The science is in, it’s been proven, and continuous feedback is the way of the future when it comes to performance management. Continuous feedback has a positive effect on employee engagement, retention, performance, and a laundry list of other benefits. But this discovery leads us to a question:
How often is ‘continuous’?
Weekly? Daily? Hourly? Third Wednesday of every month? There’s no single answer to this question. However, we have some best practices for managers to keep in mind when trying to figure out how often to give out feedback to their team.
Set up a regular one-on-one meeting
We’re all busy, so set up a standing meeting every week or two with each of your employees to check-in and discuss performance successes and challenges. Review recent projects, feedback they’ve received from other employees, and ask what you could be doing better as a manager to support them.
Keep a record of these conversations so you can track actionable items. And make sure your talk has some structure to it (e.g. by setting an agenda). These regular one-on-one meetings will ensure you at least have a baseline of how often you’re giving feedback.
Keep a healthy feedback ratio
Harvard Business Review has found that for the most effective way to give feedback is to strike a 5:1 ratio of positive to constructive comments. While there is debate as to what the exact ratio should be, when managers praise more than they criticize, the constructive criticism actually has more impact when it’s delivered. And it helps to strengthen the manager-employee relationship.
Whether it's 5:1 or 6:1, delivering more positive feedback than constructive is a great best practice. If you find yourself giving constructive feedback frequently, reflect on how often you give positive feedback and make an effort to do so more often.
Look for moments that matter
You could give feedback in a lot of different scenarios. Did your employee unjam the printer with a certain je ne sais quoi? While giving feedback on something like this can’t hurt, remember to also make time to share feedback relevant to your employee’s role, performance and behavior.
If your employee is a printer technician who fixed that printer problem quickly, then feedback on his bias to action is right on point.
If you’re employee is an accountant, who fixed the printer problem because she realized you needed an important document printed now and so stepped in to “see what she could do” ultimately fixing the issue? Well, that employee demonstrated self-initiative and a willingness to help.
Whatever the scenario look for the moments that matter – how your employees made a difference – and recognize and them for it.
And make the feedback specific so it’s meaningful. Throwing a “thanks!” or “good job!” over your shoulder without conveying the impact of the employees’ actions to you, the team or the business isn’t enough.
Ask your employee how often they want to receive feedback
Everyone is different, and therefore will want to receive feedback differently. If you’re unsure about how often to give an employee feedback, or you have one employee who is less receptive to your usual feedback-delivery strategy, simply ask what their delivery preference is.
They may want the check-ins more often or less often, they may prefer to receive feedback in a written versus spoken format. What’s great about this strategy is that it involves the employee in the feedback delivery process, and this approach can ultimately help turn it into a two-way conversation (as it should be).
When in doubt, just do it
At the end of the day, giving feedback frequently is a good thing. It opens the line of communication between you and your employees. And when delivered with the intent to help, feedback also establishes trust, a key element to building strong relationships and creating a more collaborative and productive working environment.