Among the many skills a CEO or business owner should possess is the ability to provide constructive, meaningful feedback. Employees at every level of an organization want to do the best job possible, a goal that can’t be fully achieved without input from those in charge.
Providing the right type of feedback, within the context of job expectations and responsibilities, not only dramatically improves an individual’s work performance, but helps build trusting relationships and a willingness to excel—crucial elements in job satisfaction and enduring employee retention.
Millennial employees, for example, “thrive on feedback,” particular when it’s offered frequently and in a proactive, constructive way. It’s important to them that their supervisors feel they’re doing a good job and they’re open to critiques that enable them to grow in their jobs.
Here are tips to keep in mind as you hone your feedback skills:
It’s up to you to make it work. No one enjoys hearing about all the ways in which their job performance falls short. Therefore, as Workoplis notes, it’s up to the person providing feedback to “recognize the challenges of the conversation, and help the employee get what they need” out of the interaction. If, when the conversation ends, the employee leaves “without any gained knowledge or insight, that’s your mistake, not theirs.”
Determine what you want to achieve. Preparing before undertaking a “feedback conversation” can significantly increase the chances of success. This preparation should focus on feedback that can directly influence the outcome you desire on the employee’s part.
Make sure you enter into the conversation armed with specific feedback. Use language the other person will understand and find relevant. This way, your feedback is likely to have the desired effect.
Offer objective feedback. One of the issues associated with feedback in the workplace is that a leader’s preconceptions or emotions can get tangled up with what he or she wants to get across. A different approach, known as “pure feedback,” seeks to eliminate any inherent bias in the conversation.
Pure feedback is the “descriptive, non-judgmental delivery of objective, verifiable information,” says Business2Community. This type of feedback addresses behavior or performance in a “just the facts” manner, enabling “the receiver to process personal feelings that come from judgment or evaluation,” rather than getting stuck on what seems like a derogatory view from the person offering the feedback.
Make it a conversation, not a monologue. Feedback is more readily absorbed if the recipient doesn’t feel like he or she is being subjected to a monologue or sermon. During the conversation, invite the employee to share their thoughts or reactions, and to raise any operational issues they’re experiencing that might contribute to an unsatisfactory performance. This approach makes the experience feel more collaborative and less punitive.
Forget the “feedback sandwich.” For a long time, it was believed that “sandwiching” the critique of an individual’s performance between “slices” of praise was an effective feedback approach. More recently, leadership experts like Alicia Cohn contend that this approach is “a cop-out designed to make the feedback-giver feel more comfortable rather than to enlighten the feedback receiver.”
Instead, work on offering praise on an ongoing basis—not just during a quarterly feedback conversation. This makes it far easier to set aside part of that conversation for a look at where performance is falling short, coupled with concrete advice on how to improve the situation.
Want to learn more about offering feedback that contributes to employee retention? Register to listen to a free webinar offered by Marty O’Neill of TAB Baltimore/Washington on “Grooming Engaged, Entrepreneurial Employees.”