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How to Provide Constructive Feedback That Improves Performance
For previous generations of workers, employer feedback too often consisted of some variation of “Don’t screw up!” But in today’s workforce, employees need and want a lot more detail. They seek constructive feedback that helps them correct their weaknesses and further prepares them for long-term professional growth.
However, not all feedback is created equal. There are significant differences between destructive and constructive feedback, but they aren’t as apparent as you might think. Some managers believe constructive feedback means sugar-coating while destructive feedback means blunt rudeness — neither of which is correct. It’s difficult to say why this misconception persists, but HR teams need to reframe that line of thinking.
Constructive Feedback and Performance
When you know how to provide useful feedback to employees, you create the conditions for higher engagement, satisfaction levels, and performance. Destructive feedback has the opposite effect; according to one TriNet study, destructive performance reviews cause 1 in 4 Millennials to call in sick — or look for a new job.
Traditionally, consistent feedback occurs when employees and employers meet for annual performance reviews. During those reviews, the two sides discuss everything from the employee’s performance throughout the year to raises, promotions, or even demotions or termination. The employer would then wait another year before giving the employee additional feedback, and the majority of those meetings would focus on critical evaluation.
Today, more routine and consistent feedback loops have become the norm. Employers maintain open lines of communication and set clear expectations for feedback. They also encourage employees to provide feedback freely and confidently, with some managers holding monthly meetings designed specifically for this purpose.
But these measures alone aren’t enough if employees don’t receive constructive feedback from managers throughout the process. A recent Gallup poll found that only 26% of workers strongly agree that manager feedback on employee performance positively impacts future outcomes.
Useless feedback is as bad as destructive feedback, and it can be demoralizing. This takes a toll on the team and the company, causing employees to lose motivation or leave. Constructive feedback builds up employees instead of bringing them down, and it helps them identify performance gaps in a positive way that doesn’t cause them to feel personally attacked.
Feedback is essential, but it matters how you provide and facilitate that feedback.
HR leaders can use the following tips when coaching management on how to give feedback to employees constructively. The goal: To help them grow and become even greater assets to the organization:
1. Put Feedback on the Schedule
Leaders should not isolate opportunities for feedback, and they shouldn’t blindside employees when those opportunities do come. Some employers offer feedback sessions monthly; others hold them every week. By creating a consistent feedback schedule, you can ensure your team understands and is prepared to meet timelines and expectations.
For example, at the end of 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg livestreamed a one-on-one with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. During the stream, Sandberg revealed that weekly feedback sessions were essential when she began working at Facebook in 2008. Since then, the two C-suite leaders start and end each week with a one-on-one.
2. Uncomplicate the Process
In most businesses, things happen much more rapidly than they did generations ago. This has been especially true over the past ten months or so. Having frequent, regularly scheduled constructive feedback sessions gives managers and employees the chance to get on the same page, even as things change. However, more frequent feedback can also become more complex, and employers will do well to keep the process simple.
HR teams might lend managers a hand by creating a simple online form that employees can use to quickly and easily submit answers. Much like a customer satisfaction survey, completing it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Then, managers can generate a report based on those form answers to share and discuss during the next feedback meeting.
3. Find the Right Cadence
After setting an initial feedback schedule and simplifying the process, HR teams might look at each employee’s desire for feedback to determine individual cadences. Managers in every industry have strayed from the once-a-year performance review model; employees have responded positively to the increased feedback, but not everyone needs to meet every week.
When employees feel micromanaged because evaluations come too frequently, that feedback loses its usefulness. Everyone might agree on weekly feedback sessions at first. But you might consider shifting to biweekly or monthly check-ins if they start to feel like a burden. Work with your team to find the most productive cadence, and be agile enough to change things up.
The distinction between destructive and constructive feedback is in the results. Knowing how to provide effective feedback to employees consistently helps ensure that it’s helpful, engaging, and empowering.
With these tips, HR leaders can help managers draw that distinction more clearly while guiding employees in their growth — and improving their performance.