Optimizing the workplace for constructive feedback is more important than ever. Employees, especially millennials, are hopping jobs more frequently; therefore, it is crucial to accelerate the path to productivity by providing positive and negative comments quickly to benefit from their skills before they’re gone. Think of employee feedback as an extension of social media—that’s what your employees expect from managers today.
Putting the ‘feed’ in feedback
It’s been a long time coming, but the annual review is officially dead, with major employers like GE doing away with the antiquated HR practice. In this day and age, waiting six months to a year is an unrealistic way of receiving feedback and reevaluating goals, especially when people are accustomed to getting information instantly thanks to our always-on culture. Here’s how you can optimize your workplace for feedback that will work in today’s social media age:
1. Make it real time—Think of it like a Twitter feed: old news is, well, old. Productive feedback happens when given immediately as the human brain learns best when caught in action. If you wait until the next annual checkup, your employees will be less likely to change behaviors.
2. Keep it frequent—Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. We all know that’s the best way to develop habits. Iterative feedback is key to keeping a healthy schedule and habit of frequent feedback for employees (without micromanaging, of course). And people apply feedback only about 30 percent of the time anyway, according to Columbia University neuroscientist Kevin Ochsner—thus making it more important to optimize and reinforce your feedback habits.
3. Keep track—You’ll be making your job easier if you keep track of what was discussed, like by keeping an electronic “feed” of positive and negative feedback during the fiscal year. This will help avoid the tendency to give more importance to recent events and evaluate an employee fairly. And when it comes time for formal reports on progress, you’ll have things to measure against.
4. Be transparent—Transparency should trickle down from the C-suite to the intern to create a culture of openness and honesty. We’re not saying you have to tell your whole team about your meeting with HR, but try being mindful with these tactics:
Be honest about the company, like its current financial performance, strengths, and weaknesses.
Share your own experiences or obstacles.
Welcome feedback yourself by avoiding immediate defensive responses, asking questions like how you have or have not helped an issue, writing action items, and thanking the employee. It’s helpful to remember that feedback is a gift.
Engage in non-work conversation with your team members instead of being strictly business.
5. Use specific examples or behaviors—Liked the way your new hire organized the sales lead report this past month? Tell her what about it you appreciated. Felt uncomfortable with the verbiage your new customer service rep used with a customer? Be specific with what went against policy (and also what they did right) to set up specific expectations.
6. Strategize how you deliver negative feedback—Constructive criticism isn’t comfortable for either party involved, but approaching how you deliver it could be the difference between eliciting frustration and anger or having a better employee. Confronting employees with negative feedback is best when it’s:
Sooner rather than later—don’t wait until the “perfect” time to confront someone. Delayed confrontation can be harmful. Timely feedback will help your employee know where you’re coming from, and you’ll be able to move on from frustrations sooner, too.
In person—try not to send emails (or worse, leave passive-aggressive sticky notes) to convey negative feedback. Your tone may be misinterpreted or offensive.
Prepped with context—Before you give feedback, always remind the team that your intent is to help them get better and excel at their jobs, not to harass them.
Open—If you’re closed off to gaining a deeper understanding of your employee, your feedback session could do more bad than good. Ask self-evaluating questions like where they think they need improvement, what they would like help with, how they would describe communication in the department, or what their long-term goals are. Listen to your employees. Be open to feedback for yourself, too.
Supplemented with plenty of positives—To avoid making it seem like you’re on the attack, make sure to include positive comments and feedback, even if all you can think of is to say, “I admire your commitment to the team.”
A healthy relationship with feedback between you and your team can be a huge building block for better communication and respect, which ultimately optimizes the workplace for more productivity and engagement. Utilizing tools like the online learning platform Bridge can also help open communication and up productivity with better employee training. Follow these six rules and your team will be reaching those benchmarks in no time.