As a leader, you know effective feedback is essential to your employees’ productivity and morale. Feedback isn’t an event, it’s a component of a consistent and predictable process of letting employees know they matter. Your organization knows them, likes them, trusts them, and sees them as human beings with skill and knowledge, and as critical contributors to the growth of the organization.

Good feedback answers the following question for an employee: How am I doing? It is typically formal and occurs every month. Constructive feedback provides praise, is specific, and allows for a mutual agreement on facts, context, and goals between managers and employees.

The Traditional Way of Feedback

The traditional way of providing feedback is when managers give structured feedback to employees and is typically one of the most ineffective and inefficient — not to mention stress-inducing — tasks for managers. Providing performance feedback is often very transactional (a check-the-box exercise), infrequent (typically only once or twice a year), and largely unsuccessful (performance often decreases after a feedback intervention).

Approaching Feedback in a New Way

Feedback is a process, not an event. Managers need to understand that feedback is more than a one-on-one meeting scheduled periodically (typically infrequently). When done well, the manager’s feedback is a consistent and predictable exchange of expectations, validation, and recognition that empowers the employee.

Feedback is an ongoing process

Since the human brain is hardwired to assess how we are valued by the people who matter most to us at home and work, including our supervisor, we want to know where we stand just about every minute of the day. Managers who give regular feedback to their direct reports will have more highly engaged teams as long as that feedback is authentic, constructively focused, and supportive. Some organizations do it every quarter, some bimonthly. My preferred interval is once a month (depending on the number of direct reports).

Feedback should be constructive

The best feedback feels supportive to the employee, not demeaning or punitive. It’s essential to hold employees accountable for their behavior and work, but great leaders will find ways to do so that are both corrective and supportive.

Feedback should be consistent and predictable

Managers at all levels need to be more consistent and predictable in all of their behaviors, especially when it relates to the frequency and tone of the feedback they provide to their employees.

Feedback should highlight strengths and opportunities

Many managers think feedback only applies to situations representing a problem or shortfall in behavior or performance. However, feedback should also be given to acknowledge high-quality performance, celebrate accomplishments, and highlight personal initiative.

Key Takeaways

  • Feedback isn’t an event, it’s part of a consistent and predictable process of letting your employees know they matter to your organization and the people it serves.
  • Having feedback conversations with your staff on a regular basis is essential for cultivating an engaged workplace.
  • Feedback doesn’t always apply to problems or shortfalls in your employees’ behavior or performance. Instead, be sure to use feedback to acknowledge the exceptional work and achievements of your team members.