Every effective performance management system is designed to help employees improve and advance. Although feedback is an essential part of the performance management process, it isn't always easy for small business owners to provide employees with praise or criticism. Find out how to give feedback to employees so you can help your team grow and your business succeed.
1. Offer Feedback as Soon as Possible
Providing feedback to employees can be daunting, even for the most capable small business owner. If you aren't accustomed to pulling your employees aside to offer feedback, you might be tempted to hold off and wait until the right time. The longer you wait, however, the more likely you are to realize that there's no perfect time to talk with your team.
That's why it's so important to offer feedback as soon as possible. Make a point of providing constructive criticism after your employees complete a major task like giving a presentation or when they make a mistake that you don't want them to repeat.
2. Know When To Wait
Offering immediate feedback can be helpful when you want to praise your team's performance or correct an employee's mistake. If you have a strong reaction or an emotional response to something your team has done, however, it might be in your best interest to put a pause on your commentary. If you're angry, frustrated, or otherwise upset, anything you say is likely to be emotionally charged, which can compromise your communication abilities.
Instead of risking an impassioned exchange, wait until you've had a chance to process your thoughts. When you feel ready to have a levelheaded conversation with your team, schedule a time to talk.
3. Provide Evaluations Regularly
If your small business is like most, you plan to sit down with employees once a year. During that annual evaluation, you provide a complete performance review that covers all your employees' accomplishments and shortcomings for the past 12 months.
For busy teams, an annual review might seem like all you can handle. However, when you only meet with employees once a year, it's easy to miss key opportunities to praise your employees or help them improve.
To capitalize on those prospects, consider revising your performance appraisal schedule. Instead of one lengthy performance review every year, offer shorter feedback sessions every quarter or even once a month.
4. Aim To Be Specific
When you're short on time, it's all too easy to give generic feedback to your team. Telling your employees that they're doing a good job might boost their mood for a few moments. In the long run, however, these broad comments aren't helpful for you or your team.
Rather than giving your employees general feedback, make a point of being specific. Instead of just giving them high marks for a big project, tell them exactly where they excelled. For example, you might highlight their impressive leadership skills during a high-level meeting or their sharp problem-solving skills during a major project.
5. Strive To Be Fair
As a small business owner, you have your own way of doing things. You might prefer a certain management style or adopt a communication method that works best for you. No matter what your inclinations might be, it's important to remember that there's always more than one way to do things.
When you offer feedback to your employees, strive to be fair and impartial. Your employees might do things differently based on their individual backgrounds and skill sets. As long as their strategies get the results you want and don't go against your company policies, avoid the temptation to judge them unfairly.
6. Emphasize Positive Comments
If you've noticed that your employees tend to have intense reactions to negative feedback, you aren't alone. Studies show that when communicating with managers, employees' responses to negative interactions are six times stronger than their reactions to positive exchanges. For many employees, negative interactions have lingering effects, causing reduced productivity and engagement.
That's why it's so important to be positive when evaluating employees. Even if you need to call out an employee for a major blunder, take care to provide constructive feedback, too. Before sitting down for a performance review, jot down a few notes of encouragement that you can use to temper your comments.
7. Don't Avoid Negative Feedback
Just because you don't want to ruin your employees' day doesn't mean you should avoid negative feedback entirely. Deliver all the constructive criticism your employees need to hear, but take care to balance it with positive comments.
If possible, focus on one type of feedback before moving on to the other rather than switching back and forth repeatedly. If you do hide negative comments between praise, your employees might miss the criticism and focus exclusively on the positive comments instead.
8. Schedule One-on-One Meetings
When you have something to say, you might be inclined to share it on the spot, no matter the circumstances. Although it's important to provide feedback as soon as possible after an issue arises, morale can suffer when you criticize individual employees in front of a group.
Instead, schedule one-on-one meetings with your employees. When you meet with your employees individually, you can focus on each person one at a time and give them the attention they deserve.
9. Prepare Employees Adequately
Before you meet with employees for a performance appraisal, it's unlikely that you'll go into the discussion empty-handed. From reviewing past projects and rereading notes to creating an outline for the meeting, you might spend hours preparing.
It's only fair that you allow your employees to prepare for their evaluation, too. After drafting an outline, share it with your employees so they can make their own notes and reflect on their own comments. When both of you take the time to prepare, you can look forward to a more balanced and more fruitful discussion.
10. Suggest Next Steps
The most effective employee appraisals include more than just your observations, accolades, or constructive criticism. Instead, when evaluating employees, you should also take the time to suggest next steps and strategies for improvement. When you take this approach, you can help employees find solutions and brainstorm action plans.
You can even work with your employees to create development plans designed to help them acquire new skills or train in new areas. By encouraging professional development, you can help your employees improve, stay engaged, and contribute even more to your small business.
11. Ask for Input
No matter how often you schedule employee evaluations, remember that performance reviews shouldn't be one-sided. Instead of talking to your employees exclusively, set aside time to ask them for input. By requesting employee feedback, you can increase engagement and get your employees more involved in their own performance and professional development.
When you ask for employee evaluation comments, you can change both your company's performance management system and your corporate culture for the better. Employees with higher engagement levels tend to be more productive and more present, which can lead to big benefits for your small business.
Now that you know how to give positive and negative feedback to your employees, you can take steps to improve your performance management system. By drafting a plan and adjusting your workflow, you can start working with your team to generate better results today.