consensus on the goal. Agreeing on the objective of the feedback sets clear expectations for both parties, and lays the groundwork for more meaningful conversations.
Example: “In our last 1-on-1, we decided you would start presenting your user research findings at the team’s weekly meetings. I’d love to share some feedback on your first presentation, to help you continue to refine your delivery.”
Remember that your feedback is subjective, and offer it as such. Using “I” statements and taking ownership of your observations and perceptions shows self-awareness, and helps build trust.
Example: “I noticed that you referred to your notes frequently during your presentation, and I felt that more eye contact would have increased my engagement with the information you were sharing.”
Be forward-looking in your feedback, and connect it with their upcoming initiatives or the goals they’re working towards. If your feedback isn’t actionable or relevant to their context, it won’t be as impactful.
Example: “Your messages to the team have been really clear lately and I see that they bring a lot of value. Since internal communications are a new part of your role, I’d love to discuss how you can continue to leverage this strength as you grow in this area.”
Vague or general statements are difficult to interpret, and without examples it can be hard to see how feedback translates in our day-to-day. Avoid unquantifiable adjectives like “good” and “helpful”—what makes their work or behaviour “good” or “helpful”?
Example: “When you stepped in to help troubleshoot the email glitch last week even though you weren’t on the project, it helped the team reach a solution faster. That kind of support really exemplifies our company values, and shows your commitment to the broader team goals.”
After you give feedback, it’s important to check in with the recipient to make sure they’ve understood and that you’re on the same page. Have your employee explain back to you what they’ve taken from the conversation.
Example: “What do you think of that? How is this landing with you? Does my example make sense to you? Where do you see this applying in your day-to-day? What are your key takeaways from this conversation?” (maybe not all 5 at once, though 😉).
Delivering honest feedback effectively is a key management skill, so you can look at each exchange with your employees as a development opportunity for both them and yourself.
Critical feedback can be a hot-button issue: some camps argue that honesty is the best policy, yet an increasing amount of research shows that negative feedback is less effective than positive feedback and can even be detrimental to performance. While feedback should primarily aim to build on strengths rather than scrutinize weaknesses, there are moments when sharing constructive criticism is necessary for your employees’ growth, or the wellbeing of the team.
When these moments arise, it’s important to have an honest conversation without trying to disguise the negative feedback as positive feedback—or worse, saying nothing. It all comes back to the intention behind the constructive feedback, and the way that it’s delivered. By the Radical Candor model, you want to care personally and challenge directly. We’ve broken these concepts down for you:
Constructive feedback should come from a place of genuine support. This is when foundations of trust will serve as a platform for honest and authentic conversations.
This doesn’t mean being confrontational or aggressive. On the contrary, sharing your feedback directly shows that you respect the person enough to be candid with them.
Here are some examples of negative feedback framed in a constructive and direct way, delivered with compassion.
The best practices of delivering negative feedback are much the same as delivering any kind of feedback, but there are some additional things to keep in mind.
Part of coaching your team members is challenging them in a way that’s supportive and helps them grow. This is one of the incredible things about being a true leader, so keep your eyes on the main objective: developing a happy, high-performing team.
It’s important to have feedback sessions with employees on a regular basis to coach their development, but the tricky part can be what comes after. You want to see that your team members are putting your feedback into action, and continuing to build on it after the conversation. Each time you set an action item in a one-on-one, make a habit of adding it as a talking point for your next meeting. This will help you ensure follow-up, and help employees see their own growth.
Officevibe helps you hold one-on-ones that produce real outcomes, so you can keep the wheel of feedback turning. Not only that, you can track employee engagement on an ongoing basis and uncover insights from your team using an employee feedback survey. Making feedback a part of everyone’s day-to-day helps build a feedback culture on your team, so everyone feels heard and valued.
Giving feedback doesn’t have to be frightening. When we begin to see it as the gift that it is, it helps build on our strengths and develop our skill sets. Make time for employee feedback, and approach these exchanges with care, empathy, and a commitment to bettering both your employees and yourself.