Five Tactics Managers Can Use to Improve the Feedback Process

Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 9.49.39 AMAll employees--from new hires to the seasoned veterans of your organization--crave feedback. It is essential for helping them understand how they are performing as well as for shaping both short and long-term career goals. For years, feedback primarily came via annual performance evaluations. But in the past few years we've seen the industry shift toward more regular (often monthly or quarterly) employee check-ins. Now that there has been ample time to implement these changes, it is a good idea for organizations to evaluate whether these more frequent feedback sessions are really working and to identify the strategies that have proven most successful. But no matter how often your organization chooses to hold employee reviews, here are some tactics and tips managers can use for offering the most effective performance feedback:

  1. Informal "teachable moments" are often the best opportunity for feedback. Instead of waiting for a regularly scheduled review to let employees know how they are doing, approach them soon after a teachable moment occurs. Let the employee know something positive she did as well as actionable ways to improve her performance. This instant feedback is usually more beneficial in the long term because it allows employees to make several small changes over a span of time instead of attempting to internalize a large amount of feedback all at once. Plus, the details of the event are likely to be murky if you wait weeks or months for a formal review session.
  1. When it comes to giving feedback, forget the numbers. Although the standard approach to performance reviews has been to rate employees on a numerical scale, using these measures is increasingly antiquated and forces a bell curve of employee performance on your organization that may not exist. Instead of relying on abstract numbers as a way to measure performance, provide qualitative feedback that is constructive and specific--especially for millennials in your workforce who may not respond well to a more quantitative approach.
  1. Competence is critical in performance evaluations. Employees are more likely to value feedback when it is delivered by the right person--often someone who is highly respected in the organization and approaches feedback from a position of strengths, not criticism. It is important to remember that not all managers should be the ones providing feedback; some are not comfortable performing in the role and may struggle to deliver feedback in a constructive manner. Instead, you might consider having HR handle performance reviews--or find someone to coach the manager through the feedback process.
  1. Ask employees to be accountable. A good way to ensure accountability within the feedback process is to have your employees compose a written summary of the feedback they have received. This ensures they have processed the feedback the way in which it is was intended and gives them a more active role in the process.
  1. Track all feedback sessions. There has to be a mechanism in place to monitor the feedback process or it likely will become an afterthought and not completed in a timely fashion. Rely on the resources in your organizations--especially HR--to keep the feedback process running smoothly. 

Ultimately, it is critical to remember the important role that feedback plays in helping your organization run as smoothly as possible. Having regular conversations with employees gives you valuable insights that you may otherwise overlook, such as how employees are feeling about their roles and the culture of the company itself. These insights, in turn, allow you to intervene as necessary and contribute to a more satisfied, productive workforce--and a more effective organization overall.