A goal for the new year: Effective feedback communication

At the beginning of the year, most businesses look at when they’ll do annual performance reviews for employees. While the benefit and practice of annual reviews have recently come under scrutiny, if your organization is still doing annual reviews, this can be a good time to brush up on how to give feedback.

Per an article by Anna Carroll on TrainingIndustry.com, “The best form of feedback is daily interactions filled with empathy and performed with the aim of reaching a common goal.”  Many employees value real-time feedback that allows them to respond to correction and also hear any praise.  Giving consistent feedback also provides managers with information that makes it much easier to prepare any written documentation. Frequent conversations also allow employees to gain a better understanding of a manager’s expectations, which can help improve performance ahead of any annual review.

If you are used to only giving feedback on an occasional or annual basis, this strategy of daily interactions may take some getting used to.  Katherine Spinney has some advice (which may sound familiar): “Just do it.” You may want to research tools and tips, and strategies, but the best advice is to get started on continuous feedback sooner rather than later. As Spinney explains, the more you delay feedback, the worse things can get for both you and your employees.  A good way to start down this path of daily feedback can be to start with one or two clear improvement areas that will make the biggest difference. Citing a recent example, as well as guidance on what you expect in the future, and any positive feedback will get these conversations off to a good start.

So what about those awkward or difficult conversations where you need to address an issue, but are unsure of the best approach or how to phrase things?  Start by getting your own emotions under control, and then make sure you deliver the feedback directly to the employee in a private setting. Following the steps of providing the critique, explaining the implications, explaining how the employee can improve, and checking for understanding from the employee ensures they understand what they need to do, and also allows them to ask any questions. While it can be tempting, try to avoid the “feedback sandwich,” where it’s a compliment/critique/compliment. It can feel easier than giving constructive feedback on an awkward subject, but it can give an employee a false sense of how they’re doing and bury the actual point you’re making in the middle of what you tell them.

We have plenty of helpful materials in our collection about giving feedback, including:

Giving Effective Feedback: Foster Positive Change, Influence Behavior, Strengthen Relationships
Tough Conversations With your Employee: From Performance Reviews to Terminations Tackle Any Topic With Sensitivity and Smarts by Lynne Eisaguirre

Effective Difficult Conversations: A Step-by-step Guide by Catherine Soehner

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