How Often Should You Provide Employees With Feedback?

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Affirmation of a job well done can make a huge difference in the workplace, but gone are the days when annual performance reviews are the only time when this feedback should be given.

Today’s workforce is highly agile and always looking for new and better opportunities. As a result, keeping those employees engaged takes touching base more than every 12 months. In fact, employees are twice as likely to become actively disengaged at work if they don’t get immediate feedback from their bosses. Allowing this negativity to brood for an entire year is a guaranteed way to have those feelings affect that employee’s performance and the performance of their colleagues.

Regular check-ins can make a huge difference when it comes to employee retention. Take Adobe, for example. The software company eliminated old fashioned annual performance evaluations in favor of a new system. That system allows staff to speak with their managers at least every 8 weeks, and has reduced the company’s employee turnover rate by 30%.

It might help to start envisioning employee feedback as a coach-athlete relationship. The best athletes regularly meet and train with their coaches so they’re able to quickly improve their form and performance. Where would an Olympic athlete be if a coach waited until a big race to assess an athlete’s performance? Think of this the next time you wonder about the value of meeting with a team member.

Regular performance reviews make sense from a business perspective. Research shows that employees who are encouraged to re-assess their goals every quarter are 45% more likely to have above-average financial performance.

So with data showing that regular employee check-ins are a vital part of business, why aren’t more employers incorporating feedback into their relationship with staff?

Maybe it’s because providing feedback can seem like a complicated and time consuming process. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

How to Receive and Provide Feedback

There are a number of ways to make sure you’re connecting with your employees.

The first is through regular in-person meetings. Regularly scheduled performance reviews, especially during an employee’s first year, can ensure a staff member is acclimating well with the team, and can diagnose obstacles before they become problems. In-person meetings are more effective than email check-ins, as body language can say a lot about a person’s attitude and thoughts. Taking just 15 minutes for feedback can make a difference.

Remember that in-person feedback doesn’t have to happen while sitting across from one another in a board room. Inviting an employee to grab a coffee or take a short walk can be used as a way to touch base, and the more casual environment may mean an employee is less intimidated to receive feedback.

If in-person meetings are too difficult to schedule, automated employee engagement surveys can also be a way to encourage continuous feedback. These can be done using employee performance software.

A good employee performance system will encourage staff to set personal goals that fit in with the overall vision of your company, and then provide automated insight on how they’re progressing on those goals. These performance goals provide excellent fodder of reference for in-person employee feedback meetings.

As mentioned, feedback must happen more often than annually, but there is no right answer for how often employees should be provided feedback. Every company will have a different level of capacity and time — what’s important is that checking in does happen as often as possible. Whether this is every week or every six months, the key is to schedule assessment times and to stick with that plan.

The more frequent, the better, though. Data shows that 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week, compared to just 18% of employees with low levels of engagement.

Types of Feedback

So you’ve reached the point where you are regularly checking in with your employees. Great — now what should you say?

Focus, first, on the positive. It may seem obvious, but remember that you’re dealing with a person who has feelings and emotions, some of which may be closely linked to their professional performance. Our white paper on the performance management systems of the past and present shows that 78% of employees say being recognized motivates them to do a better job.

In situations where negative feedback is necessary, those words should still be constructive. As a manager, you should never say something negative, and leave it at that. Adopt a tactic of solution-based feedback, where a negative comment is followed by a suggestion for how an employee can improve their actions and performance. This will provide a path forward for that team member, and let them know that you’re not giving up on them.

Even if your feedback is negative, make sure you focus solely on an employee’s work performance, rather than making personal attacks. For example, if an employee isn’t meshing well with their team, you should talk about the professional dynamics that may be affecting that scenario, rather than saying something like “the rest of your team members think you have a bad attitude and are difficult to work with.”

Be ready to get specific in your performance reviews. Feedback, positive or negative, should be reinforced by solid examples of a job well done or a scenario that may have warranted better behavior. By giving personalized feedback, employees will know you were paying attention to their work and will be better able to incorporate the suggestions into their job.

Even if an employee is struggling, end the meeting on a high note. There’s always at least one positive thing to say about an employee, and if there isn’t than chances are there may be greater issues with that staff member in the first place.

If employee feedback is something new for your business, don’t worry. Start small and grow from there. In the end it’s about your recognition of an employee’s value, skills, and needs, and that can be done with just a bit of effort.

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Chris Lennon
Chris Lennon is Vice President of Product Management at BirdDogHR. He is responsible for ensuring the BirdDogHR Talent Management System meets the needs and exceeds the expectations of our customers. He does this by working directly with customers and partners, identifying key market opportunities, developing product strategies and bringing exciting new products, features and partnerships to market. Chris is an active participant in the talent management community bringing over 18 years of experience to BirdDogHR. He has presented at numerous industry events and has been quoted as an industry expert in leading publications like Talent Management magazine, CLO magazine, New Talent Times, TLNT and HR Bartender.