HR & Management

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The ‘golden rule’ of giving employee feedback

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No one particularly enjoys feedback. Many managers feel uncomfortable giving it, either because of the employee’s reaction or because they simply struggle to translate their feedback into words. Equally, employees can fear to be on the receiving end of feedback, because they are concerned they won’t be able to follow through on recommended improvements.

Half of all managers don’t think their team is comfortable receiving feedback and coaching. This is problematic for organisations and could explain why over half of employees only receive feedback from their manager a few times a year. Even for those who do receive regular feedback, only 23% feel it’s meaningful.

Ongoing, continuous feedback has been proven to increase performance and motivation, while a lack of feedback stunts employee engagement and career growth, as well as increasing turnover and operational expenses.

HR leaders looking to improve their feedback processes should remind employees and managers of that ancient ‘golden rule’: treat others as you want to be treated.

Looking forward to feedback

Giving the right type of feedback is important it should incorporate both positive feedback for achievements and areas of improvement. Good feedback demonstrates to employees that their manager is investing in them and focusing on areas that will accelerate their career. If you can coach your managers to give the right type of feedback, your employees will likely respond well to it.

Research has shown 57% of employees prefer corrective feedback to straight praise, and 92% of employees believe this type of feedback improves performance.

That said, there are many ways for feedback to go wrong; focusing solely on the positive, or just the negative or simply neutral feedback that’s not at all helpful. Each of these methods misleads your staff. Employees who receive only positive feedback are never told how to improve and therefore can’t be expected to reach their full potential.

Those who receive only negative feedback feel overlooked and burnt out from the lack of recognition. People who receive neutral feedback risk growing disengaged.

Being receptive to feedback

Feedback can be hard to process because it forces us to come to terms with two conflicting facets of human nature: the need to learn and grow and the drive to be accepted, respected, and loved the way we already are. It’s therefore important to ensure employees learn how to receive feedback. While this may seem obvious, many employees either find feedback a tedious part of their job that they must endure, or they don’t yet understand how to use it for their own growth.

When feedback is delivered promptly, the context is still fresh in our minds, so it is more relatable and valuable. We are better able to understand why we deserve the praise or constructive feedback we are receiving and can react to it with more clarity. Conversely, when feedback is given months later, the details of tasks are long gone, and any negative feedback will more likely be perceived as a personal attack.

Learning about your employee

When a new manager-employee relationship begins, managers should learn about the employee’s feedback tendencies and preferences. This will allow them to develop personalised feedback early on, preventing fraught situations down the line.

For those employees who push back, managers can then coach them on how their resistance impacts themselves, their colleagues and the business overall. Asking employees for their thoughts on the entire process will ensure their communication styles are understood and that they feel part of the process. This will also help managers provide more accurate feedback that aligns with employee’s individual goals.

Ongoing, frequent feedback is closely tied to progress. 89% of HR professionals agree that employee performance will increase with more timely feedback and coaching from managers. Without continuous conversations and feedback, it’s tough to gauge our progress. With feedback, we understand how far we’ve gone and where we need to get to. Annual feedback loops turn far too slowly, these need to be much more frequent for employees and managers to give and receive the feedback they both deserve.

What’s the end goal?

The ultimate goal when it comes to feedback is to make it as beneficial to employees and management as possible, and therefore as successful as possible. Ensuring managers treat their employees as they would want to be treated in that situation makes this possible. Giving the right type of feedback, at the right time, as part of a continuous process is what every employee should expect, and every organisation should provide.

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