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Difficult Conversations: 2 Things That Must Accompany Feedback to Your Employees

When cravings hit, they’re tough to resist. The workplace is not immune (and we’re not talking about the contents of the vending machine). According to Officevibe, 82% of employees crave feedback regardless of whether it’s positive or negative.

Feedback creates a constant flow of communication between leadership and your employees — something any employee can appreciate. With the workforce trending toward millennials and Generation Z, the need for feedback among employees is even more important. Members of these generations are used to receiving instantaneous responses, which the antiquated annual performance review can’t deliver. Leadership should be ready to deliver feedback to their employees in real time.

When discussing development, 92% of employees agree that constructive feedback improves job performance when delivered appropriately. This feedback should offer guidance and recommendations for improvement. In today’s workplace, open communication channels and the delivery method are two key components for a successful leader-direct report relationship.

1. Open communication

An employer must be willing to have open communication channels when giving and receiving feedback. Just as in any relationship, a balance should exist between give and take.

You will never know what your employees truly think if you don’t ask them. Showing care and concern, and providing an opportunity for responses from employees gives feedback a worthy existence. Inviting employees to give constructive criticism can lead to higher employee engagement and company growth. Informal meetings or assessment surveys are great ways to gain employee feedback and keep the conversation accessible.

Feedback can be a huge boost to any employee, but understanding them is crucial to the continuation of open communication channels.

Positive feedback

During positive feedback opportunities, some employees want public praise while others prefer to keep recognition private. If leaders don’t take the time to know their employees, that email announcement to the entire staff congratulating an employee who’d rather be praised in person would likely be ineffective.

Constructive feedback

On the other side of things, difficult conversations will arise. There’s no way around this aspect of leadership. However, giving instruction on how to improve performance will lead to more satisfied employees. That’s something any leader can get behind.

It will also make employees feel more comfortable giving constructive feedback to their leaders. While it’s essentially win-win, many leaders find giving constructive criticism challenging. Consider these tips when it’s time to have one of these conversations:

  • Show empathy
  • Choose the correct tone
  • Use an example during your own career
  • Deliver the feedback in private

2. Delivery method

With many approaches to feedback, there is no one, right way. Methods include putting yourself in your employee’s shoes to discover how best to deliver the feedback, and playing out the conversation in your head beforehand to deliver information effectively. A Society for Human Resource Management article recommends using “radical candor,” a balance of caring personally and challenging directly.

To illustrate the “radical candor” concept, Scott is an excellent salesperson but struggles to communicate with his team members. This route involves praising Scott for his ability as a talented salesperson. The next step is taking that praise and building on it by challenging him to treat his co-workers as potential clients in an attempt to cultivate those relationships.

Positive feedback should always be given before constructive feedback. Following the 5:1 ratio, use positive feedback five times as often as constructive. Positive reinforcement prepares employees to accept ideas for improvement and increases morale. Bundling the positive with the negative allows an employee to feel valued while understanding that improvement is possible and important to the success of himself or herself, the team and the company. If more guidance is needed, your HR team may also have other ideas specific to your organization.

Having an open feedback channel is vital. Companies with regular feedback show a 14.9% lower turnover rate. Positive feedback creates an efficient and productive work environment. Constructive feedback allows your company to grow through sharing knowledge with your employees. Constant and applicable feedback will help retain top talent, advance your company and drive career development while keeping employee cravings satisfied.

About the author
Author picture, Jennifer Kraszewski
Jennifer Kraszewski
Jennifer Kraszewski, Paycom’s senior executive vice president of human resources, has more than 20 years of HR leadership experience, driving transformative, business-focused human capital strategies in high-growth industries to achieve efficiencies, compliance and employee engagement. Named by Human Resource Executive® magazine as one of the Top 100 HR Tech Influencers in 2020 and 2021, Kraszewski is a featured blogger and hosts webinars on HR topics through the Society for Human Resource Management, HR Daily and She is SPHR- and SHRM-SCP-certified.