Employee Performance Management: Giving Feedback to Your Employees

Encouraging regular, ongoing feedback in the workplace is a powerful tool for organizations. It boosts employee morale and allows your employees to know whether what they are doing from day to day meets your needs as a supervisor.

Most people find consistent, timely feedback provided by management and peers to be important to their overall job satisfaction. So why do so many companies have only an annual performance evaluation process? As you consider your evaluation process, here are some key things to remember about giving feedback:

Be Honest and Reinforce Positive Actions:
To be valuable the feedback you give must be honest; something you genuinely believe. Some managers believe that feedback must be balanced between reinforcement of positive behavior and correction of negative behavior so they will make up things to “complain about” to an excellent employee. When this happens the employee is likely to feel underappreciated and their morale can be affected, causing a star employee to behave more like an average employee. If you are lucky enough to have a star employee in your department you will be best served to focus on what she or he is doing well.

Be Specific:
Be specific about exactly what you like or dislike about what an employee is doing. It is helpful to provide concrete examples of what the person did. The most effective way to do this is to use behavior descriptions so that the person knows exactly what they did that positively or negatively impacted the goals of the team or department. Rather than saying, “great job on that project” it is more meaningful to say, “I appreciate that you provided a status report each week and that you were able to complete the project on time.” This way the employee knows that you like to be kept informed and also that you value meeting deadlines.

Be Timely:
If possible, catch your employees in the act of doing something right or wrong and give feedback in real time. If your employee is especially creative as a problem-solver you may wish to point this attribute out in the moment when the employee has given an especially creative solution to a problem. If you have an employee who tends to interrupt you, you may want to point out the behavior when it is happening as long as to do so would not unduly embarrass the employee.

Giving feedback in the moment or very soon after allows your employees to connect their specific behaviors with what you are saying. Wait too long and they may not remember what you are talking about. Timely feedback allows you to develop a common language with others and provides clear expectations making offering future feedback easier.

Be Goal-oriented:
When giving feedback, it is best to have a goal or know what you are trying to accomplish. Are you hoping to improve morale? Encourage a behavior? Correct a problem? What is your reason for giving your employee the information? Constructive (sometimes considered “negative”) feedback is most useful if it is supportive and accompanied by an action plan.

When you are giving a lot of feedback at once (like during a performance evaluation) it is useful to start with positive feedback, move onto more constructive items and end again on a positive note. This lessens the likelihood that the employee will become defensive and therefore she or he will be more likely to acknowledge the constructive feedback.

Because we each have our own life experience leading up to our current working relationships, it is important to give your employees a glimpse into your world by pointing out what you consider “good” and “bad”. This gives the employee clear examples of the how to be successful working for you and encourages them to be open about misunderstandings.

Do you have examples of feedback that was especially meaningful? Please share your stories below in the comments section.

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