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Giving and Getting Feedback: How to Do it Right

In one of my recent posts, I discussed Microsoft’s employee ranking system and talked about how its draconian method has crippled the tech giant’s innovative minds and created a fierce and constant competition between employees. In this post, I will talk about a related topic: giving and receiving feedback. Just like ranking employees effectively, giving and receiving a constructive feedback can be a challenging task.

Let’s first start with tips on how you can give your employees feedback that will actually make a difference. First, you have to speak with the employee in a private setting so he or she will be open to hearing what you have to say rather than worried about other people’s judgment. Second, create a dialogue with the employee by telling him or her what the feedback given aims to accomplish, and invite the employee to respond to it. Third, give your employee a specific point-by-point evaluation. Avoid generalizations, and clarify the exact areas in performance that the employee excels at and which ones need improvement. It is also very important to begin and end the feedback meeting with a compliment. Starting with a compliment will help the employee be more receptive to constructive criticism, while ending it with one will inspire and motivate the employee to actually work to improve his or her performance.

Getting feedback from your employees is trickier. One the one hand, employees who feel their voice isn’t heard experience lower satisfaction, which may lead to turnover and reduced productivity. On the other hand, employees might be intimidated to share their ideas, concerns, and criticism with their boss. The main focus here should be anonymity; asking your employees directly will almost never get you honest and constructive answers.

You can use anonymous and free online survey services like SurveyMonkey, KwikSurvey, and even Google Docs, or get professional help from consultancy firms that will help you design and analyze the survey. If you do decide to do it yourself, your first need is to understand and prioritize which of your business’s current issues you should ask about.

It is very important that the survey you design be quick and still give you the information you need. Experts say a survey should take no longer than 25 minutes to fill out and should include 35 to 55 questions. Think long and hard about what you really want to achieve by conducting the survey and design the questions in it accordingly. Second, to keep your employees interested and engaged in the feedback process, make sure you don’t overwhelm them with too many surveys and too many questions—keep it prompt and straightforward. Third, send the survey when the employee is more likely to answer it at leisure. Avoid sending it right after holidays or during busy business seasons. Last but not least, if you want to measure changes in employees’ attitudes and the effect of changes made in the company, it is recommended that you implement a regular “pulse” survey every quarter, six months, or year—whichever time frame that is relevant.

Business owners, CEOs, executives, and entry-level employees like to get their voices heard; especially when it comes to the place where they spend a significant amount of their waking hours, their work. Giving and receiving feedback is the way voices are being heard in organizations. It gives them a structured way to open a dialogue that can lead to real and needed changes.

Related Posts

Is Ranking Employees Good for Them?
“Market for the Many”: Shared Employee Ownership
How to Retain Employees: A Customer-Oriented Approach
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