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People managers: Learn to give better feedback

Feedback works best when it is integrated into the workplace culture, rather than being relegated to performance appraisals. When employees receive ongoing, constructive feedback, they’re able to boost their performance, benefitting their team, organization and career. A lack of regular, helpful feedback is a top reason why people leave their jobs.

Tips for giving great feedback

Your conversations with employees should feel natural and unscripted; however, reviewing the tips on this list and planning what to say will help you stay focused.

  • Create a safe environment. Choose a private location, where your conversation will be free from interruptions and being overheard. Consider meeting outside your office.
  • Assume positive intent. Approach each conversation with the mindset that your employees are doing their best in alignment with their knowledge and skills. Set a positive tone that acknowledges this belief; for example, begin by saying: “I know you have been working very hard to help with this project.”
  • Begin with the positive. Start the meeting by highlighting your employees’ positive skills and successes. This shows your belief in their abilities and appreciation for their contributions.
  • Prioritize only two areas of desired improvement. Determine your priority areas and share no more than two areas for improvement. This will make your request more manageable — and therefore more likely to succeed.
  • Keep feelings out of it. Your conversation should provide examples for illustrating your desired outcome, including specific actions and observable behaviors.
  • Encourage a two-way conversation. Encourage your employees to share their reactions, reasons behind their current approach or ideas for the next steps. They may have helpful ideas for meeting your desired outcomes.
  • Discuss and record your next steps. Your employees should leave the meeting understanding their next steps, including specific actions they should take and resources to support their learning. These steps should be determined together during your conversation.
  • Close thoughtfully. At the end of the meeting, ask your employees to share their experience of the feedback session and the next steps: How did it go overall? Are you clear on the next steps? Do you have the information you need to succeed? You are essentially asking for feedback on your feedback — as well as ensuring that your employees understand how to proceed. This is an opportunity for you to model requesting feedback and to promote a two-way conversation.
  • Follow up. Email your employees to thank them for the conversation. Reiterate the next steps you discussed. Provide a schedule for a follow-up conversation about the next steps. End your email by inviting them to talk to you at any time for support or to ask questions.

Remember: Giving great feedback is a skill. It takes practice to get comfortable — and lots of practice to be professional. For building your expertise in feedback, communication skills, software and try these e-learning courses available on the UC Learning Center.  These are all part of the People Management Certificate series.

  1. UC Giving and Receiving Feedback
  2. UC Dealing with Negative Reactions to Performance Feedback
  3. UC Coaching for Performance and Development
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