Managers are the anchors in any organization whose constant support and mentorship help employees steer their efforts in the right direction. They are also responsible for enhancing employee engagement, productivity, and growth. Performance reviews and regular feedback sessions are the tools they employ to achieve this goal.
However, often these performance reviews fail to make an impact. It might be due to any communication gap, or the employees could not grasp the core idea of the feedback. Or, in worse cases, managers intentionally or unintentionally end up using derogatory remarks.
Thus, they should adopt a better approach and offer an action plan or a solution while pointing out the setbacks. This form of review is technically known as constructive feedback. It facilitates employers to look at employee performance, identify the areas of improvement, and provide suggestions for better outcomes.
Today’s employees expect a constructive review process from managers, and the organizations that offer it find it easy to nurture a work culture of ongoing talent development.
This article discusses how managers can give constructive feedback to their employees for their overall progress.
First, let us get to the basics.
1. What is constructive feedback?
Constructive feedback is a communication tool used by managers to address specific issues of an employee’s performance. It helps analyze the recipients’ work and develop an action-driven plan to build skills and behaviors. In addition, it ensures that employees meet the company’s expectations.
When managers set aside dedicated time to review performance and provide constructive feedback, it will help employees understand their areas of improvement. In addition, the comments and suggestions given by the employer will help recipients work on their shortcomings and perform better. As a result, they will be motivated to build new skills and grow professionally.
Now that the basic meaning of constructive feedback is clear let’s find out how it benefits the employer and the employee.
2. What are the benefits of constructive feedback?
Constructive feedback offers a plethora of benefits to both employers and employees. From improving employee performance to reducing unplanned attrition, it is beneficial in multiple ways.
The most prominent ones are enlisted below:
A. Improves employee performance
The primary purpose of constructive feedback is to improve performance by identifying every employee’s “blind spots” or areas of development. One of the key benefits is that this feedback is data-driven and thus, provides an objective view to the employees about their work and setbacks. As a result, it will help them course-correct by revisiting their approach, thereby enhancing performance.
B. Strengthens employer-employee relationships
When managers constructively review the workforce’s performance, they take an action-oriented approach and provide feasible solutions rather than pointing out mistakes. The aim is to empower the employees and not to demean them. This ensures employees that managers are focused on improvement and development, and thus strengthens trust, thereby improving their relationship.
C. Ensures alignment of efforts with expectations
While giving constructive feedback, managers reiterate the long-term and short-term objectives of the company. They ensure that employees understand the goals and work towards achieving them. If an employee deviates from the expectations, the managers can highlight this issue during feedback sessions. It facilitates employees to realign their efforts with the strategic objectives without veering from their area of focus.
D. Reduces unplanned attrition
The idea behind constructive feedback is to support the professional development of employees. Thus, when managers help understand employees’ true potential and areas of improvement, they recognize leaders’ efforts for their career progression. Subsequently, it gives them a solid reason to exhibit more commitment towards their work and increases retention rates.
E. Helps employees come out of their comfort zone
Constructive feedback is a holistic process where managers not only look into employees’ setbacks but also identify the hidden potential of their employees. Since constructive feedback focuses on employees’ overall growth and development, it helps them realize their true worth and talent. It will encourage employees to tap into their potential by pushing their limits and eventually come out of their comfort zone.
F. Boosts employee morale and engagement
Gallup studies show that,
67% of employees are fully engaged in their work when they receive positive feedback from their managers.
Constructive feedback reflects the active participation of the employer in the recipient’s professional growth. This will automatically increase employee engagement as the reviews drive them to go above and beyond. Besides, as feedback helps employees understand their true potential, it automatically boosts their morale.
3. 7 ways to provide constructive feedback to your employees
Providing constructive feedback is not an easy job. Managers need to be mindful of their tone, conduct a thorough review before the session, and so on.
Here is how you can ensure that your feedback to employees is constructive.
A. Ensure it is a one-on-one feedback meeting
Managers need to ensure that feedback is given in person or via video conference instead of emails. That’s because emails or text messages will not have non-verbal cues and may be misconstrued by the recipient. Managers must also ascertain that they conduct an individual review session instead of a collective one. In one-on-one meetings, employees will have the dedicated attention of their leader, who focuses on their performance and career goals, making them feel valued.
A collective review session can make the recipient uncomfortable, and they might not communicate properly. A joint meeting can fail to convey the message because the employees might be unreceptive and intimidated by their peers. Individual sessions make the recipients understand the manager’s expectations, discuss their challenges and ambitions freely and receive guidance for their professional goals.
