An important part of successful employee management lies in the annual review, which can prove to be a challenging task for managers. Effective employee reviews need to center around positive feedback and constructive criticism. This allows managers to work with employees to develop their skills in a healthy, positive work environment. To help, here are some constructive feedback examples, but first let's dive into what positive feedback truly is.
What is Positive Feedback?
According to The Balance Careers, positive and effective feedback is meant to "reinforce positive behaviors that contribute to performance or eliminate negative behaviors that can detract from performance."
Sound familiar? Positive feedback functions the same way your sales commission structures and incentive compensation plans do. They reinforce behaviors that positively impact both employees (commission checks—yay!) and the company (reaching organizational goals).
Ultimately, the purpose of feedback is to ensure employees know how they're doing, including what they're excelling at and areas they can improve. Whether feedback is negative or positive, it's vital for managers to frame the conversation in a way that is constructive and open.
How to Deliver Positive Feedback Effectively
Giving positive feedback might seem simple on the surface, but you'll often find it's not always easy to praise employees or sales people in ways that will leave lasting impressions. In fact, part of effective management and feedback includes have difficult, yet sometimes necessary, conversations with employees.
When giving constructive feedback, managers should remember that communication should be open and offer opportunities for all parties involved to speak. To be effective, positive feedback should be:
- Timely: Time is of the essence when it comes to correcting negative behaviors. When managers notice problems, they should take timely action to address and remedy the issue quickly.
- Specific: Any feedback conversations should address only the issue at hand—the employee's performance—regardless of if the topic is good or bad. It shouldn't bring in related or similar incidents, projects, or topics.
- Objective: Part of a manager's responsibilities is conflict resolution. Regardless of personality or personal feelings, any feedback conversations should be objective and free from individual opinions or other outside influences.
- Constructive: Any and all feedback conversations should be presented in a positive, constructive way. If possible, address the problem and offer solutions or suggestions to change or improve negative behaviors and ways to continue reinforcing positive ones.
At the end of the day, it's important for managers to remember that your goal is to reinforce strong employee behaviors and eliminate negative ones through positive reinforcement. By keeping these four tips for effective positive feedback in mind, it should be smooth sailing.
More Positive Feedback Tips and Examples
1. Use Facts, Not Hearsay
Base your positive feedback on factual events. Managers should stick to what you have observed and know, not on rumors or information that you've received secondhand.
For example, feedback should be framed this way: "I really like the way you took control of that meeting. It was obvious things were going awry, but because you stepped in and got everybody back on track, we were able to walk away accomplishing all of the items on the agenda."
2. Share the Right Details
Focus on the specific details (the big ones that matter), not all the other noise, but the specific thing you're giving feedback on. When you're straightforward, it's easier for the person you're talking to to understand precisely the behavior they should continue to exhibit.
In the example above, if the goal of the positive feedback was to praise the employee for making the most out of the meeting, that fact could have been easily lost if feedback was mixed in with praise for preparing adequately, or amongst negative feedback that they should've stepped in sooner.
3. Show Authenticity
"Good job" isn't positive feedback. Not only is it not detailed enough to encourage repeated behavior, but it displays the lack of conviction needed to make encouraging words really stick. For example, something like "I know it took you hours to prepare for that presentation, and it really shows."
The way you were able to adequately touch on all relevant points, while keeping everyone engaged and interested made this a success. This is important because they should now be motivated to apply your main points to their everyday activities.
4. Illuminate the Big Picture
Explain the big picture and how employee actions impact it. How does employee behavior affect individual or group goals? When you illuminate the ways that their tasks link up with the company's larger goals, it's easier for them to understand just how powerful their actions were (and can be).
For instance, when you look at the positive feedback examples above, all of the statements feature a "because" statement. It's not that the employee just did a good job, but it's because of their good job were they able to achieve XYZ.
5. Spread the Love
Sure, you will always have some employees who consistently outperform others. But even so, don't operate with blinders. While it might be more difficult to pinpoint positive behavior in certain employees, it's an activity worth your time. There is a fine line between an employee performing at the expected average versus one who could easily become disengaged should their positive contributions go unnoticed.
6. Be Immediate
Give feedback immediately after the event prompting the feedback, as soon as time allows. Being immediate ensures your employee precisely remembers the action being referenced, and of course, decreases the chances that you forget to give the feedback. If you fail to offer positive feedback in a timely manner, your employee might be left thinking that the positive behavior was in fact something that wasn't appreciated or valued.
7. Focus on Behavior
Keep it specific to their behavior, and don't let your own views distort the specifics. With all feedback, you want to be genuine. If employees feel their praise is being manufactured or is false, it might leave them feeling worse than they would have had you not said anything at all. Not to mention the frustration you're creating in the eyes of others witnessing false praise.
8. Pick and Choose
Even though you want to be immediate with feedback, you also want to make sure you're not giving too much. Thus, you'll want to reserve your words for times of maximum impact. If not, you run the risk of greatly watering down your remarks, causing employees to lose focus of which specific behaviors are ones worth congratulating.
As you end the discussion, confirm that the person you're talking to understands your feedback. This doesn't have to be as formal as you asking if your employee understands what you're telling them, but just make sure they hear and process what you're saying. To help in this regard, try and pass along feedback in private, one-on-one, to minimize other distractions.
It might be natural for some employees to "take the next one off" after receiving positive feedback. Meaning, if an employee does a great job with a certain activity, and you give them praise, they might feel they can slack a little bit the next time around. So, verify the desired behavior continues, and doesn't change or drop off once positive feedback is received.
Making Positive Feedback the Norm
At any company, change starts from the top and moves down the management chain. To implement effective positive feedback techniques, it must start with training top-level management and continue down through to lower levels. It must be ingrained in the company and practiced by leaders and employees alike.
Ultimately, for organizations to succeed they need motivated, positive workforces, and this starts with management enforcing positive feedback as a vital part of company culture.
Learn more about increase employee morale in our recent blog, 23 Ways to Improve Employee Morale, or see how leading experts are motivating their sales organizations in our guide, Inspiring Sales Rep Performance.