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3 Ways to Deliver Actionable, Constructive Feedback

According to research from OfficeVibe, most companies have room for improvement when it comes to providing feedback. Here are some alarming statistics to prove this case:

  • 83% of millennials say the feedback they receive from managers is not meaningful
  • 77% of HR professionals don’t think their company’s performance reviews are reliable indicators of employee performance.
  • 69% of employees say that they would work harder if their work was recognized

Those statistics are alarming and as an HR or training program manager, it’s important for you to recognize that leaders and managers need training on coaching skills if you want to improve the way they deliver and receive feedback.

Ultimately, there are powerful benefits when companies are able to provide meaningful, constructive feedback. The primary reason that it’s important to provide feedback is simple: effective feedback will improve performance.

When employees have actionable feedback, they can stop, start, or continue behaviors that benefit your organization. But there’s more to feedback than simply encouraging the behaviors you want to see.

Providing constructive feedback is arguably the lowest-cost measure you can take to increase your employee retention, but it takes intention and effort.

Here are three tips to improve your employee feedback!

1. Positive Coaching is Most Effective

Libby Mullen, BizLibrary’s Learning and Development Manager and a skilled employee coach, told us this:

“Avoid starting sentences with the words ‘you’ or ‘your’ (which are verbal equivalents to finger pointing) to prevent employees from feeling attacked. Focus on the behavior, rather than the person, to keep defensiveness at bay.”

Approach constructive feedback as a coaching opportunity and your employees will begin to trust that you are interested in their growth and development.

Using language that starts with “I” helps phrase feedback in ways that employees can relate to better. Instead of, “You need to make ten widgets an hour and you’ve only made seven,” an “I” phrase would sound like, “I need to find a way for us to produce an extra three widgets, can I count on you to get those finished today?”

2. Make Sure Your Feedback is Specific

There is nothing more frustrating for employees than receiving vague feedback –“Your work needs to improve” is just one example of feedback that isn’t going to change any behavior.

That’s important, because changing behavior is the goal of your feedback – so when you deliver feedback, you should leave no room for interpretation.

A specific and actionable way of dealing with a chronically late employee is turning “John, you’re always coming in late to work,” into “John, I noticed that for the past three Thursdays you’ve shown up about 15 minutes after nine. Is there something keeping you from showing up on time those days?”

This strategy reduces defensiveness from your employees, specifically addresses the exact behavior you’d like to change, and gives employees an opportunity to explain themselves. This opens the door for conversation, and ultimately, resolution.

3. Be Courageous with Giving Constructive Feedback

Providing feedback is your opportunity to challenge employees to think their tasks through, take ownership, and be involved in a plan to improve results.

For them to reach that level, your feedback must be courageous!

Brene Brown, this year’s SHRM conference keynote speaker, had this to say about feedback:

“We avoid tough conversations, including giving honest, productive feedback. Some leaders attributed this to a lack of courage, others to a lack of skills, and, shockingly, more than half talked about a cultural norm of ‘nice and polite’ that’s leveraged as an excuse to avoid tough conversations.”

As a result, employees might lack clarity for their next steps, and feedback becomes ineffective.

Courageous feedback helps employees see your vision, understand your expectations, and improve their performance. So be sure to listen to our podcast episode about mastering difficult conversations!

Constructive feedback should be actionable, specific, and results-oriented. With the right approach, you can master the art of delivering great feedback and help build a coaching culture in your organization!

For tips on improving the coaching skills or your workforce, be sure to view our free ebook “Developing the Coaching Skills of Your Managers and Leaders!”

Training & Development Industry Researcher | Derek researches, discusses, and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. He regularly interviews L&D and HR professionals, sharing their insight on trends and best practices that help organizations create stronger training programs, and help to grow their employees and their business.