Feedback: The Essential Nutrient

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Anna Carroll, author of The Feedback Imperative, explains why feedback is an essential nutrient for the health of your employees and the company.

By Anna Carroll

Everyone’s focused on workplace happiness and how to attract and retain great employees.  Leaders are encouraged to create a fun workplace, avoid micromanaging, and give lots of positive feedback and recognition.

These are all good things. In combination with clear goals and an exciting mission, they can place your organization up there with the hottest employers.

But what employees really want…

More than working in a cool space with games available, more than having a “nice” boss, and more than anything else, employees really want a chance to learn and grow on the job. They see frequent feedback from their boss—even when it’s corrective (or constructive)—as a “must have.”

At its core, feedback is a scientific term that means information from past action that can be used to guide future action. This information is crucial for learning and improvement.

Employees are starving for feedback

Employees of all ages and ability levels want more feedback. In Gallup’s massive longitudinal study on the employee engagement of workers at all levels and across the globe, there was no more important indicator of satisfaction and willingness to stay on the job than whether or not someone in their workplace (usually a manager) had talked with them recently about how they were doing on the job. A quarter of global employees in the same survey reported that they received no feedback at all from their supervisors, and this was a major factor in their workplace dissatisfaction.

It would be easy to assume that the only kind of feedback employees want is happiness and Atta boys, but this is untrue. In a study of more than 3,600 employees, 51 percent of them said that they received too little constructive criticism from their boss, and 65 percent of those who did receive feedback, either positive or negative, said they didn’t receive enough information to know what to repeat or change.

People want to know exactly what they need to do to perform well on the job.

How can leaders make this happen?

Here are six things that can get you well on your way to creating an ideal feedback environment for employees:

#1 Become aware of how much you are “underfeeding” people on your team with feedback

Count the days and times you are providing feedback to each member of your team. Make notes for each person and assess how much you’d like to increase the frequency of your honest feedback (both positives and correctives). Target at least once or twice a week for each person in the group.

#2 Tell the whole team you want to get better at giving useful feedback

Preferably at a team meeting, but also in comments to individuals, announce that you will be boosting your efforts at feedback.  Otherwise, they will feel singled out and nervous about your sudden desire to give them feedback.

#3. Set up an initial 30 minute meeting with each person.

Try to get everyone scheduled for the same week so that they can compare notes and see you are talking with everyone “equally.”

4. Use the COIN model to give great feedback:

Connect to the person’s interests and individual style

Make Observations based on factual information

Explain the Impact of their behavior on business goals

Discuss and agree on Next Steps for how to improve or leverage the skill

5. Ask for feedback back

How can you do a better job of supporting their learning and development?

Would they like someone to coach them in more detail on the targeting skill?

How can you improve your leadership approach to increase their job satisfaction?

6. Repeat the process, but do it faster and faster

Next time, you will need only 10 minutes—and maybe even less. When everybody’s used to frequent honest feedback, it becomes way less stressful. Team members trust you to be totally honest and helpful, and they even look forward to more and more feedback!

After a month of giving better feedback, notice what is different.  See what improvements occurred toward your business goals as well as in employee morale. Ask them to give you feedback about your feedback. Notice yourself feeling proud of the team and proud of yourself for the fast learning and real results. Notice yourself…happier!

(c)Anna_Carroll-0579-Edit-EditAnna Carroll, MSSW, through, specializes in workplace trends and training. In her recent book, The Feedback Imperative: How to Give Everyday Feedback to Speed Up Your Team’s Success, she helps leaders at all levels overcome their obstacles to giving feedback.

Comments, thoughts, feedback?