“That particular receiving clerk is always charged up and looking for a way to help!”
“Bill is so distracted and negative that he cannot get charged up about anything!”
Businesses can count on certain employees to be more engaged in their job performance than other employees. Unfortunately, many employees seem more engaged in observing the job performances of their coworkers than their own when it is the business owner who should be making the most astute observations and offering feedback—feedback that will protect and grow the business. When an infraction is serious, formal feedback in a private setting is always indicated, but small business owners can implement informal feedback strategies in public groups, meetings and conversations to shape and change behaviors and attitudes. Empirically, informal feedback is one of the most powerful techniques to improve job performance. It can “charge up” the workforce through effective coaching. But, how?
Like formal feedback, informal feedback is based on observations about the employees’ attitudes and job performance. Realistically, the business owner can utilize two types of informal feedback strategies known as formative or motivational. Formative feedback has the goal of discouraging negative attitudes, guiding workers away from bad habits, and averting “mini-disasters” more quickly and without the potential for conflict that is sometimes present in serious discussions. Motivational feedback is used to encourage good attitudes, habits, and performance by reinforcing desirable behaviors that will increase the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated.
All forms of feedback contribute to the business’ success. Informal feedback requiring minimal preparation for a few seconds of effective feedback will go a long way toward fostering positive employee partnership. Yet, many business owners fail to give informal feedback. When asked, owners share reasons for not giving regular feedback:
- Concern for upsetting employees
- Tendency for management to be challenged for the content of effective feedback
- Unsure of whether to use formal or informal feedback
- Situation is too embarrassing to engage the worker
- Lacks personality to engage others
- Lacks a healthy personal self-esteem
- Fear hurting an employee’s feelings
- Does not have time
- Proficient in giving positive feedback but struggles to give negative feedback
- Proficient in giving negative feedback but struggles to give positive feedback
- Believes employees won’t believe it and view him/her as being insincere
Motivational Informal Feedback: Never underestimate the need for motivational feedback. Many business managers assume their employees already know what they did well. But even if an employee is aware of good performance, it means a great deal to hear it from a business manager. When a manger tells an employee that he or she is good at doing something, the employee is much more likely to continue improving that skill as it increases the sense of personal worthiness and the perception of adding value to the business. Motivational feedback is most powerful when it is timely, relevant and is performed publicly. Casually acknowledging that three assigned tasks were completed is not a good example of motivational feedback. To motivate, effective feedback must provide specific details and convey sincere appreciation for some aspect of the work. Requiring minimal preparation on the part of the owner for a few seconds of feedback, the result is more positive employee relationships. Any occasion when positive reinforcement could be given, but was not, is a missed opportunity. Take every opportunity to provide an incentive for good performance and increase motivation. For example, saying, “Great job Frank,” is not as effective as saying, “Frank you handled that difficult customer very well, and I think that turned the situation around. Motivational feedback is powerful!
Formative Informal Feedback: It would be simple to categorize formative feedback as negative, but that would not be accurate. Formative feedback tells the person what needs to improve and how. It shapes desired behavior by focusing on what to do differently. Consequently, it serves as a useful teaching and coaching tool and helps to build that person’s competence. Formative feedback is most effective when given privately, so it helps focus the employee’s attention on the problem, not on his or her embarrassment or resentment. The manager may want to begin the discussion by asking an individual what he or she did well and possibly expand on the response. The manager should then ask the person how he or she could improve and responding to their comments. Often, it’s not possible for an employee to correct a mistake that’s been made, but he or she can improve the skill involved so that it does not happen again in the future. Therefore, it’s important to direct formative feedback toward a future event. For example, phrasing a formative feedback as, “Next time, distribute agendas before the day of the meeting,” rather than as “The agendas should have been distributed ahead of time,” is more likely to encourage the employee to plan for actions to take in the future.
Managers who provide feedback to employees on how to do their jobs better, can improve performance dramatically. Make sure the employee understands what needs to be changed and what was effective. .0In the absence of this feedback, employees may not understand improvement methods until a formal intervention is necessary.
There are five types of formative feedback:
- Identify an error. Tell the employee what’s wrong and leave the choice of action to him or her.
- Suggest corrective action. Offer a specific suggestion on how to correct a problem, and then allow the employee to act.
- Advise employee to arrive at a solution. This is the most time-consuming type of effective feedback, but it’s commonly used to discuss a problem in more detail. The manager and the employee will exchange ideas, formulate a plan and prepares for any obstacles, and plans to track for on resolution.
- Demonstrate corrective action. This is an equivalent of on-the-job training and is typically used when the skill or knowledge level of the employee makes it unlikely the employee will understand verbal suggestions.
- Provide instruction. This is used when the manager is unable to provide training needed by the employee and that outside instruction has been arranged.
Formative feedback may require more effort, but it provides greater assurance that the employee will learn techniques to benefit the business.
Effective Feedback is a useful managerial tool because of its effect on employee performance. As a business manager, following the prescribed guidelines for providing motivational and formative feedback on a regular basis will greatly enhance the performance of the employee and the work group. It will also contribute to creating and maintaining a supportive environment, which is key to teamwork and to influencing customers’ perception of the value provided by the work group.
Remember to follow the general guideline summary:
- Relate formative feedback to future performance. Motivational feedback is most effective when given as soon after the performance as possible. Formative feedback is most effective when given immediately before the employee is to perform a certain task again.
- Attempt to separate motivational from formative feedback to avoid one overshadowing the other and increase the likelihood both will be equally effective. In situations where it’s not practical to split your feedback, it’s nonetheless very important to avoid linking motivational feedback with formative feedback. Pause between the motivational and formative feedback and involve the employee as you move from discussing his or her successes to discussing those areas he or she needs to improve.
- In situations where it’s not practical to split your feedback, it’s nonetheless very important to avoid linking motivational feedback with formative feedback. Pause between the motivational and formative feedback and involve the employee as you move from discussing his or her successes to discussing those areas he or she needs to improve.
- Be as specific and clear as possible to avoid overload.
As a business manager, following the prescribed guidelines for providing motivational and formative feedback on a regular basis will greatly enhance the performance for the employee and the work group. Taking this approach will also contribute to creating and maintaining a supportive environment, which is key to teamwork and to influencing customers’ perception of the value the business provides.
At Cogent Analytics, we never stop looking for ways to improve your business and neither should you. So, check out some of our other posts for helpful business information: