Feedback is an important tool for organizations. Here’s how HR leaders can foster and maintain a strong employee feedback system at their companies.
Even the most intuitive employees won’t know how well they’re meeting expectations unless you tell them. With the right kind of feedback, HR leaders can encourage employees, zero in on opportunities for growth, and create an ongoing conversation about performance.
Why is feedback important?
“Feedback is important because it builds psychological safety in teams and drives better business outcomes.”
“Feedback is important because it builds psychological safety in teams and drives better business outcomes,” Emily Goodson, CEO and Founder of consulting firm Culture Smart says.
Underperforming employees may not understand the various contours of their role or responsibilities. Use feedback to clarify expectations and illustrate what success in their role looks like.
Offer praise for a job well done to encourage employees and build their confidence. HR leaders often see potential in employees they don’t see themselves. Feedback can elevate an employee’s belief in their own abilities.
Helps employees grow
Feedback is an opportunity for growth. Highlight where employees could improve to increase their eligibility for other roles at your company or with their next employer.
How often should you give feedback?
“There should not be a quota on feedback, but it should be provided regularly.”Ideally, feedback is an ongoing conversation. “There should not be a quota on feedback, but it should be provided regularly,” Marlo Green, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CEO of Green Ocean HR says.
Because feedback is best internalized when given in a timely and specific manner, managers and HR leaders should be providing it in the moment and during regular intervals. Here are a few opportunities to provide feedback.
In real time, or close to it
Specific events — positive or negative — warrant immediate feedback. Whether an employee has nailed a presentation, or spoken insensitively to a colleague, HR leaders should take these moments to provide specific feedback about what the employee did well or what was unacceptable.
In weekly check-ins
Create an open dialogue around performance by providing feedback in weekly check-ins. A prime time to discuss challenges, triumphs, and concerns, weekly check-ins are a chance to strengthen the feedback loop between manager and employee.
Reviews are a natural time to revisit feedback. Because of the fluid exchange of information managers and HR leaders have established with their direct reports, formal performance review feedback should not come as a surprise. Rather take this time to re-energize employees for a job well done, or further course correct if necessary.
What are the best practices for delivering feedback?
Follow these best practices for giving feedback, positive or negative.
Make feedback specific
Be specific with your feedback and give examples. Feedback without context is ambiguous and can feel inauthentic or targeted. “You’ve done a great job over the past few months,” is not as powerful or motivating as, “We’ve been impressed with how you’ve handled the overnight transition to remote work. You’ve excelled in communicating with the team and managing shifting priorities.”
Be specific with your feedback and give examples. Feedback without context is ambiguous and can feel inauthentic or targeted.
Be prompt in providing feedback. Timely feedback further builds the context that helps employees understand what went well or could be done better next time.
Provide actionable feedback
Especially when providing constructive criticism, feedback should include examples of how an employee could improve next time. Make the conversation solution-oriented and future-focused rather than punitive.
Kindness doesn’t mean feedback can’t be critical. But how you phrase feedback does impact how an employee will receive it. When offering critical feedback, consider providing examples of times when employees exceeded expectations as proof you know they can improve in this area as well.
Employee feedback examples
Provide positive reinforcement in the moment and in weekly 1:1s. This feedback is easy to hear, so feel free to offer it to employees off the cuff. A few ways you can phrase this feedback are:
- “I’m so impressed with how you just …”
- “Have I ever told you that I admire your ability to…”
- “I think you did a great job with XYZ. I could tell you were well prepared by A, B, and C.”
Take a moment to check in with employees before providing course-correcting feedback. If you’re giving timely course-correcting feedback, start the conversation by confirming now is a good time to speak. Try saying:
- “Do you have a quick moment to catch up about XYZ?”
- “I’d like to touch base with you on how XYZ went. Is now a good time?”
- “I’d like to speak with you about XYZ. Do you have a moment?”
Addressing performance issues with feedback
Be especially mindful of the feedback best practices above when giving feedback that addresses performance issues. Explain what you’re observing to the employee and the specific ways they are not meeting expectations. If you’ve touched on the same performance issue in the past, reference the former conversations you’ve shared about the topic. Ask employees to problem solve with you by asking open-ended questions. Lastly, if you’ve addressed an issue a number of times, share the action you’ll take if the behavior continues.
- “Last time we spoke I shared with you I was concerned about X. I haven’t seen any improvement. What can we do to help you meet expectations?”
- “I’m noticing that because of X, you’re unable to Y. How can I help you remove this obstacle?”
- This is the third time we’ve discussed X, and your behavior has not changed. I need to explain the consequences to you if this continues.”
Feedback is a powerful tool for development. By hearing other people’s perspectives, we’re able to reconsider our own performance or behaviors. Be timely, specific, kind, and internalize feedback as a lever for growth for your team members.