B. Maintain a positive tone throughout
The leaders must always be mindful of their language while highlighting the problem areas during review meetings. Derogatory tone or language will demotivate the employees, and they will only focus on the harsh tone instead of the underlying message. As a result, the recipient may remain resentful, and it can ruin your relationship with that employee. Hence, it will leave no room for improvement, leading to repetitive mistakes.
Managers should undertake an optimistic approach for the recipients’ betterment and not criticize them. It prevents the blame game and shows their confidence in the employee’s abilities. The feedback must be framed so that the message is highlighted concisely and precisely. An optimistic tone coupled with the manager’s belief in their workforce will lead to a better outcome.
C. Start with achievements before discussing areas of improvement
Constructive feedback is intended to discuss not just negative aspects or gaps in performance but also achievements. Highlighting only the gaps and setbacks in the meetings will discourage employees and erode their self-confidence. Therefore, starting the feedback sessions to acknowledge the recipient’s positive points can work better.
Listening to the positive responses will boost the recipient’s confidence and set an optimistic tone for the whole session. It will help them respond better to any negative remarks and work on them to close performance gaps. The company will also benefit from their positive attitude and commitment to self-improvement, turning them into “assets.” Therefore, it is necessary to balance the positive and negative remarks throughout the session.
D. Focus on the issues rather than getting personal
Sometimes, managers unknowingly lose the neutral and non-personal tone while giving feedback. It makes the review meetings targeted at an employee’s personality, making them feel humiliated and dejected. They might take it personally and lose trust in their managers. They may also become unreceptive to the reviews, which can defeat the entire purpose of feedback meetings.
Therefore, focusing on the issue and highlighting the changes is necessary to help employees improve and reach their potential. So, managers must refrain from getting personal and keep the feedback thoroughly backed by facts and findings. Also, leaders should assure them that they will offer the sufficient guidance and support necessary for the progress. This will help them transform the issues into growth opportunities.
E. Provide context and use facts for objective feedback
The focal point of any effective feedback is to be specific and straightforward. Managers should point out what needs to be improved and the reason for this feedback session in the first place. The best way to do this is by giving concrete examples of situations and behaviors to highlight the point. Managers can also use employee metrics like utilization reports to assess productivity and point out gaps if they are consistent. This helps avoid self-interpretations about an employee’s actions and blanket statements without highlighting the real issue.
For example, the remark “Your presentation skills aren’t great” won’t show the recipient what they lack precisely and how it affects their performance. Instead, the comment “I have observed that “you often read from a script during presentations” can point out the exact issue. It can give them a better idea of what they need to improve and work on it to enhance their presentation skills. This way, mentioning the exact area of improvement will give employees more clarity and enable them to find ways to improve.
F. Make every feedback session a two-way conversation
Managers must ensure the feedback meeting is a dialogue instead of a monologue. The leaders must allow the recipient to respond to the review and explain their side if their opinions differ. It is essential to understand why the employee has behaved differently before deciding on the suggestions.
Having a clear perspective will make it easier for managers to deal with the issue and work out a solution together. It will also bring in better clarity and make the employees feel respected. Sometimes employees deliver their best performance and still might not meet expectations. If there are any loopholes in the work process from the organizational side, employees will have a chance to point this out, and managers can take necessary action to bridge these gaps. Thus, feedback sessions will become a space for continuous improvement and development instead of unproductive meetings.
G. End your feedback with a conclusion and call to action
While concluding a session, the leader can summarize all the key points and observations and ask the recipient the takeaways from the meeting. This will help ensure that the receiver has understood the discussion. The employers must also give them a chance to ask questions to clarify doubts.
While concluding, one must try to end on a positive note so that the employee can leave feeling confident and purpose driven. Managers can maintain an open-door policy to ensure that the team members approach them without hesitation if they face any hurdles in the future. They should also show trust and confidence in individual team members and their capabilities. Thus, employees will become goal-oriented and push their performance limits further.
4. The bottom line
When delivered the right way, constructive feedback propels individual and organizational growth. It shows what went right or wrong in the past and facilitates corrective measures for further improvement.
Crafting and delivering constructive and effective feedback is one of the most significant skills of a strong leader. It helps you create an inclusive and supportive work environment and plays a pivotal role in the company’s growth.
So, what’s your take on the strategies for constructive feedback?
5. The Glossary
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Amalu John & Sulabh Chauhan