A 2009 Gallup survey of more than 1,000 US-based employees sought to qualify the impact of feedback on employees. Its findings are insightful:
- When a manager gives little or no feedback, the manager fails to engage 98% of employees.
- Four out of ten employees who receive little or no feedback become actively disengaged.
- Managers who concentrate on strengths when giving feedback are 30 times more likely to engage their employees than those giving no feedback.
- One in ten managers concentrates on weaknesses when providing feedback.
The conclusion drawn by the study is that the tools, techniques, and strategies that a manager uses when giving feedback have a huge impact on employee engagement.
In this article I’ll discuss why feedback is crucial, the basis of an effective feedback strategy, and one of the key tools that provide a framework for constructive feedback.
Why is feedback so crucial?
Many studies have shown that engaged employees work more productively. They provide impetus toward shared vision, values, and goals. When you energize employees to perform at their peak, the impact on performance at individual and team levels is clear – and this directly benefits your bottom line.
To be engaged in your future vision, an employee needs to feel wanted. They need to know that their contribution is valued, and that they are helping the organization reach its goals.
When a manager provides no feedback, the employee feels ignored. When someone feels ignored, they feel unimportant. Even negative feedback is better than this.
Setting the scene for constructive feedback
For feedback to be given, listened to, and then acted upon, there are some ground rules that must be observed. I call these the ‘tools for the road’.
When you drive the highway, you first need to know your destination. You need to know what you and others can control. For example:
- you are in charge of the car;
- a road traffic accident is out of your sphere of responsibility, though you may have cause to report and help; and
- delays or roadblocks have to be negotiated.
In the workplace this means setting clear expectations for your employees. For example, provide examples of work products that clearly reflect the quality and detail you expect from an individual.
Let your people know explicitly what they control, and provide a continuum for feedback. Remember also that feedback is a two-way street. It is about listening, understanding, and acting.
Techniques for giving and receiving feedback
When providing feedback, it is important to be on point. Feedback must be specific to behavior.
For example, saying someone is doing a good job may raise a smile, but is a short-lived ‘throw-away’ appraisal. What is that person good at? What is it that they are doing which can be used as best practice, and inform the behavior of others?
Consider which is the better and more effective feedback of the following:
“You’re working well on these reports. Well done.”
“I see you’ve put in a process to reduce the time it takes to process these reports. That’s great work, and something we could use across the whole company.”
In brief, there are five elements of constructive feedback. It should be:
- Given in a timely fashion
Making your feedback effective using a simple feedback framework
To make feedback effective (that is to say something that will leave a positive, engaging impact on the employee) I recommend following the situation-behavior-impact (SBI) model. This model ensures that you hit the five elements of constructive feedback I highlighted above. For example:
Capture the situation
“In yesterday’s team meeting…”
Describe the behavior
“…you interrupted constantly.”
Describe the impact
“This forced your colleagues to shut down. Consequently, we weren’t able to discuss their ideas and arrive at a team-based solution to our problem.”
From this specific feedback, you will be able to discuss behavior, and jointly produce a plan of action that the employee can use to improve his or her performance.
How to receive feedback
As I said earlier, feedback is a two-way street. A good manager encourages his or her people to provide feedback on him or her. Doing so will aid your development as a leader, and further promote engagement. When receiving feedback, you should follow these bullet point rules:
- Listen attentively
- Repeat only what you heard (to clarify)
- Ask for specifics (what you are doing well, what you are doing not so well)
- Show appreciation by saying “thank you”
- Ask if (and when) you can check back
If your people appear distant, disengaged, or disenfranchised, then you may need to brush up on your feedback technique. If you don’t provide effective discussion of performance, you are doing yourself, your employee, and your organization a severe injustice.
Contact Forward Focus today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective personal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers, and employees.