The Beginner’s Guide To Giving Great Employee Feedback


Giving employee feedback can significantly benefit both managers and their personnel. If managers are willing to provide feedback, they are more likely to get the most out of their employees, and employees are more likely to perform well.

Unfortunately, most managers are afraid to give feedback. Even when HR managers are confident in their ability to comment on an employee, they fear the negative repercussions. The good news? Employees crave feedback because it helps them perform better and grow as professionals.

If you’re unsure about how to go about giving employee feedback and how beneficial it can be, then stick around.

Why Should You Give Employee Feedback?

While it’s true that the word feedback can instill anxiety in some individuals, 40% of employees who receive praise and constructive criticism say they put more energy and enthusiasm into their work.

Unfortunately, another study showed that only 26% of employees strongly agree that feedback helps them do better work. Why? Because employee feedback is often given in a way that is general or impersonal. In another poll, only 20% of U.S. staffers stated that they had a conversation with their manager regarding their goals and performance in the last six months.

Your staff needs to hear from you, their peers, and other reliable sources to better understand their expectations and how they can continue to improve.

Types Of Employee Feedback

Before you give any actionable feedback, it’s essential to understand the various types of feedback. So here’s a non-exhaustive list to help you understand the different kinds of feedback you might give out.

Praise Vs. Constructive Criticism

Not all feedback is negative. Unfortunately, it’s so easy to give out criticism (constructive or not). It can make employees feel underappreciated when they don’t get the proper amount of positive feedback from managers and peers.

Praise or positive feedback can help you reinforce positive behaviors and habits from your employees. You should be giving out praise often, even on small things. You don’t want staff members to go by feeling like they don’t matter to you. Lack of recognition has been fueling the exit of employees during The Great Resignation.

Constructive criticism is also essential to business success. Employees need to know where they may have room for improvement so they can grow professionally. Criticism needs to come from a good place to be taken well, though. Keep reading to get a sense of how to make this feedback actionable.

Private Vs. Public Feedback

Employee feedback can be a difficult conversation to have. While it’s true that you can give feedback to workers in a public setting, it’s a better idea to provide any form of criticism in a private setting. Employees are more likely to be receptive and take ownership of their performance if they receive criticism privately.

Public feedback is more acceptable when it’s about a group or an entire department, where nobody is singled out. You can also share positive feedback publicly.

Peer-To-Peer Feedback

Another instance where public feedback is more appreciated is when it’s coming from a peer. A study by Gartner shows that high-quality peer feedback can boost employee performance by as much as 14%.

Peer feedback can come in many forms, including direct conversations, anonymous peer surveys, and public peer-to-peer recognition platforms.

Encourage peers to share feedback and float this feedback to managers and other executive staff. Employees spend a lot of time working with each other, and they often have a great pulse on where their peers shine. Peer feedback can help you uncover future company leaders that you didn’t know existed.

Manager-To-Direct Report Feedback

If a worker reports directly to a specific manager, they are known as direct reports. When giving feedback to direct reports, it’s essential to make sure that you deliver your feedback in an easy-to-understand and actionable way.

If you are new to managing, you might want to teach your direct reports how to manage up so they can share what they need from you. Overall, managers should be striving to give timely feedback to all their staff members.

Formal Vs. Informal Feedback

When it comes to providing feedback to your personnel, people can use two different styles. Formal feedback is typically built around more complex experiences, and they normally only happen once or twice a year, like:

Informal feedback is when feedback is given during a casual conversation or in a non-formal, one-on-one setting.

In most cases, managers are likely to give informal feedback as the first warning regarding most issues. However, should the employee not take the feedback seriously, it will likely result in more formal feedback in a performance review or other official meeting/report.

Therefore, you must make your informal feedback as actionable as possible. That way, your hires understand that your informal feedback will help them in the long run and is more than just a helpful suggestion.


How To Give Actionable Employee Feedback

Employee feedback is essential to improve employee performance and productivity, but it often goes unheeded. That’s why you must make sure that your feedback is actionable. When you do, you’ll have a better chance of your feedback being taken seriously and your workers being able to put it into action.

If you’re an HR professional, you know that giving feedback to employees is a complex process. It’s easy to come off as harsh or insensitive, and it’s even easier to offend. That’s why it’s essential to be careful and thoughtful.

Here are a few tips on how to make sure that your employee feedback is actionable:

1. Give Feedback Promptly

The sooner you give feedback, the sooner your employees can take action. That’s why you need to provide feedback in a timely fashion. For instance, if you notice that an employee isn’t utilizing all resources available to them when completing their projects, you can give them some informal feedback that directs them to the necessary resources they should be using.

