How often do you check your Social Media pages for comments and likes on your posts? Isn’t it thrilling when you see them gaining visibility, performing well or getting positive comments? We, humans, have always had an innate desire for social recognition and positive feedback. And so, it’s natural to expect the same kind of fulfilment at the workplace as well.
Today’s workplace culture can safely be termed as ‘feedback culture’ – thanks to the profusion of millennial employees who desire continuous feedback. Feedback is essential for effective communication; otherwise, there is no way of knowing if you are sinking or swimming.
A survey done by Officevibe found that about 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week, compared to only 18% of employees with low engagement.
This shows how vital feedback is to building high levels of engagement at the workplace. In fact, it is one of the most cost-effective solutions to boost employee engagement.
However, the process of giving feedback is not that easy. Well-delivered feedback can motivate and inspire employees to perform well, while negatively received feedback can have the opposite effect of de-motivating your employees.
The Importance of Continuous Feedback at the Workplace
Continuous feedback helps to maintain the rhythm of the work system and highlights both the negative and positive aspects in an effective way. The process of delivering such feedback is an art that can only be mastered with practice and experience, making you better each time.
The traditional performance management system predominantly relies on the analysis of an employee’s past performance. It is more evaluative and provides feedback based on monthly or annual reviews. On the other hand, modern performance management is not just about evaluation but providing ongoing coaching and professional development opportunities to the employees.
However, feedback provided during an annual performance review cannot help the employee make up for past performance. An effective way to change this trend is by facilitating continuous performance conversations and feedback.
A McKinsey survey shows that 74 per cent of employees, whose managers gave continuous feedback and coaching, said they have an effective performance management system. And, they were also able to contain attrition within their teams.
Progressive companies adopt check-ins, one on one coaching conversations, team feedback sessions and other ways to encourage open communication between employees. Constant feedback provides a forum for managers to share their appreciation and candid feedback and lets employees air their grievances or make suggestions.
When feedback is given in a constructive way, it acts like a mirror that shows the strengths and weaknesses of both the employee and manager, helping both to identify the blind spots. We are not inclined to see our own mistakes. It is only through constructive feedback that we can understand our shortcomings, work on them and grow, both professionally and personally.
Benefits of Continuous Feedback
An organisational culture that adopts continuous feedback nurtures a safe environment for the employees to voice out their ideas without fear of being reprimanded or ignored. It helps the company as a whole to align the business objectives with individual goals and even open up new avenues of product research, creative ideas or new service offerings. From greater creativity to collaboration and improved communication, here are some of the benefits of a feedback culture at the workplace:
1. Promote Team Spirit and Collaboration
Feedback should not be a one-way street; it should be multi-directional and include peer-to-peer feedback and upward feedback to promote a collaborative culture within the organisation. Such feedback mechanisms have a strong positive impact on collaboration within a team as it successfully and systematically integrates employees within the group.
2. It Helps to Assess Achievement of Goals
When you initiate a focused conversation around each goal, it can help employees to voice out the challenges they encounter in achieving them. The manager can proactively give his inputs and take corrective action when a team member is lagging behind, in the form of coaching.
3. Improves Performance
Feedback sets the stage for setting performance expectations where the employee is clear what needs to be done and commit to achieving them. It quickly aligns the individual’s performance with more significant business objectives. As an added benefit, it also increases the manager’s effectiveness and overall accountability.
4.Creates a Positive Workplace
A workplace focused only on results without accounting for their employees’ well-being fosters negativity. It also lacks open lines of communication where little or no feedback is adopted. As a result, it can severely impact employee performance. On the contrary, employees in a positive workplace with a continuous feedback model are more productive and happier, leading to better performance, lower turnover and higher profits.
5. Decreases Turnover
Employee turnover is a costly affair for any organisation. It’s been estimated that the cost of losing an employee is about 33% of their salary – given the amount of time, energy, and resources that must be put into finding a replacement. A feedback based culture can help decrease turnover. When workers are able to register their honest feedback and also get feedback about how they can improve, they feel valued. They are less likely to leave. In addition, a feedback-based culture also mitigates employee burnout as they can voice out their concerns and participate in career development initiatives.
6. Prioritises Communication
A study by the consulting group, McKinsey showed that clear, transparent corporate communication between employees could help boost productivity by as much as 25%. Besides, better internal communication helps companies engage with employees and build loyalty more effectively. It goes without saying that when a company focuses on being transparent and honest, it’s easier to communicate across the lines and improve continuously.
Types of Feedback
Effective feedback should highlight both the positives and negatives. Too much praise can be considered artificial and patronising, while over-criticising can lend a feeling of aggression. When the feedback is given is negative, it needs to be delivered in a way that doesn’t undermine the employee’s morale. Feedback should be constructive and delivered with dignity. Here are the three common types of feedback:
1. Praise or Positive Feedback
This is the type of feedback where you acknowledge and commend the efforts of an employee for doing a task. You directly praise the employee for a job well done and encourage them to continue doing the same with greater motivation and self-esteem.
