Wow! Let me repeat that. According to Gallup's 2017 State of the American Workforce report:
"Only 3 in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that, in the last six months, someone has talked to them about their progress."
Furthermore, only 3 in 10 folks have someone they believe encourages their development.
Gallup ranks these two aspects among their top 12 factors for employee engagement. If only 30% of the workforce has a clear of idea of how they're progressing in their organization, then what's going on with the other 70%? There's a lot of room for improvement.
What makes good feedback?
People work for people (something you'll hear me say often). To stay engaged with their work, it's important for employees to feel their work is having an impact and being recognized by other people. They don't want empty platitudes. They want to feel remembered for their individual contributions and led towards growth.
There are four major components to constructive feedback. When the time comes to give it, shift into GEAR:
Attention to detail
Remember, you're just two humans talking about potential for growth. Be prepared to discuss their work specifically while respecting their expertise and their time.
With that said, constructive feedback doesn't mean all positive feedback. It's great to genuinely acknowledge the strengths your employees bring with them, and you should do that. But you shouldn't only do that, especially at the expense of their professional growth. Respect them enough to have real conversations with them and believe they can learn.
Getting in GEAR
First, I must say this: making feedback a priority means that you have to prioritize feedback. You have to make space for it, and you have to acknowledge it when it's given. If feedback only comes from the top down, becomes a one-way communication dead-end, or lacks transparency, employees will lose trust in the feedback process.
Additionally, bad feedback can be just as bad as no feedback. If you feel highly emotional, pause on the feedback. If you haven't taken the time to review the person's individual performance, pause on the feedback. If you have nothing to say that will contribute to their growth, pause on the feedback.
So let's talk about a few ways to jump start the feedback process at your organization.
Set expectations and reflect. If you don't have an idea of what you want your team to achieve, you're going to have a hard time steering them towards that achievement. Make sure your organizational and departmental objectives are clearly outlined. When you meet to give performance feedback, specifically point to those objectives and how your employee meets, exceeds, or could use a little improvement in those areas.
Heck, if you need a rubric, make a rubric, BUT make sure to include genuine human response to their particular efforts, not just hand them a sheet with numbered performance ratings.
Three things. This is a method I used as a writing instructor. I would have students give peer feedback by listing three things:
One thing you liked about the person's work
One thing you wanted more of (so interesting you wanted to hear more; were confused so you wanted more information; wasn't convinced so you wanted more supporting evidence, etc.)
One specific thing they could have improved
You can use this same method to survey employees about their peers, to ask for feedback after the completion of a project, to ask for feedback about your own performance, etc. You can ask for anonymous or named responses. The use cases are only limited by your imagination.
Coffee breaks. When I was first promoted, my director started a trend of taking us out for half-hour coffee breaks (on her). Getting out of the office helped to avoid the negative feelings associated with in-office feedback sessions, and we were able to talk about more than work. Even though that might seem like a waste of time, learning about a person's passions outside the office is helpful for developing growth plans for your employees.
E-ppreciation. I heard about this method for sharing positive feedback on Jim Kwik's Kwik Brain Podcast, and I thought it was a great idea. Rather than diving right into phone calls and emails when you start your work day, take two minutes to write a short email to a single colleague or employee acknowledging one of their recent contributions. Send it directly to that person as an expression of gratitude. When people feel appreciated, they are more likely to stay loyal and to continue seeking ways to perform above expectations. Positivity can be contagious.
Just ask. Ask colleagues/employees what they'd like feedback on and build a program from there. This shows you respect them enough to take a collaborative approach and focuses the data you need to collect. It will also tell you what they value and where they feel they are succeeding or struggling before you even start the feedback process. You can assess whether those fall in line with the things the organization values or whether that, in and of itself, is a reason to give feedback.