How to Leverage Feedback to Boost Your Bottom Line

Studies show employees whose supervisors provide positive feedback by acknowledging their strengths and successes were significantly more likely to be engaged at work. Feedback from managers, colleagues and employees is the most readily accessible and productive source of continuous learning in the workplace.

However, institutionalization has stigmatized giving feedback and stifled its effectiveness. For example, the words “performance review” typically stir up feelings of insecurity and worry for most employees. Infrequent feedback, mostly delivered in the form of performance reviews, is inconsistent and often intimidating. Employees do not receive feedback all year long, and then feel as though a bomb has been dropped in their annual performance review.

Given the engrained nature of structured and scheduled feedback in traditional corporate cultures, changing the way feedback is given and received can be daunting. However, in doing so, companies will find their employees are more engaged, productive, and committed to both their work and their colleagues. So, let’s look at the characteristics of highly effective feedback and how to leverage it to boost your bottom line.

Defining Feedback – Both Positive and Constructive

Feedback typically falls into two categories – positive and constructive.

Positive feedback, when genuine and sincere, can be a powerful motivational tool. Positive feedback consists of acknowledging and recognizing your employees’ strengths and making them aware of how those strengths contribute to overarching organizational goals. Positive feedback is especially powerful when you share it in the moment – acknowledging your employee’s strengths when you see them in action!

Constructive feedback – also known as negative feedback – is one of the most valuable tools for personal growth in the workplace. Constructive feedback addresses individual areas of improvement. To be effective, however, constructive feedback should be timely and specific. It should be delivered positively, as close to the event as possible, with specific actions or behaviors that need to change. The feedback should be complemented with concrete tips on how to make the recommended changes.

Why is feedback important?

Feedback is one of the most effective and readily accessible tools for learning and professional development. When deployed correctly, feedback provides ample opportunities for self-reflection and improvement. Moreover, a culture of consistent, specific feedback cultivates strong working relationships, and motivates employees to seek and welcome regular feedback.

Fostering a work environment that encourages feedback at all levels of the organization develops trust and rapport between employees and managers. It emphasizes coaching over reprimanding and gives employees permission to grow by learning from their mistakes. In essence, regular feedback creates a culture of impunity or psychological safety – one in which employees feel safe to take risks, make mistakes, and wholeheartedly contribute to the goals and vision of the organization.

Common Mistakes in Giving or Receiving Feedback

Unfortunately, giving and receiving feedback isn’t as simple as being specific and consistent. It is easy to make mistakes on each end of the feedback loop – being too afraid to give feedback or getting defensive when you receive it.

The most common mistakes employees or managers make when giving feedback are:

  1. Using feedback as an opportunity to reprimand, rather than coach. Oftentimes, when a situation is heavily emotional, individuals do not take the time necessary to let their emotions cool off. Consequently, this results in them using feedback as an opportunity to blow off steam, rather than to benefit the person receiving it.
  2. Sugar-coating feedback. While important, positive feedback is often overused and leads to individuals “sugar-coating” feedback. Positive feedback can drown out constructive feedback, resulting in employees ONLY hearing the positive and disregarding the negative. What’s worse, is when positive feedback becomes trite.
  3. Avoiding giving feedback – especially constructive feedback. Giving constructive feedback can be scary, especially when individuals fear they may hurt someone’s feelings. Constructive feedback should be approached with a coaching mentality focused on helping colleagues improve.

Additionally, receiving feedback can be equally as difficult. Here are a few examples of mistakes made when on the receiving end of feedback:

  1. Getting defensive. Individuals love being right and dislike change, making it difficult to receive constructive feedback. It is easy for emotions to get involved and for individuals to automatically go into defense-mode when receiving feedback.
  2. Placing more weight on negative feedback than on positive feedback. Individuals innately have a negativity bias, leading them to place more weight on negative feedback than positive feedback. Becoming aware of this subconscious bias is the first step for you to move past it!

The Numbers Show Feedback is Important…

study by OfficeVibe reveals regular, specific feedback, whether positive or constructive, significantly improves employee engagement, productivity, and company loyalty. The results demonstrate the impressive differences between those who don’t, and companies who do champion a culture of impunity and regular feedback (at least once a week). 

Companies that implement regular employee feedback experience 15% lower turnover rates.

Employees are twice as likely to be disengaged when they feel ignored by their manager, versus thirty times more likely to be actively engaged when their managers provide regular feedback focused on their strengths.

43% of employees who are highly engaged at work receive regular feedback (at least once per week), compared to 40% of employees who are actively disengaged when they receive little or no feedback.

Finally, 78% of employees state receiving positive feedback increased their motivation, and 69% of employees said regular recognition would increase their productivity at work. 

Tricks to Effectively Giving and Receiving Feedback

Creating a culture of impunity that advocates regular feedback boosts employee engagement, improves retention, fosters innovation, and increases profitability.

Here are some tips to become more effective at both giving and receiving feedback:

  1. Give consistent and timely feedback. Feedback is most effective when delivered as close to the event as possible. Develop the ability to recognize desirable behaviors and strengths in the moment and provide feedback as soon after the event as possible. Additionally, deliver feedback on a regular basis – it will create a culture normalizing feedback, both positive and constructive.
  2. When delivering feedback, be sure it is both specific and neutral. Specifically identify and explain behaviors that need to be started, stopped, or improved. Recognize positive behaviors that should continue, and undesirable behaviors that should change. Describe behaviors objectively, explaining what they did or how they did it without assuming intent or motivation.
  3. Ask for feedback on how you give or receive feedback. If you are unsure of how your feedback is being received, or how your colleagues or employees feel when they receive feedback, ask for their feedback!
  4. Make it a positive experience. Remember, the purpose of giving feedback is to help your employee improve, not to make them wrong. When delivering constructive feedback, recognize what they did right, focus on the actions they might take to improve their behavior, and collaborate with them to reach a mutual and positive resolution.
  5. Create awareness around your triggers and encourage colleagues and employees to call them out. Individuals who are aware of their triggers, such as becoming defensive, controlling, or overly verbose, can anticipate and control them. Inform your colleagues and employees of your triggers and encourage them to call them out when they see them in action!

Conclusion

While companies acknowledge its importance, feedback is nuanced and can be intimidating. When deployed ineffectively, like having it benefit the person giving instead of receiving the feedback, or simply avoided, it can damage relationships, disengage employees, increase turnover, and negatively impact profitability.

When companies cultivate a culture of impunity that champions regular feedback, it builds trust and rapport among managers, colleagues and employees. Implementing regular feedback systematically and strategically throughout your organization will build stronger relationships, increase engagement, reduce turnover, improve productivity, and boost your bottom line.

The Engineering Leadership Institute (ELI) works with organizations to develop their people to break the profitability barrier created by statistically driven solutions and technical fixes. To develop the skills necessary for becoming more effective in both giving and receiving feedback, ELI has created the online Performance Certification System! The Performance Certification System is specifically designed to build the soft skills in your people to build a culture of impunity based upon trust, communication, and collaboration – foundational elements to high-performing organizations that break through the profitability barrier!

To get started on building a high-performance cutlture within your organization, CONTACT ELI TODAY!