After months of google searches, resume rebuilding and endless interviews, Jane*, a recent graduate, landed a job as a front-end engineer for a leading tech company. With the expertise and experience required to excel in her new position, she joined the team with an ambitious mindset and eagerness to do her job well.
Nearly a year later, her large contribution to the department and backlog of overtime hours had gone largely unnoticed by her superiors. She had far surpassed all objectives set out for her and had enhanced efficiencies tenfold for her company. In doing so, she continued to build up professional experience that warranted a promotion, if not recognition at the very least.
Jane’s dedication slowly deteriorated and ultimately, she accepted an external offer and left the company – and her ambition to grow with them – in the past. Lost in a complex web of HR formalities during her final months of employment, the window of opportunity to retain her and provide feedback on her excellent performance closed. A company lost a stellar employee and their year-long investment due to a lack of effective communication.
Starting out on a new career path or with a new company is exciting – sure, but individuals put themselves out on a limb both professionally and personally when they invest themselves in your company. This being said, employee success is most definitely a two-way street. Your company is investing time, money and resources into cultivating the best possible staff to help them succeed. This mutual investment requires attention to detail in order for it to thrive, and while employees like Jane are giving it their all, companies often drop their end of the bargain by failing to recognize and reward employee success. In order for organizations to retain great talent and continually build well structured and productive teams, managers need to get better at providing constructive feedback.
Unpacking the science behind giving feedback at work is important for professional development and personal growth for both parties involved. The art of giving compliments can be difficult to master, and even the most skilful often flail when it comes to professional praise.
Often, our inclination is to give recognition to outstanding performances only, which often results in hard work going unnoticed. But it’s important that employers give feedback on all aspects of performance; the daily grind that keeps systems running smoothly, the contagious positive attitude, the exceptional achievements, and at times, constructive advice for how to improve.
We get it – it’s not always easy to know when or how to give feedback, and the monotony of the everyday routine can blind you to the importance of steady and reliable work. If giving praise seems like a daunting task, you’re certainly not alone; one survey showed that 37% of managers avoid doing it! But feedback is foundational to building and maintaining relationships with employees that will ultimately result in a stronger, more productive environment for all. Take these tips into consideration to help optimize opportunities to give your team the recognition they deserve.
1. Connect the dots between job requirements and achievements.
Breaking down the connection between what’s expected of an employee and what they’ve accomplished helps to emphasize your point - that their contribution to the company isn’t going unnoticed. This course of action will ultimately help them understand exactly how their achievements support company initiatives and specifically, how they are fulfilling or surpassing the requirements of their role. For example, after you’ve highlighted their professional accomplishments, summarize how the invaluable skills they possess are just what the company needs from employees.
2. Have a bigger impact by being more specific.
Precision is key when providing anyone with feedback on their personal performance. Give employees specific examples of instances that have occurred or tasks that have been completed when commenting on how their work contribution has impacted the company. Rather than listing things off in general terms, personalize your answer based on facts to align with the achievements of the individual.
Secondly, avoid using phrases that are overly vague or relying on generalizations as your intentions can be easily misinterpreted. Pinpoint what you want to give feedback on, when it occurred and how you think the outcome has improved or helped grow business.
Instead of “your work on that last project was excellent - well done!”
Try “the marketing team is so grateful that we have an account manager with such good presentation skills. You got the point across perfectly in last monday’s client meeting, which was a huge contributing factor to landing the account!”
3. Underline the positive without sidestepping the negative.
Opening a line of communication to provide feedback can be a good chance to cover more than one base. While an employee may be performing really well in some aspects of their role, opportunities for professional growth exist for us all.
When critiquing an employee whose overall performance is beyond satisfactory, start the conversation by highlighting what they are doing well, and leave room to have a mutual discussion about how there is always room for improvement. However, it’s crucial that this feedback be provided in a constructive and collaborative manner. This shouldn’t be an effort to minimize their achievement but rather an effort to keep an open dialogue about continuing to grow and develop as part of a team. Give them the opportunity to provide management with feedback from the other side of the table.
4. Be sincere.
In general, people respond much better to sincerity, even at work. It’s crucial that feedback comes from someone who works directly with the employee rather than HR; personal observation is the best path to sincerity within this context. Provide employees with feedback or schedule meetings to discuss performance only when you are entirely prepared to give a genuine assessment of their contribution to the company. However, this doesn’t mean that you must have to make grand claims that you’ve dwelled upon for hours.If you notice that someone is doing excellent work or if it’s brought to your attention, use your best judgement to provide them with detailed, informative commentary that will leave them feeling sincerely valued.
*Name changed upon request.