Employee Feedback - The most useful tool for development and evaluation

Ever since we were born, we crave for attention: when we are children, we want it as our parents’ unconditional love; then in school, we look for the appreciation of teachers and colleagues and when we become adults, we want to be appreciated and observed by the others, in other words, we want to receive and give feedback.

Although is one of the most important processes that help at maintaining the balance in an organization, feedback is not well understood and that is why it is not offered as often as it should be.

Employee feedback is becoming a major point of emphasis as of late, as managers are utilizing feedback to make workplaces better and recognizing their employees by giving them more than the metaphoric pat on the back.

Ongoing employee feedback is the key to moving away from outdated performance reviews and helping people develop. Well-constructed employee feedback examples are great tools for you and your team to start creating a culture of feedback.

Next, we will find out:

What is employee feedback?

Feedback represents a set of information about the performance of a person or product. This information is the starting point, the purpose being the improvement of that performance. 

Feedback is an instrument permanently used both in personal and professional life, regardless of the domain, which is one of the instruments necessary for maintaining a balance within the company. Specifically, feedback consists of the opinion we present to a person following a specific action taken by this person. 

When employees start getting feedback, they feel they are part of the company. Employee recognition plays a huge part in boosting performance and maintaining high levels of engagement. It is also one of the manager's best tools and an important part of organizational communication. When done regularly, feedback stops being a thing to be anxious about and becomes another part of your work.

What are the types of employee feedback?

Mainly, employee feedback can be:

  • Positive/ appreciative feedback – this  type increases the self-confidence of the person to whom is addressed to; the recipient of the positive feedback will repeat the appreciated behavior and will try to self-overcome by increasing the personal productivity and permanently improving the results;
  • Constructive feedback – this is oriented towards those elements that can and should be improved; it comes as recommendations for obtaining better results and it should be followed by a session of re-evaluation and checking the progress of implementing the recommendation;
  • Also, there is negative feedback – this is only the expression of negative opinions over somebody’s actions, without including recommendations necessary for change; this type of feedback leads nowhere, it only produces frustrations and contradictory discussions, with no result.

Feedback represents the most direct way of communicating a reasoned opinion about a person’s performances, regardless of whether we talk about positive feedback or constructive feedback

As simple as it might seem, giving feedback is incredibly complex because of how delicate we are as humans. Giving feedback can be an intimidating process both for managers, who either give it rarely, or it is too negative or vague, and for employees who are taken out of their comfort zone and put in a new, possibly stressful situation.

Here are a few reasons why many managers do not offer stand-alone positive feedback:

  • They simply do not use it or do not know how to give positive feedback effectively because they did not receive much praise either.
  • They do not think that commending employees is needed when they are just doing their jobs.
  • They think that their employees’ performance would suffer if they were told that they are already doing an awesome job.
  • They think that only corrective feedback can help their employees improve and grow.

Unfortunately, most managers tend to take their employees’ good performance for granted or praise it only in the context of constructive or negative corrective feedback.

What are the benefits of giving feedback in a company?

The practice has shown that giving positive feedback to your employees brings many more benefits than a simple recognition and a pleasant working environment. Employees receiving constant feedback from managers feel involved and motivated and their work is noted.

Giving positive feedback has numerous proven benefits including:

Benefit 1: Higher employee engagement

A Gallup survey found that 67% of employees whose managers focused on their strengths were fully engaged in their work, as compared to only 31% of employees whose managers focused on their weaknesses.

Benefit 2: Improved employee productivity

A Gallup’s study of 530 work units with productivity data found that teams with managers who received strengths feedback showed 12.5% greater productivity post-intervention than teams with managers who received no feedback

Benefit 3: Lower turnover rate

In one study of 65,672 employees, Gallup found that those who received strengths feedback had turnover rates that were 14.9% lower than for employees who received no feedback (controlling for job type and tenure).

Benefit 4: Greater profitability

In a study of 469 business units ranging from retail stores to large manufacturing facilities, Gallup found that units with managers who received strengths feedback showed 8.9% greater profitability post-intervention relative to units in which the manager received no feedback.

In short, employees who are given effective, positive feedback regularly are more engaged, productive, stay longer with the company and show greater profitability.

Thus, every manager should learn how to give meaningful positive feedback. 

Although it seems difficult to quantify, the statistics demonstrate the importance of feedback in a company. Here are some numbers sustaining this fact:

  • 39% of employees report that they don’t feel appreciated at work
  • 14,9% lower turnover rates in companies that implement regular employee feedback
  • 30x more likely to make workers actively engaged at work when managers focus on employee’s strengths
  • 2X as likely to be actively disengaged if employees are ignored by their manager.
  • 4 out of 10 workers are actively disengaged when they get little or no feedback.
  • 82% of employees really appreciate receiving feedback, regardless if it is positive or negative.
  • 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week compared to only 18% of employees with low engagement.
  • 65% of employees said they wanted more feedback
  • 58% of managers think they give enough
  • 98% of employees will fail to be engaged when managers give little or no feedback
  • 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized
  • 78% of employee sad being recognized motivates them in their job.

