Attention spans and classroom training time are decreasing while the pressure to maximize training budgets and show business results is increasing. Where can we get the most out of our investment? Feedback skills! Improving the ability to give feedback, especially for managers, provides multiple opportunities to produce measurable business returns through improved on-the-job performance, enhanced group collaboration and agility, and better long-term employee engagement.

Hurdles to Feedback

With so many benefits, why aren’t we giving feedback already? There are a few reasons:

Fear: Many people – including managers – are afraid of receiving a negative or emotional reaction to feedback, so they don’t deliver it.

Time: The prevailing thought is that feedback takes too much time, and since we all have too much to do and not enough time to do it, we don’t give feedback.

Company Culture: For many organizations, feedback and employee development aren’t seen as contributors to business results.

Lack of Skills and Training: Many people have never had training on what to say, how to say it, and even when and where to say it.

Tips to Build Feedback Skills at all Levels

When it comes to feedback, organizations can build skills at all levels and embed feedback into their culture. Alternatively, depending on the need, time and, of course, budget, they could focus on improving feedback skills in just one or more area. Here are five tips, one for each level:

Tip #1: Individuals: Organizations are becoming flatter, so helping employees give peer feedback can generate significant returns. How do you start? Simply ask for feedback yourself. Research shows that when you ask for feedback, you become a better listener, and others rate you as more effective. In addition, if you ask for feedback and are receptive to it, others will begin to ask for feedback. Over time, this momentum builds, and those around you are asking for and receiving feedback on a regular basis.

Tip #2: Teams: Research shows that high-performing teams are nearly six times more likely to give positive feedback to each other than average teams. Give teams a feedback framework or template, such as “Stop, Continue, Start” or the questions “What went well?” and “What can be improved?” Put feedback on the agenda at least monthly, and soon enough, teams will regularly give each other feedback.

Tip #3: Managers: Managers have a tremendous impact on employee performance, engagement and retention. However, today’s managers are missing the mark, especially with the millennial generation. Only 19 percent of millennials say they receive routine feedback, while a mere 17 percent say the feedback they do receive is meaningful. How can we help managers improve? Training is key, but so is recognizing that training may not automatically build feedback and coaching skills in every manager. Be ready to move certain individuals out of a managerial role to create a group of managers who regularly give effective feedback.

Tip #4: Senior Leaders and Executives: Just as managers impact their employees, senior leaders influence managers. The biggest leverage point is communicating the company’s strategy and mission to managers so they can, in turn, create the link for employees between their jobs and the overall organization. Equipping managers to connect employees’ jobs to overall strategy has consistently been a top driver of employee engagement. If senior leaders are not accustomed to giving or receiving feedback, a good starting point is a 360-degree tool.

Tip #5: Culture: Creating a feedback-rich company culture involves things we don’t typically equate with feedback and coaching, like trust, transparency and purpose. A starting point for trust and transparency is conducting Town Hall meetings where employees can ask questions of their company’s leaders and see the evidence of their leaders’ authenticity. It’s also important to ensure that the company’s mission and purpose are clear. Companies that can connect employees to the big picture and create what Gallup refers to as “mission-driven workers” reap the rewards of high performance, employee loyalty and customer satisfaction.

No matter where you begin or how much you do, you can obtain results from any improvements in feedback skills. May we all give and receive the gift of feedback in 2017!

Amy Happ is a Performance Consultant with Advantexe Learning Solutions.