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Give the Best Employee Feedback with These Top Tips

By Christine Macdonald

All employees require feedback. Whether they’re doing a great job or are becoming difficult to work with, feedback can have a dramatic effect on the way employees work. However, the way in which you offer feedback is crucial.

Giving feedback is a task that every manager has to undergo during their career. If a manager isn’t confident giving feedback, this is an area of your skill-set that must be improved as a priority. Feedback is one of the key ways to keep a team motivated. When given correctly, it allows employees to progress within a company and improve upon their performance. In short, it plays an integral role in creating the very best employees.

Whilst you’ll find countless resources on the approaches and methods to use when you’re tasked with delivering feedback, that’s only half the battle. Knowing what to avoid is equally important, so here are some common stumbling blocks to learn from and avoid when giving feedback.

Don’t Put it Off

If you need to give feedback to an employee but know it will be a difficult conversation, don’t put it off. The longer you leave it, the worse it will become. Tensions build, knock-on effects grow greater and more time and effort is lost. Aim to be proactive when delivering feedback, not reactive.

Over 70% of employees under 30 reported that they would like feedback daily or weekly. Even negative feedback, when it is necessary and delivered in a fair and progressive way, can improve performance and urge an employee to do better.

Give Regular Feedback

Feedback shouldn’t be stored up for an annual review. In fact, many businesses are moving towards regular performance reviews and away from a once-a-year review. Regular performance management  in this form has the potential far more effective than a more infrequent approach.. It gives the manager an opportunity for a flow of discussion to be created and for goals to be better tracked. The sooner you offer feedback, the better, as it’s fresh in your mind and the employee knows exactly what you’re talking about.

Be Direct, Clear and Specific

One of the worst ways to give feedback is to be too vague and general. In order for employees to get the most of out of feedback, you must be specific. Your workforce will often turn to you for direction or advice when things aren’t going to plan, so advice needs to be delivered in a way that everyone will respect and follow.

A manager must balance the roles of supporting and collaborating with their team, alongside displaying authority. Vague feedback can be as bad as no feedback at all, leaving employees in the dark and unconvinced on the leadership skills of the manager. Using specific examples and clear language means that the employee can understand where to improve in the future and always be confident in your ability to assist them.

Use the E2C2 Model of Feedback

There is no point squashing negative feedback in between positive feedback, also known as the sandwich method. It can confuse the employee, unsure if they should take the negative points seriously and act upon them.

The E2C2 model of feedback, meanwhile, is different. It is clear and specific, consisting of four key areas: Evidence, Explain, Change and Continue. This method tells employees exactly what they are doing wrong or right and how it affects the company or other employees. If their attitude needs to change, there is time to discuss this, followed by a conclusion of how to take this advice into the workplace.

This model incorporates other vital factors we’ve mentioned, such as delivering clear and specific feedback. A concise method like E2C2 means employees know what to expect and and have every chance of being able to take the feedback on board.

Choose Your Words Carefully

Before giving any feedback, it’s crucial to think about what you’re going to say — not generally, but specifically. Words can be a powerful tool, often more powerful than we intend them to be, so you want to make sure you use the right ones to avoid giving employees the wrong impression.

Using overly negative words too often, for example, could make a worker feel like they are in serious trouble, even though they just need to work on one or two minor issues. Use terminology with an underperformer that is too positive and they may not feel it necessary to make a change. In a fair and constructive way, use the sort of language that leaves employees in no doubt over what they should be pleased about or need to work on.

Christine Macdonald is the director of The Hub Events, which offers expert-led management, leadership and PA training courses throughout the UK.