Ask any expert, and they’ll likely tell you that the best way to grow and develop employees is by giving them constructive feedback. There is always room for improvement and it is the responsibility of supervisors and HR to create a supportive feedback system that helps employees grow.
But, if you’ve never formally evaluated or developed an employee feedback process before, this task can seem daunting.
Fiona Robinson, HR Manager at Virtual College, said: “Without a doubt, being able to provide constructive feedback is one of the top skills that managers need to have. Any manager, no matter how big or small their team is, is going to have to give feedback at some point, whether that is in appraisals, during a big project, or reflecting on someone’s general approach to day to day work.
“But it’s important that it’s done right and this is why it’s a skill – feedback is a sensitive matter and people can often get defensive or disheartened about it. The skill is in making sure the recipient understands that the feedback is not negative, but an opportunity for them to review, learn and improve. It also helps to form part of an open and honest working relationship where they understand that their line manager has their best interests at heart and wants them to be the best version of themselves.’
These are the top seven questions that people are searching for about giving constructive feedback right now—and have offered helpful answers to these.
1.What is constructive feedback?
Constructive feedback is a kind of feedback that focuses on highlighting areas of improvement instead of negative aspects. “Nobody likes to receive criticism, and if you’re in a management position then delivering critiques or suggestions for improvement can be one of the hardest parts of your job”, explains Fiona.
“Constructive feedback is a better way of giving difficult feedback so that you don’t sound too harsh or dismissive and instead frame the suggestion as a chance to improve.” Constructive feedback can also just be suggestions or guidance to help an employee who is already performing well to do even better.
2.Is constructive feedback good?
Constructive feedback doesn’t mean criticism. It’s actually a method of delivering advice and observations about someone’s behaviour or performance that focuses on bringing about positive change and helping individuals to reflect on their actions to improve them.The intentions of constructive feedback are always positive, which is what differentiates it from critical feedback. When you give this kind of feedback, you should follow it up with suggestions for improving or changing a situation to focus on the positives and encourage constant growth and improvement.
3.Why is it important to give constructive feedback?
“It is important to give constructive feedback in the place of negative feedback as it avoids severely hurting anyone’s feelings and means that a more equal conversation can be had”, Fiona says.
Constructive feedback also encourages positive growth and change instead of discouraging someone’s behaviour, which is a much more productive way to have a conversation and ensures that the same problems don’t occur again.
4.What are the benefits of constructive feedback?
Giving constructive feedback can sometimes be difficult, but there are a variety of benefits that you should bear in mind and focus on instead of avoiding difficult conversations.
First of all, research has actually found that most people prefer to be given suggestive and constructive feedback instead of simply positive praise. This is because it is much more helpful and leads to more constructive conversations that are better for both individual and business growth. Instead of giving vaguely positive feedback for the sake of it, constructive feedback methods also mean that employees have a much better idea of how they are performing and more realistic expectations for the future.
Another benefit of giving constructive feedback is that the person delivering it is often viewed as more straightforward and genuine. When you are in a management position you want people to respect you and feel that you are being honest with them – and giving simple and realistic feedback is a brilliant way to ensure this.
One of the most obvious benefits of constructive feedback though is that it leads to positive change and growth. By highlighting areas where you want an employee to change their behaviour or processes, you can help them to improve, continue to develop in their role and get better at reflecting on their own performance and identifying what can be worked on.
5.What is constructive feedback in the workplace?
In a workplace environment, constructive feedback is any kind of feedback you are given that comes with suggestions for how you can improve or what you should have or can do better. It is a common feature of quarterly reviews or appraisals, but may also be given if something specific has happened at work that requires intervention.
“Constructive feedback should not be seen as a critical conversation, but instead an honest and open opportunity to understand performance and nurture a growth mindset”, explains Fiona. “Almost everyone will have to deliver constructive criticism at some point, whether formally or informally, and knowing what to say and how to approach the conversation is vital.”
6.How do you respond to constructive feedback?
If you are the one receiving constructive feedback, the best thing you can remember is to try not to get defensive or angry.The person delivering the feedback is doing so because they want to help you progress, so the best thing you can do is view it as an opportunity to learn and improve and avoid any negativity.
7.How do I provide constructive feedback?
Having employees who are open to constructive feedback and willing to respond to suggestions for improvement also leads to a workforce who are focused on reaching their full potential and want to keep getting better at what they do. This is beneficial for any company or organisation as you create a culture that encourages growth and views any critical feedback as an opportunity to improve.
Create a safe environment
When you’re going to be delivering constructive feedback that might focus on something someone has done badly, it is best if you create an environment that feels safe and supportive before you do so. This will mean that the person you are talking to feels more comfortable and relaxed, and also that the feedback will feel less like an attack and more like an opportunity for a productive conversation.
If you’re giving constructive feedback then you need to go into the conversation prepared. In order to deliver your feedback most effectively, don’t just begin with a rough idea of what you want to say. Particularly if you are in an employee review meeting, you should have all the points you want to mention written down so that you include everything important and will also be more prepared to answer any questions that the other person may have.
Make it 1-on-1
One of the most important things to remember when deciding how to give feedback constructively is that you should always do it in person, on a 1-to-1 level. Receiving critical or constructive feedback is sometimes difficult, and you’ll make the other person feel more at ease if it is only the two of you in the conversation. It’s also always a lot better to deliver constructive feedback in person, rather than on a video call. However, if this isn’t possible, make sure that you make the other person feel as comfortable as you can when you join the call. But, wherever possible, talking in person makes it a lot easier to read the other person’s reaction and respond in the best way when finding solutions moving forward.
Start with positives
You’ve might have heard of a feedback sandwich, which involves delivering a piece of criticism in between two pieces of praise to try and soften the blow. Whilst this method is sometimes criticised for involving unhelpful or pointless feedback for the sake of being nice, it can be useful to begin a conversation involving constructive criticism with something positive, as long as it is relevant. This shouldn’t be to try and butter up the person you are talking to but instead to set a more positive tone for the conversation and indicate that there are things they are doing well.
Lead with your intentions
When you are giving constructive feedback, it’s important to begin by stating your intentions for the conversation. This is important whether you are having a general discussion about somebody’s progress or are talking about a specific incident or behaviour that needs highlighting or improving. This is a key method of effectively giving constructive feedback because it prepares the other person for everything that is coming and stops them from worrying about the purpose of the conversation by establishing this right at the start.
Ultimately, giving constructive feedback effectively is more important than ever in our ‘new working normal’ with face-to-face interaction being less frequent in many settings.
Fiona emphasises: “In our current working climate, it is important that constructive feedback isn’t affected by our shift to remote working, which can make it a little more difficult. Remote working can create a bit of a disconnect between employees, so you’ll need to make sure that doesn’t negatively impact the constructive feedback, and a safe environment is still created, and that the feedback is delivered one-to-one, or the next best thing”.