Receiving constructive or positive feedback on a job well done is almost essential for boosting employee morale — and yet, in the current business climate, almost 70% of employees feel that their work is not being properly acknowledged.
Constructive criticism truly pays off, in ways you might not expect; not only does it validate an employee’s efforts by providing purpose and showing them the impact of their work, but it can also improve their skill set and help them grow into their role.
Feedback doesn’t have to focus solely on what’s done well, either — it can also identify areas in which an employee could improve. In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of constructive feedback, from how to deliver it effectively to tips on making the most of your employees’ growth.
Constructive feedback: what does it look like?
In the workplace, it’s important to have an employee review system in place, which should always include opportunities for giving (and receiving) feedback.
Constructive feedback is essential for an individual’s development — it points out areas where employees need to continue developing their skills, and it also provides employees with a roadmap of what they need to do to improve.
So, what does constructive feedback look like?
Typically, it includes the following:
- A clear evaluation of what was done well, and why it was done well.
- A clear explanation of what could be improved, and why it needs to be improved.
- Suggestions on how to improve, based on specific examples.
- A realistic timeframe for implementing the suggested changes.
Constructive feedback is given with the intention of helping employees improve their performance, so it’s important to be as clear and specific as possible when providing feedback. Avoid making general comments or assumptions, and focus on the facts.
Where is constructive feedback most helpful?
Constructive feedback shouldn’t be a once-a-year occurrence. Instead, it should be a continuous conversation that helps employees improve their performance.
In order for constructive feedback to be most effective, it needs to be delivered in the right situation. Here are four situations where constructive feedback can help your employees:
When they’re doing something wrong
If an employee is making mistakes, you need to correct them. Doing so will help them learn from their mistakes and improve their performance.
When they’re not meeting your expectations
Sometimes, employees just don’t meet your expectations. This could be due to a lack of skill or knowledge, or it could be due to a lack of effort. In either case, constructive feedback can help them get back on track.
When they’re doing something right
Even your best employees need occasional guidance. Giving them constructive feedback when they’re doing something right will help them maintain their high level of performance.
When they’re asking for feedback
Some employees are proactive and want to know how they can improve their work. If an employee asks for feedback, be sure to give them honest and specific comments.
How constructive feedback leads to improvement and success
Constructive feedback is an essential component of any successful business, but there’s no denying that it requires an investment of your time. Rest assured, however, that your time is being put to good use — especially when you provide feedback that is specific, actionable, and timely.
The key benefits of constructive criticism
With this in mind, how exactly does constructive feedback benefit your business? Let’s explore some of the main pros.
Highlighting strengths and weaknesses
In order for employees to improve their skills and achieve success, they need to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses. That’s where constructive feedback comes in. By providing your team with clear, actionable feedback on a regular basis, you’re giving them the roadmap they need to improve.
Encouraging growth and innovation
When employees feel that they are able to improve their skills and grow within their roles, they are more likely to be innovative and take risks. This, in turn, can lead to new ideas and solutions that can benefit your business — not to mention a more motivated team.
Fostering a culture of accountability
One of the key benefits of providing constructive feedback is that it fosters a culture of accountability. By holding employees accountable for their actions and behavior, you’re encouraging them to take responsibility for their own success — and failure. This, in turn, can lead to a more productive and positive work environment.
Building better relationships
Constructive feedback is also great for building better relationships between employees and managers. By providing employees with clear and actionable feedback, you’re showing that you’re interested in their development and future success. This can help to create a more positive, productive working relationship.
Constructive feedback is a great way to help employees improve their skills and achieve success. By highlighting strengths and weaknesses, encouraging growth and innovation, and fostering a culture of accountability, you can help your team reach their full potential.
Delivering constructive feedback
Now that you are aware of the benefits, let’s take a closer look at the how-tos of constructive feedback.
To successfully deliver constructive feedback, there are a number of tips and guidelines you should follow as a boss or manager:
- Avoid giving criticism that is vague. For example, rather than saying “you need to work on your communication skills,” be specific about the areas in which the employee needs improvement.
- Make sure that you are offering feedback for a specific situation or behavior. Criticism should never be personal. For example, rather than saying “you’re lazy,” focus on the specific task or behavior that you would like to see improved.
- Make a point to give feedback in a constructive manner. Avoid using harsh words or making the employee feel defensive. Instead, use phrases such as “I’d like to suggest,” or “in my opinion.”
- Finally, always give feedback in a private setting. Criticism should never be delivered in front of others.
Constructing your feedback
Sometimes, it can be a good idea to plan out what you are going to say to your employee — as well as when and where you are going to say it — before delivering your constructive criticism. This will help ensure that your feedback is well-organized and effective.
First, think about the specific areas in which you would like your employee to improve. Next, come up with a specific plan of action that can help them address these deficiencies. Finally, identify the timeframe within which you would like to see this improvement take place.
Once you have all of this information, ask yourself the following questions:
- When is the best time to give this feedback? Consider whether or not your employee is currently under stress, or if there are any major deadlines looming.
- Where is the best place to give this feedback? Some people prefer to have a one-on-one conversation, while others may prefer to deliver their feedback in a group setting, or use 360 degree feedback software.
- What should I say? Be specific about the areas in which you would like your employee to improve, and outline a specific plan of action that they can take.
Finally, remember to be supportive and positive throughout the entire process. Your employee will likely feel discouraged by negative feedback — even when it is delivered in a constructive manner. So make sure to keep things positive, and remind your employee that you believe they are capable of making the necessary improvements.
Examples of constructive feedback
So that you can gain a deepened understanding of what constructive feedback should look like, let’s go through some examples of what constructive feedback is, and what it is not.
If delivered poorly, your feedback can actually do more harm than good. You might be surprised to learn that the following are all considered counterproductive forms of feedback:
- Criticism: This includes making negative comments about an employee’s work, character, or abilities. Harsh criticism can cause an employee to feel demoralized and discouraged.
- Judgment: Telling an employee that they are wrong or that they did something wrong is not productive. It can make an employee feel defensive and lead to them disregarding your feedback in the future.
- Praise for the wrong thing: Saying “Good job!” when an employee does something you don’t want them to do can actually reinforce the wrong behavior.
Example of counterproductive feedback
A counterproductive conversation between manager and employee might look like this:
Manager: “You’re not working hard enough. What’s wrong with you lately?”
Employee: “What do you mean?”
Manager: “I don’t see enough hustle from you. I need you to do better in the coming weeks.”
This kind of feedback is vague, and it’s up to the employee to guess what the manager wants them to do differently. This can lead to a lot of confusion and wasted time.
Example of constructive feedback
When done successfully, constructive feedback between manager and employee should look something like this:
Manager: “Hey, I noticed that you didn’t quite meet your goal for this project. Can you tell me more about what happened?”
Employee: “I’m sorry, I know I could have done better. I had trouble getting started and then ran out of time.”
Manager: “It sounds like you identified the problem and came up with a solution. I like that you took ownership of the issue. Next time, can you start on the project earlier to give yourself more time?”
Employee: “Yes, I’ll try to do that. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”
This exchange shows that the manager is paying attention to what the employee is doing and provides feedback in a way that is helpful.
Regardless of the feedback you are giving, it is important to keep things constructive and positive — even if you are unhappy with the work someone has been doing and would like to see a significant improvement from them. Negativity will not deliver the results you are looking for!
In any business, employees need constructive feedback in order to improve their work performance. Managers should provide employees with regular feedback, both positive and negative, as this type of feedback can help employees to identify areas in which they need to improve and give them the tools they need to do so.