Many of us find giving feedback daunting, especially negative or developmental feedback. Often, we’re worried that we’ll offend the recipient, resulting in an awkward working relationship from then onwards.
Not many of us enjoy receiving feedback, either. For some of us, receiving feedback as part of the year-end review cycle is like receiving an end-of-term school report. It’s often met with a feeling of dread in the pit of our stomachs.
Yet increasingly employees at all levels are recognising the value of feedback. A 2011 PwC study found that millennials expect detailed, regular feedback, with 51% of people surveyed desiring frequent or continual feedback (source).
Understanding the benefits of constructive feedback empowers you to embed a healthy feedback culture, improve productivity and create a working environment that is open, honest and upholds integrity.
Aiding Learning & Development
Historically, identifying developmental opportunities was one of the most common reasons for an organisation to embed a feedback process. The general consensus was that employees who focused on their personal development goals would ultimately deliver better quality work, improving productivity and the organisation’s profitability.
While supporting employees in their professional development is a valid reason for introducing a constructive feedback process, it’s not only staff who can benefit. Managers who are accepting of feedback from their direct reports gain valuable insights into their own performance and leadership skills.
Two-way constructive feedback enables the organisation to embed a positive work culture based on mutual respect, open communication and collaboration.
Improving Engagement & Performance
We often make the mistake of only offering feedback as part of the year-end process. Perhaps we’re too busy to offer feedback more regularly. Not providing feedback frequently and timely can make the feedback seem contrite.
Constructive feedback offered regularly and frequently throughout the year can be a much more effective way of improving employee engagement. Receiving feedback in real-time means you’re much more likely to act on it, which enables you to improve your performance throughout the year.
Feedback doesn’t have to be a show-stopper for it to be useful, either. A simple “well done” when a peer or direct report has done something particularly well motivates them. Going a step further, sharing that positive feedback publicly can boost the whole team’s morale, showing everyone the benefits of hard work.
Building an Organisation that Values Feedback
As well as providing feedback honestly and regularly, the practice of giving and receiving feedback should permeate throughout the organisation. From the moment you interview a potential employee, you should be sharing feedback. While it might be time-consuming, the long-term benefits are far-reaching.
Whether they’re offered the role or not, the potential employee will come away with a positive impression of your organisation. Not only will they benefit from specific personal career development points to work on, but they’ll also learn that yours is an organisation that genuinely values open, honest communication – and who wouldn’t want to work in a place like that?
Feedback should be shared amongst everyone throughout the organisation. Often, feedback is provided by a manager to their direct reports. Encouraging feedback to be shared between peers, upwards from employees to their managers, and even from clients, allows us to consider all aspects of our performance – from tangible elements such as report writing to less tangible elements like time management or leadership.
Contributing to a Positive Corporate Culture
Rather than simply criticising a colleague for a mistake or an area of their work where they’re performing below expectations, constructive feedback offers colleagues suggestions for improvement. This method of sharing feedback gives employees the space to share opinions in a safe and honest environment.
Where colleagues are used to sharing constructive feedback, they’ll feel empowered to share concerns over small things as they occur. The benefit is that often the little, niggly things are dealt with before they have a chance to escalate into a full-blown office conflict.
Frequent, constructive feedback translates to a workplace environment that is more relaxed, open to collaboration and teamwork, and where staff are more comfortable engaging in difficult conversations as they arise.
Valuing Constructive Feedback
As you can see, there are many benefits of providing constructive feedback. As well as supporting personal and career development, an organisation that values genuinely constructive feedback can embed a relaxed and open culture, setting itself apart from its competition.
While the benefits of constructive feedback are plain to see, giving and receiving feedback isn’t easy and is a learned skill. Feedback models such as the AID model (Action – Impact – Do) can go a long way towards giving your employees the confidence they need to provide constructive feedback in the workplace.
Credit: Hannah Walters