The experts all tell us — to effectively manage employee performance, managers need to give employees ongoing feedback, all year round.
Effective feedback should be:
Specific — Clearly tell the employee what they are doing well, and why you value the behavior (impact on team, organization, customer, etc.) or what they need to change/improve and why (impact on team, organization, customer, etc.). Your feedback should include a specific example of when the behavior in question was demonstrated (no generalizations).
Honest — Don't beat around the bush, especially with corrective feedback. And don't exaggerate. Tell the employee as honestly and accurately as you can what they're doing well, and where they can improve.
Timely — For greatest impact, give feedback soon after the behavior is exhibited. The only exception to this is when emotions are running high and need to be allowed time to settle in order to facilitate communication.
Helpful — The goal of feedback is to help the employee improve their performance. Make sure your feedback includes helpful coaching, and when needed, suggestions for how to behave differently next time as well as support for learning and development.
Ongoing — Be lavish with your praise and recognition of desired behaviors; it will encourage more. Be consistent and persistent with your feedback on poor performance; it takes time to learn new, more effective ways of working. Employees should get some form of feedback every week.
So why do so many managers find giving feedback and managing employee performance challenging, and what can you do about it?
Tips to help managers give feedback year round
Challenge #1: Don't know how to give feedback on performance, especially poor performance
- There are lots of effective books, courses and resources to help you develop this skill; create a development plan for yourself to increase your knowledge and comfort in giving feedback.
- Ask your manager to coach you in giving better, ongoing feedback.
Challenge #2: Not enough time / Not a priority
- Book 1 hour each week in your calendar to make notes on employee performance over the past week, then work from your notes to give employees feedback verbally or in written form.
- Hold frequent formal and informal meetings with your employees to discuss performance, check in on goals and development plans, provide coaching, etc.
- Set up task reminders for yourself to give your employees feedback.
- Let your employees know that you want to give them ongoing feedback on their performance, and ask them to remind you if you forget.
- Keep a journal where you make notes on any successes, incidents and challenges as they happen. You can use these notes to guide your feedback and later to help with writing performance appraisals.
Challenge #3: Don't work closely enough with their employees (typical with shift workers and remote managers/employees)
- Solicit 360 degree feedback from those who do work closely with the employee.
Challenge #4: Formal performance management viewed as a once a year event
- Best-in-class organizations conduct quarterly, mini performance review meetings. Even if your organization doesn't require quarterly reviews, you can still conduct them yourself. Meet with each employee and do a quick review of their goals and development plans, and give them verbal and written feedback on their performance.
Ensuring managers are giving employees feedback on their performance all year round not only encourages high performance, it increases employee engagement and retention. This valuable activity should be one of the primary tools in every manager's toolkit.
Read how others have improved their managers’ skill at giving feedback
At Pine Cove Christian Camps, they revamped their performance management process and practices to ensure managers and employees have ongoing discussions about performance and goals in weekly one-on-one meetings that are logged and tracked in the system.
At Pechanga Resort and Casino they trained managers to differentiate between various levels of performance and how to hold honest discussions about performance and pay.