Inspiring Great Employee Performance with Managerial Feedback

Giving feedback to employees is a concrete skill that managers can sharpen through training.

A manager reviews an employee.

Managers who give good feedback can improve organizations at all levels.

Managers have many roles in guiding their workplaces’ day-to-day operations and keeping employees on track, but one of the most impactful of these duties is providing one-on-one feedback to workers. Today’s workforce is made up of motivated and independent individuals, and giving helpful guidance to these professionals requires a focused and practiced approach. Instead of just assuming every manager is naturally good at providing feedback and inspiring positive change in coworkers, it can pay to invest in training for this specific topic.

Developing productive and helpful communication styles is an important part of raising managers’ overall effectiveness. When you train your organization’s managers in soft skills, the benefits can extend to entire departments, as those leaders get better performance from the employees who report directly to them, and potentially increase feelings of trust and loyalty. The following are a few of the hallmarks of high-quality feedback and review practices.

Inspiring Great Performance

Specificity is one of the most important traits of good employee feedback. While managers may feel safer being vague or nonspecific when speaking to workers about their performance, that approach may not drive helpful results. Forbes Coaches Council contributor Ross Blankenship noted how leadership feedback should be concrete and detailed, giving actionable takeaways instead of general ideas.

Managers giving advice should start by focusing in on a single event or circumstance, presenting observations within that narrow context instead of making feedback sessions about a worker’s entire body of work, or his or her personality. Blankenship noted that ideal manager input consists of clearly observed reactions to isolated events, describing how an employee’s performance either met expectations or fell short. The worker should leave the session knowing just what the manager thinks about their work and how to get or stay on the right path.

Robert Half pointed out when managers enter feedback sessions with their team members, they shouldn’t monopolize the conversation. Rather than just laying out a series of observations and action points, leaders can and should listen to what the workers have to say. If there are circumstances that illuminate the situation further or point to a larger institutional issue, managers will learn them in this step. Furthermore, being a good listener gives an employee the chance to have some input into his or her own ongoing professional development, which can improve trust and good will.

Feedback doesn’t have to be all negative or related to issues that need to improve. Leaders can single out examples of good behavior and encourage employees to focus on those traits moving forward. Just as with corrective feedback, however, praising workers isn’t as simple as it first appears. The Balance urged managers to take a focused approach to their positivity, naming specific instances when things went right, and doing so in a timely and repeated manner. Instead of waiting for a scheduled review, managers can spotlight good behavior as soon as they observe it.

Becoming a better communicator with team members isn’t an automatic process, and the ability to give feedback isn’t an innate trait some managers have and others don’t. You can help your managerial team become better at this important ability by seeking out specialized training materials.

A manager shows information to an employee on a tablet.What does it mean to give meaningful feedback?

Training Managers to Give Improved Feedback

Rather than focusing on general aspects of improving managerial performance, you can select courses that directly teach your company’s supervisors to be more effective in their daily duties, including feedback sessions. The following are a few video-based training programs directly dealing with manager-employee interactions:

  • Deliver Meaningful Feedback: This course focuses on one of the most important ingredients of a good feedback process: specificity. When leaders are ambiguous or unclear with either praise or criticism, workers may not know how to react. Being direct, limiting the scope of comments and pointing toward actionable outcomes are some of the best ways to make a message heard and understood, and this course encourages leaders to adopt such behaviors.
  • Conducting Extraordinary Performance Appraisals: This course, available in both long and concise versions, is based on reviewing employee performance through regularly scheduled assessments. The video-based course breaks these meetings down into three steps: preparation, presentation and follow-through. Managers will emerge with a greater appreciation for the work that goes into creating an exemplary feedback session.
  • Microlearning Modules: One of today’s most compelling e-learning trends is microlearning, using targeted educational modules to directly address specific issues. Several of these courses take management feedback as their focus, from Show Appreciation to How to React to Mistakes. These bite-sized videos give personnel the answers they need to improve their own awareness and performance, and pass the benefits on to their teams.

An organization where managers excel at praising and criticizing their team members, driving actionable results instead of being overly vague or personal, is poised for success. When you invest in training that focuses directly on employee reviews, you can create this type of environment. Great management is something that can be taught and should be encouraged.

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