In many workplaces, a communication gap exists between leaders and employees - 91% of employees in a recent survey report that their manager does not communicate effectively. Often, the most difficult type of communication with an employee involves giving feedback. When managers fail to provide effective employee feedback, employees become disengaged, resulting in losses of productivity, profitability and talent.
In contrast, effective communication between leaders and employees leads to high employee engagement. Engaged employees have a more positive attitude towards work and are highly motivated. They are more productive and profitable and they are less likely to be absent from work and to quit, potentially saving millions of dollars a year.
So how can managers provide effective employee feedback? Here are a few ideas:
1. Be specific. Feedback should be task-oriented and to the point. Avoid general comments such as “You need to improve your work performance.” or “I wasn’t very impressed with your last report and think you can do a better job.” These vague statements will only lead to confusion and frustration. Instead, offer specific instructions for improvement. For example, “As you write your next report, please be sure to check your grammar and spelling.” Praise should also be specific - show your employees that you recognize and value their contributions.
2. Don’t wait for quarterly reviews. Address issues as they occur, coaching your employees throughout the performance cycle. Otherwise, problems will recur and may multiply. Try giving more informal daily or weekly reviews instead. This way, problems can be addressed in a timely manner.
3. Make it one-on-one. Never criticize publicly. A great way to create an informal meeting is to go for a walk or meet for a cup of coffee. If possible, avoid providing feedback by email. One recent study found that 56% of executives in a recent survey rely on email as the primary method of employee communication. Without cues such as body language and tone, it’s more likely that your feedback will not be received in the way you intended.
4. End on a positive note. The goal of all constructive criticism should be employee improvement. Mention what needs to be fixed at the beginning of your conversation and end the conversation with words of encouragement. The overall message of the discussion should be that you appreciate and value the employee.
5. Try the 3x3 Method. In all feedback meetings, provide three strengths in addition to three areas of potential development. This method is proposed by Bert Decker in his book, You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard. Decker reasons that “Receiving three bits of feedback at a time allows people to make course corrections, like a guided missile, as they keep moving onward and upward.”
6. Focus on performance, not personality. It’s important to focus on what an employee does (or doesn’t do) instead of his or her personality traits. So, instead of saying, “Your rude behavior is offending your coworkers,” try “When you interrupt John during a meeting, it leads to potential problems.”
7. Employee feedback should go both ways. Always give your employee the opportunity to speak up during a meeting and follow up afterwards. In addition, ask if there is anything YOU can do in order to help him or her succeed.
The Front Line Leadership Program includes a module on communication effectiveness in which leaders develop skills in providing feedback and praise. Learn more about Module 5 - Communication Effectiveness HERE. For more information about how the Front Line Leadership Program can transform your organization or for pricing information, contact Robert Winter at 832-483-5535 or fill out a contact form on our contact page.