Employee feedback can mean the difference between a positive and productive manager/employee relationship or one that is toxic. It’s no secret that workers who have a clear understanding of what is expected of them will perform better and be more likely to reach their goals. After all, they’re actually shooting for something that makes sense to them and they can see what needs to be done to get there. Whether they make it or not is another question…which is where managerial and leadership performance comes into play.
Although being as clear as possible and communicating why a goal or objective is important, once that message has been conveyed, it must turn into an action plan, which means that check-ins and feedback are necessary in order to keep things moving.
Think about a time where you did a lot of work on a particular project only to present this to your manager or another stakeholder and have the response be something vague like, “Well, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.” It is absolutely frustrating and can even be demoralizing. Did you want to fix it? Did you even know how to fix it? The answer was most likely no to both questions.
Now think about a time where there was a large project that you were working on or managing, and you had informative, substantive and communicative weekly check-ins with others within the project. Even when things got off track, they could be rectified quickly and efficiently, without a loss of morale. Why? Because feedback was happening and expectations were being set.
This kind of cycle is critical to all workers, but it is becoming an absolute expectation. Take a look at the newest members of our workforce—the millennials. According to Forbes and Millennial expert Dan Schawbel, 80% of millennials said they want regular feedback from their managers. This of course doesn’t mean that GenX managers or Boomer leaders don’t also need feedback, but rather to highlight the point that feedback is not just here to stay, it’s becoming all that much more important.
In order to make employee feedback happen effectively, it’s on both the manager or leader as well as the employee. Feedback is a two-way street of expectation setting and being responsive to inputs. At this point in time, employees and managers deserve more than the once-a-year performance review to determine how things are going. Employee feedback needs to be ongoing and a product of a greater culture of communication and transparency within the workforce.
So what should employees do in order to cultivate constructive, frequent and helpful feedback?
- Clarify upfront – Ask as many questions as you need of your manager so that you know what they expect
- Set a schedule – Tell your manager how often you need feedback in order to get done what you need to
- Identify your communication preferences – What kinds of ways do you want to receive information? You know what works for you, but it’s your job to let your manager or others know this too
What can managers do to provide feedback that is both constructive as well as empathic, and most importantly, focused on the goals you need to achieve?
- Check in regularly – Even if you’ve set a schedule, providing as much regular contact as possible is always beneficial
- Ask questions in order to generate status updates – The last thing you want is to use lots of time on a direction that isn’t right or with initiatives that aren’t prioritized. Asking what your people are doing and why is a great way to stay on track.
- Vary your approach – Not every team member you manage is the same (obviously), and a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to cut it. Because employee feedback is such a potentially challenging subject, being able to communicate with your employees on their level and think in the way that they do, will create a stronger relationship and cut through to the core of the issue.
Feedback is such a huge part of the day-to-day aspect of how we get things done, that it deserves to be considered from both a leadership and an individual contributors perspective.