2. Constructive Feedback
Here, you still acknowledge the employee for their efforts but are direct about their shortcomings and then ask the employee what they think they can do to make it better in the future. Most importantly, you should affirm their contribution to the organisation so that they know you care and will want to improve. This type of feedback can further be broken down into the following elements:
- Positive feedback: Positive comments related to past actions or behaviours and indicate that it should be continued further.
- Negative feedback: Corrective comments about past actions or behaviors that weren’t satisfactory and indicate that it shouldn’t be continued further.
- Positive Outlook: Focuses on affirming actions that will improve future performance.
- Negative Outlook: Focuses on unfavourable actions that will degrade future performance.
3. Destructive or Negative Feedback
The most harmful form of feedback, a type of feedback that is solely based on criticism, should have no place in the company culture. It can have an adverse effect on employees, resulting in declining performance.
What Constitutes Perfect Feedback?
Giving feedback is an art and can be perfected only through practice. With that being said, focus on delivering constructive feedback with the right balance of praise and honesty.
Don’t be so empathetic that you avoid telling the truth for fear of hurting their feelings. At the same time, don’t be too aggressive directly attacking them for failures. And, finally, don’t be manipulative by refraining from communicating honestly because you want to be liked. Adopt a balanced approach where you need to care and empathy for your team, but also be honest enough to address issues of concern with them. Demonstrate integrity by positive feedforward to help them improve the negatives.
Getting It Right
Now that you know how integral feedback is to better communication at the workplace, here are some tips on how to deliver feedback effectively:
1. Identify a Goal
As a leader or manager, figure out the aim of the feedback session. What do you seek from your staff and how do you want them to progress? There should be proper communication of goals, both short-term and long-term so that both parties can agree on the way forward.
2. Initiate a Conversation
Feedback should be a two-way street. Ask questions to elicit a response which will help you understand what went wrong and then suggest corrective measures to improve. This way, you can seek the active participation of your team and also help them achieve their own career goals. The right way of delivering feedback is to communicate in a caring and non-judgemental tone; identify issues, invite a response and then give objective suggestions for improvement.
3. Don’t Make it Personal
Don’t target an employee at a personal level; feedback is about actions and behaviour. Before giving feedback, look at the issue from a neutral perspective to ensure that you are professional and fair. Use clear examples to demonstrate shortcomings and don’t explicitly characterise employee actions as lazy, wrong, etc.
4. Focus on Your Wording
No, this is not about grammar, but the appropriate choice of words when giving feedback. Even a well-intentioned feedback session can go wrong if you say something along the lines of, “You did a great job, but your teammate did it better”. It’s essential to maintain a friendly tone without sounding too judgemental and base your feedback purely on facts and observations.
5. Be Specific and Time it Right
It goes without saying that constructive feedback should be given one-on-one and not in front of others. You also have to consider the receptiveness of the receiver, the time you have available to listen to any of his or her concerns and the right timing to deliver the feedback.
Secondly, be clear about the change you expect to see and give them ample time to make the change. Keep the suggestions short, simple and don’t go overboard burdening the employee with a truckload of suggestions.
6. Provide Training and Development
If the employee feels they need additional training during the feedback session, consider providing the right training opportunities such as workshops and mentoring or coaching initiatives. Be open to the idea of considering alternative measures to help the employee put their best foot forward and thereby contribute to the growth of the organisation.
7. Acknowledge the Good as Often as the Bad
It is not necessary to always deliver constructive feedback with a focus on negatives and areas of improvement. Give positive feedback and recognise employees who do well in order to breed greater confidence and productivity. This will build greater trust and make your feedback more authentic.
8. Follow Up
Continuous feedback should be your aim if you want to focus on the long-term gains for your business. Follow up on the progress of previous feedback and understand if it’s being followed or again take preventive steps.
9. Make it Routine
One of the main reasons why employees dread feedback sessions is because they are too infrequent and they presume it’s going to be negative. Instead, give feedback on a regular basis to mitigate any anxiety. This will also make your suggestions practical and easier to digest. Have a standardised feedback policy with regular meetings so that your team will know what to expect and be more prepared.
10. Show the Impact
Make sure to remind employees how their actions have an impact on the bigger picture. When employees know how their contribution matters, it motivates them to work harder. If they slack off, show how it’s negatively affecting the organisation and help them to improve their outcomes.
Giving feedback is challenging but more rewarding than you can imagine. Like any form of art, the more you do it, the better you get. Feedback inspires change and stimulates a person to shift their actions in the right direction. At its core, feedback culture at the workplace builds a pathway to the future and is like a bridge that connects both the employee and manager to travel faster towards success.