How to give feedback that boost engagement and performance

One of the latest researches has shown that 67% of employees are surprised by the feedback they receive in the annual performance review meetings.

Based on my experience in leading and coaching teams, this is not a surprise though.

There are many leaders and managers who struggle with feedback. They give it occasionally and in a very unstructured way. As a result, employees get frustrated and disengaged.

One problem is certainly about frequency. I have seen leaders give feedback only during the traditional performance review meetings (annually or quarterly).

Some do it monthly which is better than quarterly or annually but still not enough to engage and mobilize employees.

Here’s the thing. From a neuroscientific perspective, regular feedback (weekly) builds new neuropaths in the brain that are necessary to build and change current behaviors.

This is the principle of neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to modify, change, and adapt brain structure and function in response to experience.

For these reasons, proper feedback given weekly (provided that expectations are clear from the beginning), can be a game-changer for cracking the code of employee engagement.

As my interest is about the relationship between feedback and performance, I had a look at one of Gallup research about the topic and I found some interesting results that confirm how important is great and frequent feedback on employee’s morale and engagement:

  • 9% lower turnover rates in companies that implement regular employee feedback
  • 40% of employees are actively disengaged when they get little or no feedback
  • 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week compared to only 18% of employees with low engagement
  • 65% of employees say they want more feedback
  • Only 58% of managers think they give enough feedback
  • 98% of employees will fail to be engaged when managers give little or no feedback

With this in mind, it becomes clear that organizations and their leaders are facing two different but related problems: the frequency and the quality of the feedback.

If we explained why weekly feedback is critical for success, we haven’t yet addressed the second issue: how to run effectively weekly meetings/chats with the employees.

Having worked with many leaders on giving powerful feedback to their people, my recommendation is to approach the feedback from a coaching perspective.

In other words, although is important to review performance, focus on current strengths, highlight the good results as well as the areas for improvement, many managers don’t ask questions like:

  • How can I help you to achieve your goals?
  • How can I assist you to improve X or to make the change we agreed on?
  • What do you need from me to make this change happen?
  • Can I do anything to help?

These are very simple questions, but they are not typically part of any feedback meeting. In fact, by asking these questions, five things happen:

  1. You show your employees that you’re there to support their success
  2. You help them to get new insights that generate dopamine so more motivation
  3. You increase the bond and relationship with your people
  4. As they feel more supported and appreciated their engagement level increases
  5. You get feedback from them, so this a very win-win situation

Weekly feedback with only a few questions also helps to keep the meetings short and very focused on what matters (the current goal or project).

To take one step forward, you can also add daily touchpoints with your people just by asking how they are dealing with the current project and how you can help them. In this scenario though, just make sure you don’t overstep and fall into micromanaging them which will be detrimental for motivation and engagement.

Make feedback part of everyday practice rather than something that only happens as part of a formal review. When people feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback frequently, it becomes normal, rather than something to be feared when traditional performance reviews are set.

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