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The Manager’s Guide To Developing A Growth Mindset

A dramatic shift in the job market has led many companies to turn to feedback to improve employee retention rates. Unlike in the past, employees are feeling less tied to company loyalty and freer to take on new opportunities. Millennials in particular are notorious for their job-hopping tendencies, with most being expected to stick with each job for less than three years. Employee turnover can result in major costs for your company, and significantly impact company morale. Think about how much time you’re already spending recruiting new people to replace those who left.

Attracting top talent will also become more challenging as potential hires are not only looking at salaries, but also quality of the work environment. Rating based reviews on websites like Glassdoor are helping hires become more selective and raising concern amongst companies over the potential for disgruntled employees to scare off new talent. As companies focus more on trying to reverse this trend, feedback has emerged as a way to better engage employees.

To some, giving candid feedback more often may seem counter-productive, but a 2009 Gallup Inc. study shows that 98% of employees fail to be engaged when managers give little or no feedback. As a result, companies are investing more in new feedback technology to encourage the exchange of feedback between managers and employees. Faced with the challenge of satisfying a more demanding employee population, managers will be responsible for using this technology to infuse the workplace with a greater feedback culture.

Why is feedback important for me as a manager?

While the entrance of Millennials into the workplace will present new opportunities, it will also require adjustments to your management style. The top two most commonly cited reasons for employee turnover are problems with management and a lack of opportunities for professional development. In fact, a 2014 study by Deloitte University revealed that two-thirds of Millennials believe managers are responsible for providing them with further development opportunities. In other words, managers must become more open and engaged in their employees’ career growth to meet their expectations.

When given effectively, providing your employees with more feedback is one of the best ways to demonstrate your involvement in their professional development. Giving your employees’ advice on how to enhance their skills and helping them to develop career goals is a powerful way to motivate your team. Even if you don’t have any constructive feedback to give, giving positive feedback is a great way to acknowledge an employee’s work and make them feel valued within the team. In the long term, feedback can significantly boost team spirit and productivity.

Feedback is not only helpful for improving your employees’ performance, but also allows you to pinpoint adjustments that need to be made to your management style. Employees might be reluctant to voice concerns about your performance as a manager until it’s too late. Creating an open environment in which employees are encouraged to give you feedback in return will foster greater trust between you and your team, and alert you to potential conflicts before they heat up.

Changing your mindset

To realize the benefits of a feedback culture, you and your employees will need to overcome common misconceptions about feedback. As a manager you may be hesitant to give constructive feedback to your employees and risk hurting or offending them. When it comes to your top performers, you may stick to showering them exclusively with praise as a way to demonstrate how satisfied you are with their work. When it comes to receiving feedback from your reports, you may feel uncomfortable or even defensive when given constructive criticism. You may question whether opening yourself up to feedback will undermine your position as a manager.

If this sounds familiar you may have what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck terms a “fixed mindset” towards feedback. People with a fixed mindset see their intelligence and personality as static features. Constructive feedback is therefore taken personally and can elicit a more emotional response. People with a “growth mindset”, on the other hand, see their abilities as learned traits which must be exercised and enhanced to develop over time. People with growth-centered mindsets will view feedback as a way to re-assess and hone their skills.

Remember that employees with fixed and growth mindsets may react differently to your feedback. If an employee becomes defensive or emotional when you review their performance, this may be a sign that they have a fixed mindset. To create a positive feedback culture, it’s essential that you coach your employees on how to open themselves up to and benefit from feedback.

How to create a feedback culture in the workplace:

  1. It starts with you

Become a role model for open communication by asking for more feedback. Creating an open environment in which employees feel comfortable reviewing your performance will help you to improve your management skills and encourage them to see feedback from a different perspective. It is likely that some of your reports will be hesitant at first to give you honest feedback. Here are some ways you can break down these barriers.

  1. Encourage employees to come to you for feedback

Be sure to make yourself available when employees seek feedback and follow up with them after giving it. Giving your employees feedback more often will motivate them to come back to you for advice when they need it. The most important part is to learn how to give a mix of positive and constructive feedback and work on delivery. Communicating feedback in a clear and constructive way will ensure that it’s received well and taken into consideration. The following guides will go into greater detail on how to deliver effective feedback.

  1. Promote peer to peer feedback

Getting used to giving and receiving feedback from each other will help employees improve their interpersonal communication skills and build a greater sense of team spirit. There may be some employees who continually take on an informal mentorship role. Help them to develop their potential leadership skills by providing extra training on how to give effective positive and constructive feedback. See our series of feedback guides for employees to get some inspiration.

  1. Identify and coach employees with fixed mindsets

Employees with fixed mindsets will need extra coaching to overcome their defensive tendencies. Consider holding one-on-one sessions where you can discuss their reactions to feedback, and come up with a plan to overcome their inhibitions. For tips on how to hold effective one-on-ones see here.

