CEOs, business owners, managers and employers all likely feel at least a small amount of anxiety when “employee feedback” comes to mind. When you’re on the line for providing constructive, helpful, yet positive feedback to your valuable employees, you might spend a significant amount of time figuring out how to frame your employee reviews in the perfect way.
For anyone in a leadership role, giving employee feedback doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking if you go about it the right way. This expert’s manual includes tips on how to construct effective employee feedback that will improve employee satisfaction and real employee feedback examples. Find out how you can use employee feedback to simultaneously improve your process, boost your employees’ morale, encourage hard work and empower your team.
What you’ll find in this guide:
One of the hardest things about giving feedback is keeping it constructive and not overly critical. While constructive criticism can actually boost morale and improve productivity, harsh employee feedback can do the exact opposite. Keep in mind: employee feedback shouldn’t just be about what they need to change, it should also be about what your employees are doing right.
A couple of important things to keep in mind about employee feedback to avoid negativity:
Have genuine and personalized positive feedback to accompany any negative comments. The great thing about employee feedback is that it doesn’t all need to be bad. This is a time to highlight your employees’ strengths and boost their morale. Make sure that positive comments are well thought-out and apply specifically to them (general comments like “you’re a team player” aren’t going to make anyone feel special).
Be realistic. If you have some constructive feedback, make sure it’s within reason. If an employee is already working overtime and wearing multiple hats, asking him or her to take on more responsibilities isn’t a realistic ask. Asking for something that is likely out of the employee’s ability, or very far from his or her comfort zone, you can expect morale to drop. Know your employees and their capabilities, and be careful with how much you push them to be better.
Make sure you’ve provided what your employees need to succeed. Employees are inevitably going to feel frustrated if you give constructive criticism about something that was outside of their control. For example, maybe as a sales manager you gave the feedback that a salesperson didn’t hit a benchmark, but you didn’t provide them with a sales goal until a week before the quarter-end. This kind of criticism makes employees feel like there’s no winning, so make sure you’ve equipped your employees with the right tools and if you didn’t, take that loss yourself.
If you feel like you had a necessary, but tough feedback period with an employee or your whole team, you can also use some other motivation tactics to boost morale back up.
Keeping your employees motivated and happy is a huge part of maintaining productivity.
Use the right introduction for your feedback
When giving feedback, it’s important to keep some level of positivity to your discussion (even if you’re touching on an area where a salesperson needs to improve). Some examples of positive phrases to use in employee feedback include:
“We are off to a great start, but…”
“Let’s see if we can fine-tune your approach next time.”
“[X] needs work, but you are doing great at [X]”
“Can we think of some ideas to change this process/do better next time/increase sales/etc.?”
“I see an opportunity to improve in this area.”
“I saw where you were going with this…”
Pair any negative feedback with positive feedback
When providing positive feedback, you don't have to be as strategic. But one tactic for when you have some negative employee feedback is to always pair it with some positive affirmation. Some general areas of performance you can preface your employee feedback with include:
Dependability. Maybe you have some feedback for an employee, but if he or she has always been dependable in the past, you could begin your feedback with “I appreciate how [you’ve met deadlines, consistently brought in new clients, show up on time] and always been a team member we can rely on. That’s something we need on this team. But I’d really like to see you start to…”
Improvement. This affirmation could look like: “I’ve seen you really improving in this area, and I would like to see you apply that growth here…”
People skills. Boasting about your employee’s skills with customers is an easy way to fit a compliment into your feedback and keep morale high.
Adaptability. If you have an employee who has been quick to shift priorities when necessary, step into other roles, or take on extra responsibilities, this shouldn’t go unnoticed. This positive employee feedback might look like: “I’ve noticed your flexibility within the role and appreciate the extra roles/tasks you’ve taken on…”
Innovation. Some employees have a certain knack for thinking of creative ways to improve your process. As the manager or boss, you could recognize this talent with positive employee feedback by acknowledging their ideas, using them and giving them adequate credit for their part.
Organization. On any team, organizational skills are a great skill to have and are certainly worthy of being highlighted during the feedback process for any and all employees.
Remember, too much negative feedback can really put a damper on morale, so keep things positive, and you’ll likely see better results when you’re trying to improve your team’s or company’s process.
Many companies implement regularly occurring employee performance reviews, which might seem like a drag for all the managers, but it normalizes feedback along with several other benefits (such as encouraging employee engagement and tracking their feelings on team initiatives). Some of these include:
Falling back on HR (human resources) or corporate policy. Whether you’re a small or large company, you can make company-wide policies that must be abided by. If you already have a policy like this in place, you can make sure to use the performance review to touch on any feedback you have for employees.
Getting ahead of issues before they’re really issues. Putting out a fire in its early stages will always be easier than letting something get out of hand. If you have a regular review period, it’s a good excuse for you to bring up minor issues or concerns and suggest ways to improve them. Of course, major issues should be brought up immediately after they occur, as timeliness always makes employee feedback feel more relevant and fair.
