How often do the managers in your organisation give feedback about performance or dole out recognition to their teams?

Chances are, it’s not enough.

The CIPD Spring 2017 Employee Outlook report found that 41 per cent of employees say they received feedback just once or twice over the last year. If you’re asking yourself, “What’s wrong with that?” consider the real purpose of feedback and recognition. It should be to motivate, inspire and give kudos for a job well done.

Surely your employees deserve it more often than once every six months, no?

Best-in-class organisations know that ongoing feedback can have a real impact on employees. Here are some reasons (other than those already mentioned) why regular feedback is so important:

It’s true that feedback isn’t always easy to give, especially if it’s negative. Managers need to realise two things: employees want feedback regularly and it’s okay to give critical feedback, just as long as it’s delivered properly.

This is where HR departments can help move the needle on how frequently managers and employees share feedback. For one, HR can reinforce the importance of regular feedback between managers and their employees, and make sure managers know how to give feedback that will be meaningful. Second, HR can help managers and employees know what they can do with the feedback they receive, channeling it into other parts of a performance management programme.

Here are some tips to help managers get more comfortable with giving feedback more regularly to their ream.

Specific feedback is valuable
Whether you’re giving praise or criticism, make sure there is specific information that the person can walk away with. Saying “Great job” is as useful as a pat on the back, which is all fine and good, but it shouldn’t be the complete basis for the type of feedback people share with each other.

For delivering meaningful feedback that will serve as more than a temporary ego boost, use this simple formula: statement, example, and explanation of the impact.

Here’s an example, “Nice work on the presentation. I like how you used visual elements. The visuals really helped understand the topic more clearly, which was really helpful in earning the trust of the people in the room.”

With detailed information like this, the person can walk away knowing what they did well and can replicate or build on it in the future.

When it comes to giving criticism though, using this formula is less likely to work. Often people use the sandwich approach of surrounding their negative comments with praise, but there is debate if that approach is helpful or if it just undermines your feedback.

Rather than beating around the bush and have the person wait for your “but..,” give constructive criticism in a straightforward, honest way and offer support. For example: “I want to talk to you about today’s client call. It didn’t go as smooth as it could have. This client really wanted X, I think if you knew more about that product you would have been better prepared. What can I/we do to help so that you have all of the information you need?”

Negative feedback should be to the point and on topic so the person can walk away and take action. It should never be personal or turn into a running list of the person’s weaknesses. Rather, address what happened and then plan ahead with next steps that will move towards a solution.

Timing is everything
Be it positive or negative feedback, it’s best to offer up your comments within 24 to 48 hours after the deserving event: client calls, presentation, sales meeting, etc. The events will be fresh in everyone’s mind, making it much easier to be specific.

Getting the person’s attention after a meeting to let them know what they did well, sending them a quick email or even pinging them via a team-based mobile app or messaging tool are great ways to give informal positive feedback. Technology shouldn’t replace formal face-to-face time but it does help when giving trying to give in the moment feedback.

If it’s constructive criticism you need to give though, that is always done better in person. Tone can be misconstrued when reading it on a screen. Body language and tone hold as much weight as your words do in sensitive situations.

Make it a dialogue, not a monologue
It’s important for managers to let team members know when they are doing a great job and how they can improve, but it’s important to hear what your employee has to say too. Feedback conversations can lead to more open ones about employee wants and needs. The CIPD report showed that 66 per cent of employees say their managers’ expectations are clear, but 27 per cent say their managers don’t really provide on-the-job coaching, or discuss training and development (24 per cent).

Make time to give feedback
The CIPD’s report clearly shows that more can be done to increase the amount of feedback given to employees. Twelve per cent of employees say their managers provide feedback and performance recognition once or more a week. If you are hearing from managers that they don’t have time to give their team members proper feedback, let your managers know that the company supports them in making one-on-ones a priority.

Discussing performance, training and development opportunities, in addition to how employees feel about their work is critical for relationship building and making sure everyone is happy at work. A global study by Willis Towers Watson found that the employee-supervisor relationship was the one of the top reasons people stayed with an organisation and senior leadership was the main driver of engagement.

Suggest managers get into the habit of recording employee milestones, successes and challenges while these items are fresh in their minds, and then work out a way to meet with team members to share these thoughts. That could mean blocking time of in their calendar each day to make notes, or meet with one or two employees each week for 15 minutes.

Ongoing feedback shows you care
When managers make giving feedback and recognition a priority, it helps employees become more mindful of their work and inspires people to bring their best at each opportunity in the future. Make sure your managers understand how important it is to show employees that they care, notice the work they do and want to make time to coach them.

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