By Olivia O’Neill, Director at the Godfrey Group
Effective and timely feedback is vital in the life of any employee and is important for both professional and personal development and growth. It’s also essential to any business as a pillar of the company’s culture and because your organisation is only as strong as the employees you hire – and retain. Feedback can be a key part of both a business’s performance and an employee’s career.
The importance of employee feedback
All employees need to have clear and direct knowledge about how well they are performing – what’s working well and what could be improved upon. As a manager, you need to know if the employee finds the role meaningful, do they feel accountable and responsible, and do they know the results of their work – are they aware of how effective they are?
Many of us would rather do anything instead of give feedback, particularly if negative, but we shouldn’t avoid it. While it can feel like a stressful activity to do, it is essential, and it does matter. Take the manager who experiences continual frustration at employees that seem to be incompetent at a particular task. But if the employee doesn’t know where the gap is, then how can they ever hope to improve?
Employee feedback is crucial because it helps identify and communicate skills gaps. After that, the appropriate action must be taken to support the individual to acquire that particular skill. With feedback, it’s important to be positive about the skills they do have, then highlight the areas for improvement, and finally put together a way forward for the individual to progress in his or her career.
It’s also extremely important to assess the individual and provide feedback early on in their life cycle – ideally in the first six months – as this is when they are most enthusiastic, engaged and willing to learn.
Difficulties when it comes to giving feedback
The hardest part about giving feedback is being honest, direct and genuine. We often appear vague with our feedback because we try to cloak our constructive comments in positivity, but giving negative feedback is not necessarily a bad thing.
People often find it hard to give negative feedback to strong performers – they might be seen to be too picky or they might be accused of seeing the one negative issue instead of the ten positive ones. And there is the perception that your top talent doesn’t need any guidance or feedback but, in fact, they often require more of your attention than most – because you do want to retain them, right?!
Instead, feedback, especially when constructive, should be seen as a growth opportunity for that individual – to make them ever better. We all have room for improvement, whether in this role or the next, and most people will appreciate your feedback in whatever form it comes, and it will keep them engaged with your business.
Another mistake that managers make is to not give good people feedback at all – they have been with you for a while, they are hardworking, trustworthy and reliable. You start to expect that they do what they do, and you forget to give them any sort of feedback, failing to recognise them at all.
The thing is that many of us are motivated by feedback – it’s what keeps us going day to day. And we can often be unaware at how well we are doing, so it’s important to specifically state this and never assume that people automatically know that they are appreciated.
How to turn your feedback processes around
Individual success should always be acknowledged and reinforced – in other words, accomplishment feedback. Employees want constructive feedback, as opposed to praise, and it needs to be frequent, informal and timely. What’s more, the feedback you provide as a manager should be clear and specific, plus include both the positive and negative aspects of an individual’s performance.
Equally as importantly, don’t forget to be open to receiving feedback yourself! Ask questions of your employees – find out how you can help support them in addressing current issues or how you can help them achieve their next immediate goal or their future plans. Feedback should be a two-way street, so get the most out of your feedback processes.
Feedback really is something that we all need, whether as employees or as managers. It helps us understand what we do correctly and what we need to work on to be better in our roles. It helps you manage your organisation to its fullest potential and ensure that your people know how to become even more successful as employees.