Summary and take-aways:

When given and received effectively, feedback can be a powerful tool to not only improve professional skills, but also to motivate, increase productivity and raise the profile of your company’s work culture. However, as a manager you will not only need to adjust your mindset towards giving and receiving feedback, but also that of your employees’.

  • Ask for more feedback from your employees
  • Encourage employees to come to you for feedback
  • Promote peer to peer feedback
  • Coach employees on how to achieve a growth mindset

A version of this post was first published on the Impraise blog.

Photo Credit: thienan01 via Compfight cc

Perception Is Reality: Talent Magnets Attract The Best People

‘We don’t much care about having you as an employee. Move along.’

I’m hearing a lot from top performing talent at leading technology companies jumping ship in droves. When it’s an AOL or a Yahoo facing tremendous uncertainty, dropping stock price, and competition on all fronts, it’s not difficult to understand. At some point you have to look out for number one. When it’s a LinkedIn, which negotiated its IPO with reasonable grace, it’s also not hard to understand – stock option lockups are expiring and people are finally free to look for the next big career thing. When it’s a Microsoft or an IBM, the reasons may be more about company culture, bureaucracy, or lack of leadership vision – also not hard to understand.

Not everyone is a top performer, though. Not everyone can be in the top one percent with nearly limitless opportunity. Most employees are distributed somewhere on the curve between the top 10 percent and the bottom 10 percent that Jack Welch made famous. For these employees – and for those new to the job market – candidate experience matters. Candidate experience relates to how a company handles the recruitment, interview and hiring dance and influences everything that follows. I mean everything.

For today’s social-media empowered candidate, it’s not trivial to pan a company for a bad candidate or work experience. Sites like Glassdoor.com do more than give salary ranges and titles to job seekers – they provide the tools to strike back at a former employer or critique a prospective employer’s hiring process. That’s why it’s more important than ever for HR and hiring executives to manage the candidate experience very closely.

A report by The Talent Board revealed the results of a series of surveys the organization ran as part of its CandE Award, an annual (2011 was the first) competition designed to let companies benchmark their candidate experience against peer companies and organizations. This is worth a read, the report can give Leaders and HR new perspectives on what it’s like to be on the other end of the hiring experience – and where to improve. Something I’m passionate about of course. Not surprisingly, 2011 CandE winners proved to be extremely financially successful. Adidas ADDYY +% saw stock prices soar by 38% over that year, Herman Miller stock climbed 20%, and State Farm stock grew by over 11%. These companies are attracting – and keeping – top talent, so it stands to reason that their success will not be short-lived.

I came away from reading the report again thinking about my top 5 reasons for improving the candidate experience as this notion finds a wider audience each year. While many leaders might not believe it matters, with far more candidates available than jobs, it does. Someday unemployment will drop below eight percent and the economy will recover. When it does, you want employee prospects to have a productive candidate experience, or you may find hiring and retention of your talent to be problematic.

Here are my top 5 reasons why candidate experience matters to hiring leaders and recruiters alike:

1) First impressions are lasting impressions. If your career website is clunky, or if it takes an hour and 50 mouse-clicks to find a job listing and apply, you’re sending a not-so-subtle signal to job prospects: ‘We don’t much care about having you as an employee. Move along.’ Does anyone really want to work for this type of company?

2) Employees who like their jobs often try to get their friends on the same team. Many companies weight the hiring process toward employee referrals. Some even have a hiring bonus system in place. But if you force all candidates to go through a poorly thought out career website, even when their resumes have been hand-delivered to hiring managers, you haven’t optimized the process at all. And employees may begin to question the company’s culture or motives if people they recommend fall into the hiring black hole.

3) Job seekers want feedback. If you’re not going to hire a person, tell him or her quickly, and if possible tell the candidate why so he can improve his approach – or resume. It’s not enough to simply acknowledge the receipt of the resume or application and then drop all communication. You’ll create a negative impression – one which might find its way to Twitter or Facebook.

4) People move around in the course of a career. It’s inevitable. People are hired, work, and then something more exciting, challenging, meaningful, or profitable comes along. In the process they’re talking to lots of colleagues, people your company might be interested in hiring. If they had a bad experience during your hiring process or as an employee, the word will spread.

5) People want to believe they made a good choice. If you make the hiring process difficult it will be less likely, even if an offer is made, that you’ll be able to retain the employee. The hiring process sets expectations. It’s your opportunity to convince candidates your company is well-managed, fair to employees, and a good place to work.

Think about your first experience applying for a job. Was it frustrating, embarrassing, demoralizing? Odds are high you’ve had that experience at least once. Odds are it still stings. Don’t be that person, and don’t be that company. Be better now. Don’t wait until your talent slams the door.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes.com on June 18, 2012

photo credit: magnetic field shown by compass needles via photopin (license)