That is why now is the right moment to start building a culture of the feedback given in impromptu moments, using the best practices.

What are the phases of giving an efficient feedback?

To be efficient and goal-oriented, the process of giving employee feedback should consist of 3 parts for the manager:

  • understanding what the employee is doing: it's important to have a clear overview of what everyone in your team is doing;
  • offering feedback: employees need regular feedback. So you can't just depend on yearly or quarterly feedback when managing people in your company;
  • follow up on the feedback: checking the status of understanding and absorbing the ideas and recommendations.

Let's start with the begining, and find the details of all the 3 phases:

Phase 1: Analyzing, understanding the employee

Giving feedback from the manager to the employee is a very specific process, performed after objectively analyzing the employee and it is oriented towards a specific goal.

Feedback like: ”You did good”, ”Good job!”, ”You need to improve yourself” can be confusing, the employee does not know what exactly has been appreciated or what should be improved in his activity. Instead, feedback oriented exactly on a specific action performed at a specific moment by an employee brings value to his activity. He will feel appreciated and observed, his activity is noted by a superior. He is no longer just a part of a machine; he is an important resource for the company.

Feedback should be offered when there is a specific reason; it should be direct and honest. Also, make sure that your feedback is timely, given in-the-moment. Do not wait for a performance review to give your employees positive feedback. Waiting to recognize your employees can leave them feeling as though their hard work has gone unnoticed. 

The feedback should be tailored to the personality of each employee. For example, some employees feel great when they are recognized in the public, while the other might prefer receiving positive feedback privately. 

This is the phase when you get to know your employees, their personalities and their preferences!

Phase 2: Giving feedback

For the feedback to be efficient, it has to be offered during a scheduled meeting, in a relaxed environment. Ideally, the feedback is given during a face-to-face meeting, outside the office, preferably during a walk or a coffee. Your message is better understood and received if it is accompanied by a proper body language when delivered. Make sure to smile, keep eye contact and use appropriate facial expressions and hand gestures.

Keep in mind the basic human psychology. People tend to respond better to positive information, so always open your feedback session with praise and then continue with constructive comments. In no way does this mean you have to sugar-coat your opinion, but there is a reason we still use the idiom "take the bitter with the sweet".

You should provide feedback to your employees on time so that your comments would be relevant and your employees could make an improvement to their performance. The sooner you communicate some of the challenges and problems, the sooner they will look into it. When reviewing their work, use numbers and data. Embrace the metrics. Find all the evidence to support your opinion; otherwise, there is little value in it. Be specific about what was done and what was not. The feedback session is useless if it is about hypothetical situations, which are not depending on the recipient of the feedback.

Before ending the session, confirm understanding, make sure you and the recipient are on the same page. Together, establish an action plan. Offer suggestions for improvement and expectations going forward.

Phase 3: Follow up on the feedback

Simply delivering the feedback is not enough for a successful session. Monitoring the progress of the ideas and recommendations presented during the session is an essential phase of the feedback.

Whenever someone gives you feedback, flag those notes and follow up at the next meeting. In between meetings, do some serious introspection and see what you can learn from the feedback. Also, consider sharing the feedback with trusted colleagues so you can figure out whether others see your behavior in a similar light. When the next meeting rolls around, let the feedback provider know what you learned from it and how you have worked to change (if that is truly the case).

Following up will let them know that you value them, you have taken their feedback seriously, and it will give you a chance to improve yourself.

For having a bigger picture over the performance of an employee, the companies are lately using more and more the 360-Degree Feedback. Everyone that works around that employee (hence the name 360 degree) gives feedback anonymously on what the strengths and weaknesses are. The manager, a few co-workers, and maybe even customers can give feedback.

When should you give positive feedback to your employees?

The easiest answer would be “Whenever it is deserved”. However, when we talk about humans, nothing is easy. Giving positive feedback is crucial in eight situations. Always provide positive reinforcement to employees who:

  1. Meet or exceed goals
  2. Go an extra mile
  3. Help colleagues or customers
  4. Overcome an obstacle
  5. Take initiative
  6. Need a confidence boost
  7. Model good behavior 
  8. Do something minor, but worth recognizing.

Examples of giving positive employee feedback

Feedback example 1: When an employee meets or exceeds goals 

I received your sales report for the current week. You have exceeded your goal by 30%! This is a significant contribution to the entire department goal. Excellent!

Feedback example 2: When an employee goes an extra mile

Last week I was struggling with a tight deadline and asked you to help me by researching a few catering vendors. Not only did you send your report in two days before the deadline, but you also included all the necessary information. Without your help, I would not be able to organize the whole event on time. The extra effort and time you put into this really made a difference. Thank you!

