Discover 11 Major Feedback Methods and Techniques and Learn how to Give Effective Feedback
The road to employee underperformance is paved with good intentions. You don't want to be the reason for employee's disengagement by giving feedback. So you repress your concerns and allow them to repeat mistakes.
By turning your nose away from the problem, your staff won't know how well or poorly they're doing. This creates room for low morale. Employees will feel unmotivated to accomplish goals, eventually resulting in what you were trying to avoid.
The key takeaway from this scenario is that feedback is a must-have for every organization striving to stay at the top. But more importantly, you need to give that feedback the right way.
Suppose you decide to give feedback after all, and you wind up being too personal or harsh. Such an approach can bring disastrous consequences for you, the employee, and the organization.
This article extensively explains different feedback types and techniques to avert such disasters.
🔄 Why the right feedback matters
Only 2% of employees become engaged post-feedback.
But effective feedback is more than just an arranged review session between managers and their direct reports.
Instead, it is a continuous process characterized by exchanging constructive feedback, scheduling follow-ups, and setting SMART goals.
All these factors ensure bad habits don't sprout more heads and become more significant problems tomorrow.
Not all employees are the same, so a one-size-fits-all technique is not ideal. The right feedback methods consider this dynamic nature of employees and help you make informed decisions in solving problems.
Some employees are extroverts with no qualms about sitting face-to-face with you to receive constructive feedback.
Others may be too shy to look you in the eye and prefer it to be done anonymously via 360 feedback.
🔍 Types of employee feedback
Self-feedback means giving feedback to yourself.
Self-feedback questions push employees to gain insights into their performance by identifying strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments. This helps you to determine the next steps in becoming better while getting support from your co-workers.
Peer feedback (or 360 peer review) refers to employees exchanging feedback.
Peer review can happen anonymously. Peers typically share insights using survey forms created by managers or people ops.
Peer feedback can focus on role-specific skills and competencies or more generic areas such as collaboration, contribution to the team, etc.
Employees develop a sense of solidarity when everyone experiences similar tasks and shares the same workspace daily. This close work relationship makes them know each other better, sometimes even better than managers.
Plus, it puts them in the best position to give insightful feedback to each other.
Manager feedback, also known as upward feedback, moves from the bottom of the hierarchy to the top.
Here, employees give feedback to their managers instead of the other way around.
This feedback type helps managers:
- uncover blind spots;
- address managerial skill flaws that could be causing or contributing to employee underperformance or disengagement.
Downward feedback is a flow of feedback from top to bottom of the hierarchy.
It can involve managers having one-on-one performance reviews with their direct reports or managers filling in downward feedback surveys.
Post feedback collection, the manager briefs the employee on how well they're performing, areas in which they aren't doing well, and what they can do to improve.
Informal feedback refers to feedback that you give in a casual manner rather than in a professional way. You don't need to schedule a date or plan for it, as it can happen randomly.
For example, peers can share informal feedback while having coffee in the break room.
Formal feedback needs scheduling and is continuous. Formal reviews are also obligatory, which means all employees have to participate. Examples of this include annual performance reviews or manager and peer feedback.
Formative feedback works like a pilot test. It takes place before or during employee onboarding or training. Its purpose is to help managers get answers from employees about what the training is lacking and how they can tailor it to meet their needs.
For example, formative feedback answers questions like, "Are the training topics being taught to your understanding?", "Are there indications that the training objectives will be met?"
Summative feedback occurs after a training program ends. It's the response from employees that managers use to measure the effectiveness of the training.
For example, managers will test employees based on the training topics to gauge significant improvements in employee skills and proficiencies. The results will then influence manager decisions on the best course to take moving forward.
Constructive feedback combines facts and observations rather than rumors or assumptions. The aim is to help the receiver understand what they're doing right or wrong and the impact on the organization. It also lets them know that they have the opportunity to correct their mistakes by helping them set goals.
Meanwhile, the feedback giver remains objective and places personal feelings towards the receiver aside, boosting their effectiveness.
For example: "Sarah, I admire how vocal you are during meetings. I think it'd be best not to interrupt your colleagues until they finish talking. You can try signaling the chairman next time to avoid disruptions. How does that sound?"
💡Need some more examples? We have gathered 30 additional constructive feedback examples for specific skills and behaviors scenarios. Plus, we also included some practical tips for managers.
Destructive feedback is any feedback that directly attacks employees' personalities or preys on their flaws. It doesn't tell the receiver what the problem is, how and why it's a problem, and what they can do to resolve it.
For example: "Sarah, you talk too much."
Appreciation feedback is a feedback type focusing on employee appreciation. The aim is to recognize them for their hard work and contributions to the workplace.
For example: "Thank you for checking in on me and helping me stay up-to-date with projects. You're a great team coordinator."
👩🏫 5 Techniques for giving feedback
The feedback sandwich
Feedback sandwiches are layered with:
- a compliment at the top;
- a negative statement in the middle;
- another positive statement at the bottom.
Here's what it looks like:
The top bun: Thomas, I loved your presentation on onboarding new hires more effectively.
The meat: However, I found it needed to be more engaging. Try shortening it and acting more lively.
The base bun: But overall, great job! Keep up the good work!
This appraisal-avoidance technique dates back to ancient Greek philosophers Democritus and Aristippus. They developed a theory on how it is human nature to maximize pleasure and avoid pain at all points of our existence.
Today, many employers use the technique to soften the blow of their criticisms about employees.
But the feedback sandwich is not the tastiest to swallow.
