As an experienced manager who‘s provided feedback for over a decade, I understand the elements that combine to create excellent employee feedback. Effective feedback benefits both managers and employees in tangible ways. Studies show employees who receive regular feedback have higher engagement, productivity, and satisfaction. They also have higher retention rates, reducing costly turnover. For example, one SHRM study found 66% of employees said receiving feedback is very important to them.
The evolution of performance management processes in recent years shows a clear trend towards continuous, real-time feedback instead of the traditional annual review. Technology is enabling Instant feedback tools, anonymous feedback options, and systems to facilitate more frequent check-ins. Employees, especially millennials and Gen Z who now dominate the workforce, want to hear how they‘re doing more often. In one survey by Officevibe, 82% of employees said they preferred receiving feedback once a week or more.
As an HR leader who‘s coached numerous managers on providing meaningful feedback, I want to share my top tips for writing excellent employee feedback in 2022.
But first, let‘s define what excellent feedback entails. For feedback to achieve its full potential, it should be:
- Specific – backed up with examples
- Objective – based on observable behaviors
- Developmental – focused on growth needs & opportunities
- Regular – provided continuously, not just annually
- A Dialogue – two way conversation, not a lecture
Aligned to these principles, here are my 5 recommendations for crafting excellent feedback:
- Be Honest, but Constructive
- Provide Specific Examples
- Get Your Timing Right
- Provide Actionable Feedback
- End on a Positive Note
How To Write Excellent Employee Feedback
Delivering feedback with honesty builds trust, but it must balance positive and developmental messages. Feedback shouldn‘t be about imposing criticisms without empathy. Phrase criticisms constructively, carefully considering your language and tone. Avoid letting emotions or bias cloud your objectivity. Even difficult messages can be framed with kindness and understanding.
Feedback also shouldn‘t happen in a vacuum. Align it to company values, strategy, and priorities. Discuss how the employee can develop the specific competencies needed in their role and responsibilities. Make sure to tailor your approach to each individual’s personality and preferred communication style. Some respond best to data-driven feedback, while others prefer storytelling approaches that create connection.
Feedback should facilitate a two-way dialogue, not just a one-sided lecture. Listen actively and ask thoughtful questions to understand the employee‘s perspective. Making feedback a collaborative discussion empowers employees in the process. Now let‘s examine each recommendation:
1. Be Honest, but Constructive
It’s tempting to shy away from harsh truths in feedback, but this helps no one. Employees don’t learn and improve without candor. However, feedback must balance honesty with empathy and constructive language. For example, saying “Your work lacks innovation and you seem resistant to new ways of thinking” will hurt morale. Instead, phrase it constructively: “I want to see you bring more creative ideas to the table. Let’s discuss some training that can help develop your innovative thinking.” Focus criticism on behaviors, not the person.
2. Provide Specific Examples
Back up your feedback with tangible examples like, “Your presentation to the executive team had multiple spelling errors. We need our materials to showcase quality.” Vague, subjective feedback is confusing and ineffective. Have documentation to illustrate your objective observations. Specifics make praise more meaningful too, like “The new filing process you implemented helped reduce client onboarding time by 25%.”
3. Get Your Timing Right
Avoid burying major feedback without warning like in a year-end review. Employees may be blindsided if issues were never addressed real-time. Have regularly scheduled touchpoints for feedback, not just an annual review. Quarterly check-ins work for many teams. Also watch for signals like high stress periods when an employee may not receive feedback well. Ask when works best for them. Respect their needs, within reason.
4. Provide Actionable Feedback
Feedback shouldn‘t just illuminate issues, but provide ways to improve. Offer learning and development resources like skills training, mentorship, or new project opportunities. Set SMART goals with clear success metrics. Follow up consistently to reinforce growth. Actionable feedback empowers advancement.
5. End on a Positive Note
Positivity inspires. While constructive criticism is necessary, always end feedback conversations highlighting strengths, growth opportunities, and your confidence in their potential. This reinforces their talents and your support. Research shows praise boosts motivation, morale, and trust in leaders. Keep positivity authentic, not generalized platitudes.
Excellent feedback requires commitment, empathy, and consistency. But nourishing a culture of continuous feedback reaps immense rewards in employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity. Mastering these best practices helps ensure your feedback hits the mark. With effort and intention, you can develop employees to do their best work and find meaning in what they do by providing feedback that inspires growth.