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Bas Kohnke


Co-founder, CEO

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How to boost a feedback culture based on praise


Knowing what your strengths are can be the first step in taking your career to the next level.

Positive feedback is not just a compliment on a job well done; when analyzed correctly it can help you identify your strengths. Therefore, when peers share positive feedback with each other, the whole team benefits from the performance insights it provides. 

Recent research conducted by Impraise, which took into account over 230k feedback interactions from the last 18 months, revealed that nearly 92% of real-time feedback given through the platform is positive.

In light of many discussions around how destructive anonymous feedback could potentially be, this research surprisingly shows that anonymous feedback can often be constructive (90% of Impraise customers use anonymous feedback). 

The more praise, the more engagement

It’s important for every manager and CEO to measure the amount of praise given internally, as often it’s directly linked with the level of engagement within a company.

In his HBR article, Shawn Achor details JetBlue’s social recognition strategy and the results it brought after implementation. The strategy consisted of a system of points in which every co-worker could nominate a person for something they did really well; nominations were then shared internally and those nominated could redeem their points in several ways, such as dinners or vacation days.

As a result, the company saw, for every 10% increase in people reporting being recognized, a 3% increase in retention and a 2% increase in engagement. As Shawn adds, those numbers would represent million of dollars if we consider that the costs of replacing an employee range from 20% of their salary to 150%, depending on the calculation and the scale of the company.

You might be asking yourself if you need to give monetary rewards in order to boost your engagement levels, and the answer to that is no. A study on employee engagement found that 70% of workers don’t need monetary rewards to feel motivated.

83% of employees said recognition for contributions is more fulfilling than any rewards and gifts, 76% found praise from their peers to be very or extremely motivating and 88% found praise from their managers to be very or extremely motivating. So, now that we’re aware of the power of praise at work, the question is: how to do it right?

Clear messages

Many would like to give more feedback but are not confident in giving feedback effectively. They worry that any corrective feedback will cause friction in the team or just become another matter left unsolved.

Here is the golden rule: When giving feedback, separate praise and criticism. Don’t use the feedback sandwich. Keep your messages clear and separate to get the best out of each – mixing praise and criticism can risk the former sounding insincere.

Moreover, it is possible that part of the message you are trying to convey would be missed. In an experiment run by behavioral science professor Ayelet Fishbach at the University of Chicago, most people only remember favorable comments, even if they were given negative comments at the same time. 

Giving corrective feedback

  • Adopt a mindset starting with 'Why'. Ask yourself why you want to give the feedback. Never use feedback to vent your frustrations on your colleagues. Only give feedback if you want to help your colleagues grow.
  • Choose the right time: Sooner is better than later, unless strong emotion is involved.
  • Choose the right space: Do it in private, pick a place where both can relax and feel comfortable.
  • Nurture the right behaviors, namely: be specific in your feedback, offer suggestions for improvement, listen actively and follow up.

Giving praise

  • Give praise early
    Give timely praise to boost your team’s confidence. If you wait too long to give praise after your employee or teammate has achieved a goal it will seem more like an afterthought. Giving praise in the moment will make your recognition seem more sincere and appreciative. However, when you give early praise, remember to stress what still needs to be done. Keep your colleagues focused on the final goal.
  • Tailor your compliments
    You should tailor compliments according to personality and experience of the recipients. An introvert would prefer receiving praise in front of a group of her closest colleagues rather than a whole company of 500 strangers.

Formulating feedback to make an impact

Ultimately, you want your feedback to make an impact. Here is a helpful formula we've come up with:

Feedback = Situation + Behaviour + Impact + Next

  • Specify the situation or context which has instigated your feedback
  • Describe the behaviour 
  • Explain the impact of the above-mentioned behavior
  • Offer your colleague the next steps that he or she can take

Once you have a plan in place for approaching feedback, the question is then – how often should you try to get your workforce to give feedback and praise to each other?

In times where engagement remains a top HR concern, managers need to adopt a real-time feedback culture if they want to successfully retain talent and engage their employees. So, the more frequent the feedback , the stronger the feedback culture will be.

What have been your experiences with peer-to-peer feedback? Have you got your own ways of handling corrective feedback? Let us know in the comments below.

2 Responses

  1. Really good and well
    Really good and well articulated article.

    Feedback is not about being honest, it’s about being honest skillfully…and the points made here emphasize that.

    Would add that when giving corrective feedback always focus on the possible solutions to concerns rather than dwelling on what actually happened. State what you want to discuss and then turn the conversation into one of making things better or doing things differently going forward. Use phrases such as “What I need in the future is…” and “Next time we are faced with this let’s do…”

    Phrases like “You should…” or “Why don’t you…” will generally be perceived as you finding fault and blaming that person. A much better approach is to simply state your needs from that person such as “I need this report each week by…” or “I’m concerned that we are not hitting our quota so we will change and do…”

    It is also very important that you invite feedback FROM the other party. Ask them what you can do to help them, what they need to get better or their own ideas for improvement to current practices, equipment, etc… Don’t be afraid to simply ask “What needs to happen to make what we have discussed today become a reality”

    Most importantly when giving feedback…talk TO the person and NOT about them.

    – – – –

    1. Good points – it’s too easy
      Good points – it’s too easy to get caught up in the main point of what you want to say rather than the best way to articulate it. I agree that it’s also important to stress that feedback is a two way process, especially when it comes to what happens next!

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Bas Kohnke

Co-founder, CEO

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