The official blog of Abacus Group — a place to share our knowledge and thoughts on trends in recruiting

November 15, 2013

Speak Up, Say “Thank You”: The Art of Employee Feedback

Thank You
As the Thanksgiving season is well underway, our senses are again flooded by the kaleidoscopic sight of foliage, the savory smell of pumpkin pie and the refreshing chill of winter’s imminence. More meaningfully, this time of year keeps us conscious of the importance of showing gratitude – a cue from which our professional lives are certainly not exempt. It’s only fitting during Thanksgiving, then, to emphasize the significance of saying “thank you” by delivering valuable feedback to employees.

Many managerial professionals are at times guilty of providing inadequate feedback or none at all.  Such essential communication may be absent for any number of reasons. Perhaps some managers initially offered ample praise, but subsequently grew all too accustomed to employees’ strong performance, and began keeping quiet.  Alternatively, other supervisors likely don’t want to assume the uncomfortable task of confronting staff mistakes. Feedback can also slip by when bosses feel they simply lack the time.  According to Rypple, a web-based performance management platform, 65 percent of employees cite a desire for more feedback. Meanwhile, in a different study, workplace recognition research firm Globoforce found that 39 percent feel unappreciated. Figures like these underscore a clear disconnect between managers and their staff. Supervisory professionals can reduce such gaps with supplemental effort toward employee recognition, including both positive feedback and constructive criticism.  Here’s how to show appreciation for your employees this Thanksgiving season – and always – in the most productive and painless ways possible.

Consistency counts. Delivering feedback to your employees is not an isolated undertaking, Brief, sporadic behavioral assessments should be provided consistently, both in formal, private meetings and through casual conversation.  By keeping feedback a regular piece of your managerial strategy, you’ll maintain healthier more transparent relationships with your employees and avoid losing crucial thoughts in the chaos of your other daily responsibilities.

Don’t hesitate or let negatives opinions pile up. When you detect the need to intervene and counsel some aspect of your employee’s performance, act promptly.  Address issues as they arise instead of letting grievances compile.  As the objective is to genuinely enhance an employee’s results, do not speak harshly or attempt to embarrass the person. In a private setting, focus on the individual and refrain from making comparisons to better-performing employees.

Periodic praise is worthwhile, too. As positive reinforcement for strong performance promotes behavior repetition, managers should offer praise generously.  Make your employees aware that their new ideas were creative, their reports were helpful, or their decisions were prudent.  Research suggests positive reinforcement for good work is more effective when it immediately follows the action, rather than at-random issuance.

Be clear and specific about what has worked well or what should be done.  Manager-employee conversations are most powerful when feedback is specific, not vague. Don’t merely say, “You’re doing so well; keep up the good work” or “I expect better from you.” Instead, detail, for example, the strongest aspects of an employee’s recent client presentation and the points which made the delivery so compelling.  Conversely, if an employee is visibly underperforming in a certain area, coach them on the steps they should take for improvement.

Don’t just talk; listen. Delivering feedback effectively doesn’t mean that you, as the manager, are the only person speaking.  Present open-ended questions about what could help the employee best meet their goals and maximize their potential, recommends Human Resources management experience Susan Healthfield.  In addition, leave the floor open for general comments from your staff member. Listening to his or her thoughts is critical to your own managerial and organizational improvement as well.

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