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Employee Engagement Performance Reviews Performance Management

5 Essentials for Giving Employee Feedback at Work

November 26, 2014
7 min read
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Performance Management, Supercharged


This article about employee feedback, originally published in November 2014, has been updated as of December 2016 to reflect newer statistics. To read more on employee feedback and performance, check out these articles:

You might not be surprised to learn lack of feedback in the workplace contributes to about 80% of workplace issues. While giving and receiving feedback can at times be uncomfortable, when embraced and structured, feedback becomes one of the strongest processes in driving success, productivity, and collaboration. We’ve all been on the frustrating and demoralizing end of poor feedback practices, so let’s talk about how to get it right. 

So, what can you do to help your feedback at work? Try these tips:

  • Make it timely. Don’t wait more than 48 hours after an incident to address it.
  • Feedback is a two-way street for both managers and employees. Allow your employees to communicate with their managers as well.
  • Focus on the goals at hand. Giving vague “personality-based” feedback is not helpful or necessary.
  • Make sure to balance positive and negative feedback. If you cannot find positive feedback, it may be time to consider a Performance Improvement Plan.
  • Keep it consistent. Your employees need feedback more than twice a year. Monthly or even biweekly feedback is better.

    Now, let’s dive in and see what each of these elements consists of:

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Feedback Must be Timely

This is first on the list for good reason: timely feedback is effective feedback. I don’t mean waiting until that meeting, waiting for that review, I mean right now. No matter what type of feedback you’ve got on your mind, what good is it going to do later on down the road?

If your feedback is positive, waiting to recognize workers can leave them feeling as though their hard work has gone unnoticed, demotivating them. If your feedback is aimed at addressing an issue, timeliness is essential in ensuring that poor work doesn’t cause roadblocks or duplicate work. Employees need this information immediately; 75% of employees prefer to get their feedback ASAP.

So, why wait when this lack of feedback is hurting your employees so much? Some say it’s far too time-consuming to give feedback this frequently. However, this supposes that every feedback session has to be as involved as the traditional performance review process. Feedback doesn’t have to be a huge event, it can be as simple as a quick email on a project you just observed, or even a bit of conversation over the mid-afternoon water-cooler break. Employee feedback doesn’t have to take up your day or rule your schedule, it can be quick, easy, and efficient once you develop a process that works around the needs of both you and your team. Unless you need to document your feedback for some reason, there’s a great case to be made for giving feedback on the fly in myriad ways.

2016 Statistic: 80% of Gen Y said they prefer on-the-spot recognition over formal reviews.

Feedback Must be Two-Way

Leaders have to start realizing they need employee feedback just as much as employees need theirs. For starters, real dialogue is far more engaging than a one-way conversation. Employees also feel empowered when they are encouraged to speak up. Additionally, much of workplace dissatisfaction is associated with supervisors’ unwillingness to listen to their workers. In fact, 35% of workers surveyed said their boss only sometimes, or never listens to their work-related issues.

2016 Statistic: 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized.

You probably don’t have to imagine how frustrating that is, because you’ve likely experienced the feeling of having a supervisor who won’t listen. Listening to employees is a simple and effective way to empower them and prove their value to the organization. Plus, you get some much-needed feedback as well!

Employees can be a great source of learning and new ideas. However, sometimes managers expect feedback to come to them. In order to transform your culture, lead by example. Request feedback, ask pointed questions, and encourage employees to give specific, focused feedback on what they’d like to see in their workplace.


35% of workers say their boss only sometimes (or never) listens to work-related issues.


Feedback Must be Goal-Related

Very often, reviews will be structured like this:

  • Step 1: You’re doing this well.
  • Step 2: You’re not doing this well.

This is what we call automatic, canned, or generic feedback. It’s doing nothing in the way of helping employees reach their professional or organizational goals. Each success and issue need to relate back to specific goals.

For instance, telling an employee they are weak in customer service, is not as effective as telling them their customer service scores have decreased by 5%. This specific information lets the employee know where they stand, objectively. This will also help leaders set and track goals for performance like, “How can I help you raise your customer service scores by 10% in the next 60 days?” These specific goals can now be optimally facilitated, documented, and revisited.

Plus, they help you keep everyone accountable. When they understand their shortcomings and have a plan to help improve them, it creates a finish line or something that they can strive for. And, if they don’t manage to meet this goal, then you can restructure accordingly. However, being this specific creates less leeway and more of a direct path so any goals described as such should be very accomplishable.

Feedback Must Include Praise

Did you know that 39% of employees don’t feel appreciated at work? Feedback is not synonymous with criticism; it’s not even synonymous with constructive criticism. Workplace and performance issues are just one area that your feedback should address. Remember to offer praise as well, say thank you, and notice a job well done. A good mixture of career planning, constructive criticism, and praise will keep everyone moving forward together.

Letting your employees know you recognize their good work only does more to improve engagement and productivity. In fact, employees are 30x more likely to be more engaged at work when managers focus on their strengths and good work. And, that’s something we can all benefit from because more engagement means more productivity means more profitability. It’s an overall win-win for you, your employees, and your company.

2016 Statistic: One in five employees are not confident their manager will provide regular, constructive feedback.

Feedback Must be Continuous

I’ll spare you another statistic on the rising cost of employee turnover, but what you should know is companies that implement regular feedback boast a 14.9% lower turnover rate. That amount of reduction in turnover will have a positive impact on the bottom line in any organization, at any level. So how continuous are we talking here?

There is no cut-and-dry answer, but what we do know is quarterly reviews aren’t cutting it. Our current standards have 65% of employees wanting more feedback. A great barometer for the effect of continuous feedback at work is employee engagement. 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week. That may sound like a lot, but not every feedback session needs to be a full-on review. You can make a feedback moment out of anything or even make it a part of your weekly meeting with your team. When you find what works best for all, make it part of your schedule and stick to it! The key is consistency. Set reminders to both give and request performance feedback.

However, this doesn’t mean annual or biannual reviews cease to exist — your employees still need them! However, when you make feedback a continuous process it means the review can focus on more important things including employee goals, compensation, development opportunities, and more.



43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week.

Feedback can build professional relationships, increase engagement and drive performance, but it has to be implemented strategically and thoughtfully. Focusing on the negative with sporadic feedback is understandably frustrating for employees and counterproductive for leaders and employers. Get feedback right with these 5 simple tips.

Want to know how technology can help streamline your feedback and performance management processes? Check out the ClearCompany difference.


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