Feedback is an absolutely critical component of any organization. It’s an important tool and can work wonders when implemented correctly within an organization. But many employees and leaders alike dislike feedback or fear it, when it should actually be the opposite. This tends to be because they have had negative experiences with feedback, where it’s viewed as a bad thing, or where they fear they will get into trouble. Feedback needs to be frequent in order for it to be effective. And it also needs to be given in the right way. It should never be seen as something to be feared or something that’s just a formality and never elicits results.
Feedback is often only given very occasionally, and usually under the guise of a performance review. This isn’t an effective way to properly conduct feedback. What’s more, it’s usually unsolicited feedback, which tends to be a poor experience for employees. Because of this, the feedback is a stressful experience instead of a positive one. You leaders should be changing this narrative by empowering employees to ask for feedback themselves. This turns the feedback into a more positive experience by making it solicited and welcomed rather than unsolicited and feared.
Why the Traditional Feedback Model Isn’t Effective
Feedback is traditionally given by leaders within an organization as a means of helping employees to grow and correct issues they might be having. While this sounds like a good thing, the issue is that most employees feel that feedback doesn’t actually help them do those things. As much as a third of feedback really doesn’t do anything positive for an employee’s performance. And even worse, in many cases, unsolicited feedback might make things worse rather than better.
While there’s no doubt that some employees will always feel stress when receiving feedback, there are steps that leadership can take to significantly improve how effective feedback is in general. This is usually achieved by providing and supporting an environment for employees where feedback is seen positively and is a critical part of company culture. Even better, if feedback can be given in such a way that employees notice the good effects of asking for feedback, it can be very effective.
How to Encourage Employees to Ask for Feedback
Generally speaking, many employees do actually want feedback, but they want it in the right way and at the right time. The best way to get the most out of giving employees feedback is to encourage them to ask for and seek it entirely on their own. They’re more likely to take on board what leaders have to say if they have asked for the feedback of their own accord. Asking for feedback is a very powerful approach because it works on the premise of self-development. Instead of simply being seen as a dreaded component of a performance review, requested feedback is much more likely to be taken to heart and acted upon by employees.
For the most part, you’ll find that your employees do want to do better. They want to succeed at their jobs and perform to the best of their abilities, and they usually understand that to do this, they need to seek feedback. But if the culture isn’t there to support this seeking, they won’t do it. Engagement will skyrocket if feedback is given regularly, at least once a week, and also immediately following an event that requires feedback. So, if you notice something in real-time that an employee can improve, that’s the time to give feedback regarding that event. Of course, this means that feedback won’t always be solicited by the employee themselves, but it’s still important that leaders know the importance of giving constructive feedback whenever necessary. Mastering skills and correcting behaviors will be significantly easier and more beneficial for employees if feedback is given in a timely manner as well as regularly. If you can master giving feedback in such a way, engagement and productivity will noticeably increase.
To help solicit feedback and incorporate it into your company’s culture, your leadership should start to create a structured environment where regular feedback is seen as part of the norm. They should also ensure that when they do give feedback, it’s clear, direct, actionable, and constructive. Try to keep feedback positive even if it’s regarding something that an employee can do better. It should always be a positive experience for everyone involved. If you can, try surrounding any constructive feedback with positive feedback whenever addressing an employee. This can help employees feel more comfortable and less attacked, preventing them from becoming offended or defensive. This is particularly useful for employees that you know may struggle with taking constructive feedback well.
Leaders should always try to avoid using feedback infrequently or making any feedback personal. It should always be strictly related to work and should be framed in such a way that the employee knows exactly what they need to do in order to work on the feedback given. Many times, employees walk away from receiving feedback feeling unsure of the action they need to take. This will end up being frustrating for all parties involved, as results won’t improve.
Feedback is a critical component of any organization and should be a practiced part of successful leadership. Without feedback, employees won’t know how to improve and develop. Remember, once feedback is implemented in the correct ways, and results are achieved because of that feedback, employees will see the benefits themselves and start to seek the feedback without being asked. Leaders can also introduce a culture of feedback by asking for feedback from employees. It’s a very powerful tool that, when used in the correct way, can work wonders for your workforce and their performance and engagement within the company. Feedback should never be overlooked as one of the most important tools within an organization, when done right, of course.