10 tips on how to provide valuable feedback
Feedback can be delivered in many ways, but which way is best? We have gathered 10 useful tips from our HR expert and Senior Manager Mette Nørlem on how to provide constructive feedback that lifts both the employees and the company to a higher level.
How do you establish a feedback culture in your company that promotes both well-being and development? This is a question that requires insight into both human behavior and good, constructive communication. This is what we will focus on here.
The most important starting point for a successful feedback culture is trust and confidence between managers and employees. This is created over time, just as feedback culture does not emerge overnight. It must be worked into the company – kneaded, shaped and flavored until you have finally baked the perfect result.
Read: Feedback culture strengthens your business
Here are our top 10 tips for getting started with feedback:
- Think about the time and place
Where and when is it best to give feedback? It all depends on the type of feedback you want to give. Is it positive or negative, demanding or undemanding?
For example, onerous feedback that requires major changes should be avoided in the morning. At that time of day, the employee doesn’t get a chance to digest the words properly, because a full day's tasks await. Negative feedback should also not be given at a joint meeting or just before the employee leaves for the weekend.
- Explain what the purpose is
When giving feedback, start by explaining what the purpose is. It is important that the employee understands that the feedback is not criticism, but a prerequisite for learning and development. This benefits both the employee's motivation to improve or change behavior, your team as a whole and ultimately the company.
- Be specific
Many of us get defensive if we are attacked with general platitudes about something we may or may not have done. That's why it's good to start from a specific action or behavior when giving feedback.
Perhaps you don't think the employee is helping their colleagues enough. But instead of saying: "You never help your colleagues", be specific: "On Tuesday, Katrine asked for your help, but you refused." Giving specific examples gives you a better starting point to have a positive dialogue.
- Play the ball, not the person
When giving feedback, focus on the action or behavior that can be improved or altered, and avoid making personal accusations. If the negative feedback becomes very personal, it can quickly be perceived as an attack – and that rarely produces good results.
- Invite the employee to engage in a dialogue
Good feedback is about dialogue and should not be a long critical lecture. So, state your concern and what you want to talk about, and let the employee be part of the conversation.
- Remember the positive aspects
If your feedback is negative and focuses on improvements in either the actions or behavior of your employee, it is a good idea to follow up with something positive. For example: "I don't think your reaction to Philip was acceptable, but it was good that you...". This gives the employee a feeling of also contributing something good.
- Pay attention to your language
Your language is crucial for the employee's experience and reaction when you are giving feedback. A critical and condescending tone puts most people on the defensive. A natural mechanism is for the employee to shut off your input while they think about how best to defend themselves. So avoid using a harsh tone – including words like 'disappointed', 'failure' and 'inadequate'. Use softer words instead, such as: "I saw that you had difficulty with...", "I found that you..."
- Avoid making assumptions and conjectures
Do you know for certain what the reasons were behind your employee's actions or behavior? Probably not. Therefore, avoid making assumptions and conjectures about it when giving feedback. It will often seem provocative to the employee that you think you know how he or she feels. Maybe you're missing the point. Instead, stay on your own side of the dialogue with phrases like: "I see...", "I find...", "I feel...".
- Give good advice and look for solutions together
Once the feedback has been given, the employee should be allowed to reflect on it and decide whether or how to work with it. But it can be good to consider solutions together while you are having the dialogue, and it's fine to give advice here too. But remember, it is the employee who ultimately decides whether to use the advice.
- Give the feedback quickly
Get straight to the point when giving feedback. Good feedback should be thought-provoking, so it's a good idea to be quick and specific in your delivery. Long introductory explanations and small talk leave the employee with a lot of doubts about what is to come.
If, on the other hand, you give the feedback immediately and then engage in a longer conversation, the employee may sit and wonder about what has been said and may not be attentive to the conversation. So, be quick and specific when delivering your message – but take the time necessary for a proper explanation and dialogue.
Lack of feedback leads to dissatisfaction
If you forget to give feedback or deliberately don't, you should know that it can be interpreted negatively by your employees. If they're never acknowledged, they can quickly get the impression that you're not happy with their work or don't notice what they're doing.
The vast majority of employees appreciate feedback – both about what they do well and what they can do better. It creates motivation and development. Conversely, non-communication can result in stress, dissatisfaction and a poor working environment. So, make no mistake about the value that a healthy feedback culture can contribute to your business.
Read: 5 tips for receiving feedback