While it acts as a crutch for managers to lean on, the central message of the feedback becomes lost in transit. Your employees might start to think, "Did I do well, or did I not do well? I'm confused."
The next time you try to give feedback, they might expect bad news after the positives, thereby diminishing trust.
To address this:
- Start with the positives;
- give constructive input;
- end the feedback with actionable solutions employees can use to rectify the situation instead of mixing up your main point with more compliments.
Improvement dialogues are fun feedback methods for making employees talk without pressuring them with questions to give feedback. The game is simple. You and one employee sit together to draw from a stack of cards or choose from a list with half-finished dialogues written on them.
Each statement represents a different topic.
For example: "I perform better when…" (performance factors), "I want to learn more about…" (training needs).
When employees pick a statement, they have to finish it with whatever comes to mind.
For example: "I perform better when in a collaborative environment."
Then it's up to you to respond with your own statement.
This contribution keeps the ball rolling and helps you build the conversation with your input. That way, you can gather sufficient insights about the topic.
Once you achieve that, the game continues with your employee picking another card or choosing another statement.
The DESC script
Ineffective feedback is vague and unfocused, two significant problems the DESC script tries to solve.
The DESC acronym stands for Describe, Express, Specify, and Consequences. Its purpose is to paint the perfect picture of the problem to the feedback receiver and help them understand the preferred outcome.
The descriptive part of the feedback focuses on behavior the giver personally observed, not collective observations by their colleagues.
Receiving individual insights eliminates any chance of the receiver feeling ganged up on by their peers.
The expression phase of the DESC technique is where you tell the receiver how the situation has made you feel or negatively impacted. Then you specify what you would like them to do moving forward and tell them the outcomes of what you're suggesting (both positive and negative).
For example: "Ethan, I stayed back at the office yesterday to finish our project. Because of that, I got home late. I felt stressed by the responsibility of handling both our tasks. I would prefer it if we worked closely together in the future. This way, we can complete projects earlier and get a headstart on the next one".
What and why
The "What and why" technique is straightforward.
Whenever you want to give positive feedback or constructive criticism, focus on what an employee has done (the what) and then tell them why it was effective or ineffective (the why).
This technique erases any employee's doubts and fears, as they would know it's not about their personality. Instead, it's about something they did, and they would see the repercussions of that action.
Moving forward, it should be easier for them to make more of those positive attitudes or avoid repeating mistakes.
For example: "Nadia, I feel your attentive attitude to our client made them comfortable. I could see that they felt valued and more eager to discuss business."
Feedforward is more concerned about the future than feedback, where the focus is on past or current behaviors.
The purpose of this technique is to take attention away from those actions we can't change.
Mistakes and actions already made are set in stone. Since you can't go back in time to alter them, the best solution is to expand the possibilities of the future. Feedforward aims at preventing another mistake from being made.
Feedforward doesn't say, "Mike, you've been coming late to work for the past three days." Instead, it says, "For the next few weeks, Mike, I suggest you carpool with Thomas. He always manages to arrive early to the office."
💡 4 Tips for giving more effective feedback
1. Be specific
It's easy to play the blame game and bring up a record of your employees' mistakes in the past few weeks.
But feedback becomes stale and ineffective when it beats around the bush.
Instead, focus on that one behavior your employees have displayed recently and then explain why that behavior is a problem.
Don't assume they have all the background contexts. They may not even know it's a big issue until you point it out.
For example, don't say, "Anna, you're always interrupting me when I speak."
It throws the employee into a defensive stance, wondering when that has happened.
Then they're forced to prove you wrong.
Here's a better way to approach the problem.
"Anna, this morning during the team meeting, you interrupted my speech…."
This approach specifies the time when the situation happened and where it happened. So it's easier for employees to remember and correct their mistakes.
34% of employees say that their managers don't listen when they voice their opinions.
Often, managers get caught up in telling their staff what they're doing right or wrong. But it's also essential to stop for a moment and listen. You could be a contributor to the problem.
Listening to your employees' perspectives could illuminate mistakes you aren't even aware you are making.
It will also help you create realistic solutions to problems in the workplace.
3. Give actionable advice
Always end feedback by suggesting solutions to help employees know the next step.
They can't always read your mind.
So you could say, "I need you to improve on your U.I. designs," and they won't know what you mean.
Put yourself in their shoes and then advise on how you would approach the situation.
Most importantly, let these solutions be feasible and personalized to fit them.
It would be unfortunate to advise them to register for expensive training courses that their budget and schedules cannot accommodate.
4. Be consistent
Build a feedback culture where everyone expects feedback and is prepared for it beforehand. Encourage the growth mindset in your organization by offering feedback training programs. This way, everyone learns to give and receive feedback properly, from the top of the organizational structure to the bottom.
But overall, don't limit yourself to one feedback channel. Instead, leverage multiple feedback methods and techniques to ensure every employee is comfortable.
Tip: Use 360 feedback software and enable strict anonimity setting for the shy ones. Plus, use one-on-one interactions for discussing results.
➡️ Create a feedback culture to boost performance and growth
However dreadful the thought of giving feedback may seem, it's the most effective way to build trust between you and your employees.
Employees will trust you more by creating a safe space for them to share input and using that input to turn things around in the organization. As a result, they'll become engaged and dedicated to their roles and producing results.
But a thriving feedback culture needs more than flowcharts or scheduled meetings. All hands must be on deck, and the processes involved need to suit everyone's needs, as not all feedback types are equal.
Our feedback solution allows you to create a feedback culture that aligns with the DNA of your organization.
Share feedback continuously and frequently with employees, not just during 1:1s and performance review cycles.
Speak with our experts to get a demo.