How to Make Employee Feedback an Ongoing Discussion

As business owners, there’s likely plenty of planning to set new employees up for success with a thorough onboarding process. Expectations are laid out, but how often are we following up? Are job responsibilities and goals adjusted over time? Are employees aware of how well (or not well) they’re stacking up to what’s expected of them?

According to a Gallup study, employees who received feedback had a 14.9% lower turnover rate than those who received no feedback. And yet most employees feel as though they do not receive enough feedback on their performance.

A strong relationship between employee and supervisor should consist of an open, ongoing dialogue where both sides talk and listen. Your employees are the people most familiar with the day-to-day workings of your company. Their ideas and opinions are often valuable and soliciting their feedback can help them feel appreciated while also potentially improving some of your internal processes. And letting them know how they’re doing is really the only way they’ll be able to improve.

Feedback keeps both employers and employees happy — so what’s stopping you from starting the conversation?

Here are some ideas on how to provide and solicit feedback that motivates employees and encourages them to take ownership of their role within your company.

Keep it informal

Many companies have long relied on the idea of an annual performance review to evaluate employees. But there’s a certain pressure associated with an annual review. They often follow a rigid, one-size-fits-all model developed to serve the whole company.

Employees may not look forward to a scary review meeting, but would likely welcome a monthly one-on-one chat about how things are going. Some months might be hour-long meetings, while others may only involve a quick pulse check. Routine check-ins provide a platform for both supervisor and employee to raise any items for discussion.

Be specific

When giving feedback — positive or negative — it’s more effective to point to specific examples of what you’re commenting on rather than just telling an employee they’re doing a “great job.”

If an employee isn’t delivering exactly what you’re looking for, tell them what that is. Expecting someone to figure out what you have in mind is frustrating for the employee and an inefficient use of their time.

Empower the individual

Ideally, all of your employees are owners who are completely invested in the success of your company. But in reality, employees are looking out for themselves first and foremost. Working together as a team is important, but it’s more effective to target feedback to the individual so that goals are more actionable.

Give feedback in three’s

Regular one-on-one meetings mean more opportunities for providing feedback — so try to avoid an overload of information at each one. Provide a maximum of three positive comments and three areas of improvement per meeting so that employees can focus on these three targeted areas. 

Providing a benchmark for success

When goals are set during an annual review, they’re often broad. A year is a long time. Monthly or quarterly check-ins allow for more specific, reachable goals that are regularly followed up on. Even without formal goals in place, frequent one-on-one meetings hold employees more accountable and help to set a barometer of improvement.

Reflecting on the past and planning for the future during these meetings can help your employees feel as though they are continually progressing — and can keep them engaged in their role and the company as a whole.

As an employee, keep in mind that your boss doesn’t have to be the one to initiate a discussion about feedback. If you have things you’d like to share, or want to know how you’re doing in different parts of your job, speak up! An effective leader should appreciate hearing about an employee’s investment and concern in their job.