Feedback example 3: When an employee helps colleagues or customers

Thank you for helping our new hires by explaining our sales process. The presentation you gave yesterday was simple and easy to understand. The clear way you presented our sales process is going to help them get up to speed quickly. Thank you so much, your presentation really made a difference!

Feedback example 4: When an employee overcomes an obstacle

I know that you have been nervous about giving a presentation in front of such a huge audience, but you did really well. Your tone of voice was authoritative and your message was clear and focused. I especially liked how you used interesting examples that the whole group could relate to. Great job!

Feedback example 5: When an employee takes initiative

You noticed that the sales report for last week is not updated. I want to let you know that I really appreciate how you took it upon yourself and called the colleagues form Sales Department and so the report was updated before being too late. Well done!

Feedback example 6: When an employee needs a confidence boost

I really appreciate the way you handled that customer issue yesterday. I really admire your ability to stay calm and positive in difficult situations. Also, your ability to understand our customers' problems and quickly develop suitable solutions is a real next-level problem-solving skill.

Feedback example 7: When an employee models good behavior 

You did an excellent job yesterday by gathering all of your team members and asking their input. I liked how you asked everyone a question related to his or her expertise. It was a great way to encourage participation. What you did yesterday with that meeting is a great example of true teamwork we would like to encourage in our company. Nicely done!

Feedback example 8: When an employee does something minor, but worth recognizing

I received your article today. I know you had many tasks this week, but you have managed to finish your article on time anyway. I also noticed that you checked your work for typos and mistakes before submitting it. This may seem like a small thing, but it saved our editors a lot of time. Thank you so much, I really appreciate it!

How to give positive feedback to your employees?

1. Make your input count.
Give factual feedback – based on numbers and data – rather than emotional; - is even-handed – examines both sides of an issue; is balanced – sees the positive and the negative, and is open-minded – free from personal bias. 

2. Make the feedback timely, given in-the-moment.
Offer input soon after activity rather than weeks or months later. This will ensure that the feedback is relevant and helpful.

3. Give feedback in person.
Input doesn’t have to be formal, but it should be made a priority. For that reason, it’s important to give feedback face-to-face rather than by e-mail or text. This will enhance communication by providing a more personal and immediate two-way dialog and will enable each party to gauge the other’s body language.

4. Provide advance notification and respect the recipient’s other priorities.
Before providing feedback, secure the recipient’s undivided attention, free from distractions. Catch the recipient during a peaceful time of day so that they are emotionally available. Remember, being present is not the same as being there. 

5. Build people up rather than tearing them down.
Complement people in public; present them shortcomings in private. Avoid shaming or threatening the recipient to all costs.

6. Focus on the act.
Base your input on the recipients' effort and behavior (what they do) rather than on their personality traits or talent (what they are like).

7. Encourage meaningful communication.
Make feedback a two-way conversation. Furthermore, the reviewer and recipient must communicate with each other rather than just taking turns talking. And — please give the recipient ample time to respond.

8. Confirm understanding.
Make sure you and the recipient are on the same page before ending the conversation.

9. Establish an action plan.
Offer suggestions for improvement and expectations going forward.

10. Follow up.
Establish a specific time to review actions taken and progress being made!

How to receive feedback from your employee?

Company communications should always be a two-way street.

A session during which the manager gives employee feedback can be concluded by offering the opportunity to the employee to express his opinion, to ask questions, to offer feedback. Getting feedback to your feedback may sound silly at first, but we never get better by ourselves. We always need a new perspective to assess things objectively. Take note of what kind of feedback works and what does not.

Feedback is a tool that can be used unilaterally from top to bottom, from manager to employee, according to with the organization chart. Still, in a company that values its employees and their expertise, authentic feedback is bilateral and it is granted in certain contexts and scheduled meetings, aiming for the improvement of all employees, no matter their occupation.

In a company where work is based on mutual respect, feedback is well received both by the employee and by the manager. Nevertheless, the practice has shown that the managers tend to receive less feedback as they evolve on the career path. 

If the feedback given by the employee is real and justified, it will certainly be well received by the manager. When receiving the feedback, the manager may not react or react negatively, but if there is a culture of feedback in the company and the manager is a true leader, in the end, he will appreciate the feedback.

Honest and concrete feedback offered by the employee to the manager during a private meeting is beneficial for both of them and implicitly for the company.

Giving balanced feedback whenever is necessary can be challenging even for the most experienced managers, but it should be in the DNA of every company that wants a pleasant working environment, based on trust and communication between employees and managers 

It would be absurd to believe that financial rewards are not desired, but these are harder to access. That is why feedback is so very efficient, can be delivered in almost immediately time and the results are immediately seen in the attitude of the employees.

Feedback is the shortest route from words to results!