6 Tips for Giving Effective Employee Feedback

When it comes to running a successful business, there are many moving parts to consider — designing an appealing customer experience, for example, as well as planning marketing campaigns and devising innovative ways to bring in more revenue. One piece of the machinery that sometimes gets shuffled to the backburner, however, is employee performance. Your employees’ performance impacts everything from output to your customers’ opinion of your brand — and unfortunately, many businesses only conduct employee reviews once a year.

According to Gallup’s most recent State of the American Workplace, only 21 percent of U.S. workers believe their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. Frequent, constructive feedback is key to keeping employees engaged at their jobs and ensuring they’re performing to the best of their ability. Not sure how best to tackle this task? Use these tips to help refine your approach.

Be consistent

Try to let your employees know how they’re doing on a regular basis. Studies show that many employees, particularly Millennials, prefer to receive frequent feedback from their employers. If they don’t know how they’re performing, they’re more likely to feel like a ship without a rudder. As Gallup points out, “Recurring one-on-one time between managers and team members gives employees an opportunity to be recognized and heard, and to share what they need to develop in their role.”

Set aside time on a weekly or monthly basis to check in with employees. This is your opportunity to let them know what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong, to steer them back on course, and to nip any developing problems in the bud.

Balance negatives with positives

Nobody likes to hear they’re not performing well. Studies suggest that for every one negative comment, employees need five positive comments to even it out. Giving negative feedback without acknowledging what your employees are doing right runs the risk of making them defensive or belligerent.

That’s why, when negative feedback must be dispensed, you should try tempering it with positive comments about your employees’ work. Everyone excels at something; find each of your employees’ strengths and reinforce it when you have to hand out criticism.

Use customer comments strategically

Not all feedback has to be negative. In fact, one of Gallup’s 12 Elements of Engagement is: “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.” When used consistently, praise can be an even more powerful motivator than critical feedback. Presenting praise you have received from customers via email, store surveys, or other means can help.

Take care, however, not to show your employees negative feedback from customers; comments from angry customers aren’t usually diplomatic on the whole, and reading them could be hurtful to your employees. Instead, use them to highlight moments where your employees provided exceptional service or went above and beyond to help.

Ask your employees for their perspective

Another of Gallup’s 12 Elements of Engagement is: “At work, my opinions seem to count.” Don’t just drop your feedback on your employees and leave it at that. Your employees want to have a voice; ask them their take on your feedback, or, if you’re discussing a specific situation, their side of the story. In addition to making them feel heard, it can give you insight into challenges they face in carrying out their responsibilities and things that you can do to help them.

Offer advice and support

There could be many reasons your employees aren’t performing up to standard. Maybe issues in their home life are draining their ability to give their all to their tasks. Maybe they’ve had a disagreement with a colleague, and having to work with them every day is a chore. Maybe they’re just having a bad shift. Whatever the case, be prepared to offer advice and support should they need it. The solution could be as simple as scheduling two employees who don’t get along on different shifts.

Set achievable goals

Letting your employees know how they’re performing is only one part of the process. The other part is setting tangible, achievable goals for them so that any issues with their performance don’t keep occurring. The number one need on Gallup’s 12 Elements of Engagement is: “I know what is expected of me at work.” And letting your employees know what is expected of them goes beyond the general duties listed in their job description; it’s about giving them concrete targets across a variety of tasks that they can reach for every single day.

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