Ample opportunities to increase morale. As we’ve already discussed, employee feedback shouldn’t always be negative. Sometimes we truly need to call out one of your sales team members for being great. But for many of us, giving compliments might not feel natural, or we might forget after the moment is over. By having a regular review period, you’ll be forced to recall moments where you were proud of a direct report, or you might even plan ahead and write down these moments to share during the review process. Either way, you have a scheduled chance to boost the morale of your employees, which benefits productivity and team dynamics in the long run.
If you’re the decision-maker for a company-culture policy like this, you can choose to set employee reviews yearly, quarterly, or every month. If you’re a manager and this isn’t a policy at your company, you can still have informal check-ins with your direct reports and provide feedback (both positive and negative).
Just as important as it is to give out feedback, it’s also beneficial to managers, CEOs, bosses and higher-ups of any kind to receive feedback from their employees. A great manager should be open to feedback and, in fact, encourage it from his or her employees so that you can improve your technique as their leader.
If you’re not sure how to start getting feedback or a follow-up from your employees, try some of our tips:
Show that you’re interested in their opinions
Chances are, your employees aren’t going to give you feedback unless they’re asked for it. Add manager feedback to your regular performance reviews, hold meetings where employees can let you know what they do and don’t like, or schedule one-on-one’s with your direct reports to see if there’s anything that needs to change. Asking for feedback from your employees is the first and most important step!
Create a safe space for employees to be honest
Another tactic for getting genuine feedback from your employees is to allow them to submit feedback anonymously. Let’s face it, most employees will probably be a little nervous to give any kind of negative feedback to their boss. You could have employees submit physical papers with questions about your performance and leave any identification off of them.
Leave defensiveness at the door
If you decide to bring in feedback from your employees face-to-face, make sure that you’re taking their feedback in stride, and making them feel open to providing more in the future.
The great thing about actively seeking out your employees’ feedback, is that it will make it easier for you to provide feedback to them as well. Rather than having the criticisms or affirmations coming from only one direction, open the line of communication and allow your employees to have a voice as well.
Maintaining a healthy, open environment for positive employee feedback is a step in the right direction when it comes to navigating the company cultures and communication between different levels of your company or team’s structure. Follow the basic outline of what we’ve laid out in this expert’s manual and we’re pretty certain your team won’t be disappointed. Some of the most important points to keep in mind:
Stay positive with your feedback, get your point across but be careful of sinking employee morale with overly critical feedback
Normalize feedback as a part of your company culture so you can broach the subject of improvement before it gets to a bad state
Make sure you’ve equipped your employees with what they need to succeed before handing out harsh feedback
Ask for feedback from your employees as well
Honesty and openness will go a long way when it comes to employee feedback, so keep that in mind whether you’re on the receiving or giving end.
There are so many different instances in which you might be supplying employees with feedback, but get started with some of these positive employee feedback examples:
Positive employee feedback examples
When an employee learned a new skill: “I noticed that you took the time to learn [X] and I really appreciate seeing that extra effort. I’ll be able to use your skills more in [X] situations.”
If an employee resolved a solution well: “I saw you dealing with [X] client/coworker and recognized the conflict there. The way you handled that was really admirable and that’s the kind of attitude I’d like to spread across our whole team. Thank you for your quick and thoughtful resolution.”
An employee’s been doing great and you think he or she needs a leadership role: “I hope you know I’ve seen the extra effort you’ve been putting in. With how effective and quick you are with your current responsibilities, I’d like to move you up into a higher role at a leadership level. Is this something you would be interested in?”
Calling out something you want to see more of: “I noticed that you did [X] and I just wanted to say, that’s exactly what we’re looking for and I want to continue to see that great work from you. Also, I’d like for the rest of our team to implement that as well.”
Constructive employee feedback examples
Failure to meet a deadline: “It seems like there’s a lot on your schedule lately and I noticed you didn't hit [X] deadline. Can we walk through your progress together and the steps you need to take to complete this project?”
Decline in performance: “You’ve always been a valued part of this team, but recently I have felt you pull back from your roles and responsibilities. Is there anything external that is affecting your performance, that we on this team could help out with?”
Being a bad teammate: “In yesterday’s meeting, I noticed you shot down [X’s] idea pretty quickly. I just want to set the record straight about how we work as a team here and make sure we’re all on the same page.”
Notice that even with the constructive employee feedback examples, there is still a reserved, friendly tone to the examples. Of course, you may reach a point with an employee where directness and sternness are absolutely necessary, but in order to avoid hurting morale, it’s good to start out with the least aggressive form of feedback.
Although employee feedback can seem like a daunting, uncomfortable task, use the tips and tricks in this manual to spin the process in a positive direction that can actually end up benefiting your organization in the long run.
Regular feedback is an important part of the manager and employee relationship, whether it’s conducted with the support of human resources or not. It’s also a process that is effective at many points during the employee experience, whether that’s during onboarding or to help with team member retention.
What’s important to remember is that employee feedback doesn’t have to be painful for either party, whether you’re giving or receiving. Use our tips for keeping morale up with positive employee reviews, feel free to use any of our employee feedback examples and keep feeding into a culture of openness, honesty and regular affirmations to build up your employees.
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