No one likes being critiqued. But giving constructive feedback is a core leadership task and necessary to help team members develop professionally. For traditionally managed businesses, employee feedback historically has been relegated to the annual performance review. For forward-thinking companies where employee success drives corporate success, feedback means something different altogether.
Employee-centric companies know that their people develop professionally when they regularly receive feedback, good and bad. Frequent feedback conversations help individuals identify opportunities for improvement and growth and, by extension, benefit the organization. Feedback close in time to employee action can help reinforce positive progress and swiftly identify areas for improvement; thereby magnifying progress and minimizing the frequency and impact of missteps.
Studies show 57% of employees appreciate constructive feedback and 72% credit this kind of input as instrumental to their career development. Yet many people managers loathe initiating what they perceive to be difficult conversations. Where and how a person can improve their performance doesn’t need to be a dreaded discussion for either party. What matters is timing and delivery.
Shelve Annual Performance Reviews
Annual performance reviews tend to revolve around outdated challenges, often forgotten accomplishments and stale goals. In these days of uncertainty and change, an organization’s agility demands continuous progress evaluation and strategic realignment. The same applies to individual goals.
If an employee meets with their manager once a year to discuss performance, what are the chances that objectives set 12 months ago will still align with the organization’s? Moreover, how does an annual performance review set an employee up for professional development and success when the assessment is largely a retrospective rehash? Instead, frequent feedback allows for swift reinforcement or course correction.
Check in with Frequent One-on-One Conversations
A better strategy is to replace annual or bi-annual performance management processes with regular, frequent and less formal one-on-one conversations. The cadence can vary but findings indicate that when held weekly, casual sync ups build the relationship and trust between managers and direct reports.
These conversations are less about evaluating or giving a grade, and more focused on coaching, identifying wins and course correcting suboptimal work. Employees have an opportunity to wave a red flag if they’re encountering barriers, give feedback, speak their mind and get to know their leader on a personal level.
This can inculcate a growth mindset — one focused on mastery over time and continuous improvement, rather than benchmarking performance at a specific point in time (a point that may be quite removed from the time when the employee had the opportunity to influence the outcome).
Managers who hold regular one-on-one sessions are more likely to cultivate strong, collaborative relationships with their individual team members, first and foremost by recognizing successes, responding to concerns openly and empathetically, and most importantly, helping employees perform better.
The best people managers fuel an appreciative people-first culture and offer constructive feedback by providing alternatives and resources that allow members on their team problem-solve on their own. This in turn instills a sense of ownership that leads to greater investment in the outcome. Regular recognition celebrated publicly at meetings and privately in one-on-ones also reinforces desired behaviors and actions.
Adopt Quarterly Goal Setting Conversations
Conversating about quarterly goal setting can provide the opportunity to share goal-oriented feedback and re-align employee performance to overarching company objectives.
Quarterly constructive feedback sessions are more formal than weekly sync ups and represent an opportunity to discuss an employee’s short and long-term professional aspirations. Where are the gaps and opportunities for improvement and growth? Everyone benefits when problem areas are positioned as constructive learning and development (L&D) points.
Build a Culture of Continuous Feedback
Setting goals is one of the most constructive ways to reconnect employees to their own successes as well as those of the organization. A culture of continuous feedback fast-tracks that success. It’s effective because feedback is delivered in real-time in response to both positive and negative workplace behaviors.
To habituate employees into giving and receiving feedback, including constructive criticism, input needs to be multi-directional and part of everyday operations.
Companies committed to excellent employee experiences take advantage of surveys and insights. They delve deeper by asking questions. They take action. And then they ask more questions to ensure they’re headed down the correct path.
The world’s top organizations and leaders demonstrate they genuinely care about employee input by listening and acting on the feedback about their own management performance. These model leaders, whether supervisors or chief executive officers, are open about problems they’re facing and mistakes they’ve made. Mistakes are, after all, learning experiences that open doors to growth and innovation.
Managers committed to their employees’ success also take the time to identify and praise model employee behaviors. These can include taking initiative, collaborating with others or discovering new efficiencies in old methods. By establishing positive recognition and constructive criticism as equally valid forms of feedback, companies build cultures in which feedback is seen as a welcome growth opportunity.