The value of providing effective feedback

When it comes to providing a rewarding and fulfilling workplace for your employees, the value of feedback is irreplaceable. Informative and thorough feedback helps your employees to measure their success and improve on their development areas. It can also be an ideal time to extend rewards and recognition, thereby improving employee engagement.

Why is feedback so important for employee engagement?

If you are providing a friendly work environment and clear expectations about what you want from your team, you might think that you have done enough to encourage your employees. You might shy away from providing feedback because you only know how to point out shortcomings and negatives. This is a dangerous trap to fall into. It is important to understand that providing no feedback is actually the worst strategy of all.

In 2009, Gallup released a study of more than 1000 American employees, measuring the impact of various kinds of feedback on their output and productivity. The poll instructed the employees to rate their manager on their feedback styles. They were asked whether their managers focused on strengths or whether they instead fixate on weaknesses. Shockingly, some of the respondents indicated that their managers provide neither positive nor negative feedback. These workers were classified as being ignored.

Some interesting conclusions were drawn from the study. Even though negative feedback has long been considered a counterproductive strategy (which it is when compared with positive options), it is clearly much better than providing no feedback at all. The value of feedback simply outweighs all the negative sides of it.

  • Up to one in 10 managers focus solely on their staff’s weak points.
  • These employees were more than 20 times more likely to feel engaged and operating at peak productivity at work than those who receive no feedback at all.
  • Those who feel ‘ignored’ are twice as likely than others to feel disengaged and isolated at work.

The value of feedback

When managers choose to focus on strengths and positives, they are rewarded with employees who are a whopping 30 times more likely to feel engaged.

Positive feedback increases productivity, corporate culture, brand strength and overall retention, with employees reporting feelings of loyalty to their organisation and satisfaction in their work.

Gallup is not the only firm to have completed a similar study – experts in leadership training Zenger Folkman studied the feedback strategies of more than 22,000 managers from around the globe.  Their study showed that found that the leaders in the top 10 % (in terms of providing feedback) had employees who were three times more engaged than those in the bottom 10 %. This should be a wake up call for all managers who think that their feedback doesn’t matter.

As you can see, a manager’s specific style will determine how engaged or disengaged their team feels on a daily basis. That said, giving no feedback at all is the worst option. As the study shows, employees are up to 50% less productive when little to no feedback is given.

Feedback lets your team members know that they are valued, appreciated and most importantly – noticed. They need to know that their contributions help to increase the value and worth of the company. Just like they need to know that you notice their work. Even when the feedback is negative, at least they know that someone is paying attention and their performance counts for something. If you fail to provide feedback, you have effectively shown your staff that you do not care about their output.

How to give effective feedback?

Here are some key strategies that can help you to give excellent and effective feedback.

  • Always remember that positive feedback is always the best option, but even negative feedback is better than none at all.
  • Treat your feedback sessions like opportunities to focus on giving guidance. While ‘guidance’ and ‘feedback’ are essentially the same thing, feedback can have a negative connotation for some employees who have had bad experiences in the past. To overcome this association, consider calling your meetings “guidance sessions.’
  • Remember that this is a time for giving feedback (or guidance), but it can also be a valuable time to receive guidance on our own management style and behaviour. Feedback value works both ways – you can learn a lot from your employees in this process.

Guidance expert and former Google employee Kim Scott lays out an effective formula for providing useful and effective guidance to one’s employees. She uses the acronym HHIPP to explain her style of providing feedback that will actually help boost engagement in your organization. Feedback should always be:

  • Humble;
  • Helpful;
  • Immediate;
  • In Person (in private if it’s criticism and in public if it’s praise); and
  • Doesn’t personalize.

Use this formula to tell your employees that you value their contributions and you will see your engagement and productivity skyrocket.

What not to do – how to avoid the wrong type of feedback

If you want to get most value of feedback process and stay away from negative feedback tropes, you will want to avoid the following:

  • Do not make the feedback personal – it should never include phrases like “well, that is just like you,” or “you are this type of person, so…”
  • Do not include the opinions of anyone else – stick to your own observations. Never include hearsay or generalizations, such as “everyone has noticed,” or “people have been saying.” This will make your employee feel targeted, and like the object of office gossip. Nothing feels worse.
  • Stay away from passive aggression – be direct, compassionate and honest.
  • Avoid the trap of being ‘too nice’ – we’ve all heard the old adage ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,’ but this does not apply to feedback. You need to be honest and address the problems in your employees’ performance, otherwise your feedback is incomplete.

Give your opinion about the value of feedback and share your experiences with your peers by leaving a comment below.

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