There are no simple answers to these questions, but while HR departments search and wait for a collective epiphany, here are five key points that managers and supervisors need to keep in mind:
1. The value of feedback stays high when channels remain open.
A sudden blast of unaccustomed feedback once a year, whether positive or negative, isn’t likely to have much impact on long term performance. A manager who rarely offers feedback will eventually seem disconnected from an employee’s daily activities. And how much can praise or criticism mean when it comes from someone with little knowledge of what we actually do? When feedback is rare, it’s jarring, questionable, and ultimately dismissible. Especially the negative kind.
On the other hand, regular doses of meaningful feedback build trust on both sides. Trust leads to credibility, and credibility leads to open ears and a calm, flexible response to performance assessment. Regular feedback transforms the process from an intimidating event to an every-day communication tool. Feedback and constant nudges keep employees on-track and help them reach their goals.
2. Employees appreciate it more than managers may realise.
A manger may spend an hour searching for a way to phrase criticism delicately while, meanwhile, an employee continues to fumble in the dark, wanting nothing more than a clear indication that she is or isn’t on the right track. Employees are often less concerned with displays of approval then they are with doing a good job. Don’t underestimate their resilience. Most employees WANT to learn, want to improve, and want continuous feedback.
3. Don’t expect employees to read between the lines.
This is a common practice. Managers are hesitant to confront employees or simply do not make the time to properly plan or schedule proper feedback sessions. Instead, they make a comment or send a small email and sandwich the feedback in other content. Employees cannot be expected to analyse their supervisor’s words or intents – and for good reason. No organisation wants their employees spending time deducing meaning. If managers have something relevant and productive to say – positive or constructive – they should say it clearly, quickly and concisely.
4. Be timely, specific, and focus on behaviour.
The best employee feedback is timely, specific, and focuses on behaviour and not the person or the intent. Solution-oriented feedback revolves around managers being committed to development and improvement rather than simply critiquing employees. Vague comments leave room for employee confusion and interpretation, and feedback that isn’t timely can be a complete waste of time if the incident or project has passed.
5. Feedback represents valuable data, but only when it’s handled properly.
No matter how it’s collected or received, feedback represents a two-way data stream between a company and an employee. And like any form of data, feedback will have more value if it’s stored, managed, and aggregated effectively. No matter how you choose to shape your HR management strategy, a sophisticated software platform like emPerform can help you process feedback and get the most out of your employee-supervisor relationships.
If you are looking for a way to facilitate ongoing performance feedback in your organization, we invite you to explore emPerform’s award-winning software suite which includes tag for ongoing real-time feedback.