If you wait too long to deliver personnel criticism or praise, your employee will have difficulty taking action. Think about it: If the feedback pertains to something that happened too long ago, staffers might find the incident hard to recall. Studies show that 71% of workers prefer immediate input from management and peers, even if it’s negative. So don’t be afraid to give constructive employee feedback as it’s needed.

2. Share Feedback In A Way That Employees Can Understand

Employees need to hear from managers, peers, and direct reports frequently. They need to know what they’re doing well and what they need to improve. You need to share feedback in a way someone care hear you without getting defensive.

Instead of sharing negative feedback in front of peers, save the discussion for a one-on-one meeting. Employees need to feel like you give them feedback to better them, not chastise or berate them. Psychological safety at work is essential, and you can start this process by sharing constructive criticism privately.

3. Work With Examples, Not Generalities

When giving employee feedback, give detailed examples. That way, your employees know exactly what you’re talking about. Beating around the bush with generalities not only wastes both yours and your employee’s time, but it makes it harder for your employee to understand what it is you’re trying to tell them.

Instead of saying, “You need to work on your project management skills,” you can say, “I noticed that your last project not only came in a day late but that there were some inconsistencies with it. I think your next project would benefit from having a more detailed timeline that includes extra revision time to catch any issues.”

Giving your staff members more detailed feedback gives them actionable tips that they can put to good use. In the above example, management has provided their employee with a few tips, including:

  • Create a detailed project timeline.
  • Plan for extra revision time.
  • Make sure revisions are done before turning the project in.

4. Share Feedback From A Place Of Caring/Coaching

Giving employee feedback is seen negatively because it usually comes from criticism – not from a kind or caring place. Many employees feel that feedback is far too focused on past discretion with little to no future-oriented coaching. 

Your workers want to succeed! So you need to be giving them feedback that shows them you care about their success – not just that of the business.

Instead of saying, “You need to be more proactive,” you can say, “I noticed that earlier this week, you didn’t follow up with a client that you had worked with before. I think you need to be more proactive about contacting clients because it’s a great way to build rapport, and it shows them that you’re a reliable resource.” 

By giving feedback to help your employees grow professionally, you set an example of what your people should be doing. When you provide feedback in a caring way, you show your employees that you care about them as people.

Be kind and balanced. Show your staff that you care about their success and that you are there to help them live up to their potential.

5. Ask Employees If They Have Questions

When you give feedback to your employees, you should make sure that they have a chance to answer any questions they may have. You should encourage your employees to ask questions when they receive feedback.

When your employees feel they can have an open conversation with you about their performance, they are more likely to put your feedback into action. That means you should encourage questions such as:

  • What do you think I should improve?
  • What can I do better?
  • Is there anything else that I need to know?
  • Where precisely did I falter on this project? What would you have done?

If your workers aren’t asking questions on their own, prompt them by saying something like, “If I was in your shoes, I might be asking ____. Do you have any questions about this topic or something else? I want to make sure we are on the same page.” Providing examples of questions gives employees a chance to think and consider what they might want to know.

End the question conversation with an invitation for employees to bring up questions later via your company’s internal communications tool or another meeting.


Employee Feedback Tools

There are several tools you can use to handle feedback. We encourage you to find a great 360 review tool and a stellar peer-to-peer feedback tool to start your journey. Performance reviews can easily be completed via Google Drive and uploaded to your employee onboarding software if you need to save money on that type of tool. You can also find platforms to help you handle this kind of feedback at work.

One tool that we’ve loved at WorkBright for peer feedback is Bonusly. This tool has allowed team members to show appreciation for each other through points that refresh each month. Employees can cash out their points for gift cards, charity donations, and much more.

We suggest finding tools that can help your team speed up the feedback process. Try to find tools that integrate with tools your team uses already, like Slack. Test any software you introduce to make sure it’s easy to grasp. Film a quick tutorial (or find tutorials from the company) to let your team know how to use the feedback tools you introduce.

When researching employee feedback tools, think about the following:

  • Will this tool easily be adopted by our workforce?
  • What will employees get from using this tool?
  • How much does the maintenance of this tool cost? Can I keep up with that?
  • Is there a simpler way to do what this tool is doing? Does this tool save me time and energy?
  • Would I be paying for features my company won’t use? 

Employee Feedback Is Vital To Business Success

Giving employee feedback needs to be done regularly to ensure that a business is running smoothly. Don’t just advise your people when something goes wrong. Provide feedback to them when they are doing a good job as well. 

When you give feedback, you show your employees that you care about them and want them to do well.