Feedback does matter

A lot has been said about the importance of feedback. Unfortunately, as it usually happens in life - easier said than done. Klaudia Mazur - Comarch HR Business Partner, will tell us today how to give feedback effectively.

Feedback is an inseparable part of our everyday life. We obtain it not only at work but also in non-professional situations. Yet, it is the work-related feedback that matters the most. Well-delivered feedback, even a negative one, can work wonders with the employee’s motivation. It usually doesn’t take more than a few basic steps for both parties to feel good about the delivered feedback. It is crucial to approach each worker individually as personal factors play a very important role. Keep reading to find out what Klaudia Mazur’s experience with feedback has been. 

Let’s start by clarifying one question. How important is feedback in creating the employer-employee relation? 

When I first started investigating feedback, I stumbled upon Steve Armstrong’s words: “If there is no feedback, you can’t expect anything good”. Just like him, I am deeply convinced that this tool is crucial for relationship building. As an HR Partner, my daily mantra is that communication is the base for all actions, not only the work-related ones. 

Well-given feedback helps eliminate mistakes, celebrate success, improve motivation, and thus leads to the employee’s development and increases his or her self-conscience. Taking care of the employee-employer or employee-employee communication allows us to build mutual trust and commitment and helps us identify better with the assigned duties.  

Communication is the base, undoubtedly, but sometimes we simply don’t have enough time to pass on important information. Should feedback be delivered more frequently in a situation like this? How often, you think, should such conversations take place? 

I think that the best answer to this question is “it depends.” Several factors influence feedback frequency. First, we need to consider the employee’s expectations in this regard. Some people find it hard to keep motivated if they obtain no feedback about whether or not they are performing well. On the other hand, some prefer to be left alone until the task is finished and only discuss the final results. 

When to give feedback also depends on the current situation. If the project supervisor sees obvious mistakes that need to be corrected immediately, they should provide their feedback ASAP without worrying how long it has been since the previous one. 

I always encourage superiors not to wait too long with praising the employees that deserve it. As you can see, feedback frequency should be adjusted to its recipient as well as to the situation. If there is something to talk about - let’s talk. 

So, a lot depends on the situation and who the feedback is delivered to. On the other hand, with a quick internet search, you can quickly come up with many articles about HOW feedback should be given. Is it even possible to prepare a general set of rules for that? Do you, as an HR Partner, have any tips like that?

I always try to talk a lot about communication and feedback both with managers and employees. They don’t necessarily have to be a formal presentation filled with theory. This issue is also often discussed in everyday conversations we hold about current situations.

It sometimes happens that the pre-prepared checklists don’t apply to a given situation. We need to think about what we actually want to communicate and how this message can be received. Communication is not as simple as it might seem, which is why it is always a good idea to try to improve your skills in that field. In my case, when sharing my knowledge, I also learn a lot. 

You’ve mentioned that when giving feedback, a lot depends on the situation. How does the time you’ve been in a company influence feedback delivery? What does it look like in the case of a junior employee, and how does it differ from a senior employee?

From the point of view of the person who gives feedback, the time you’ve been in a company does matter. The longer you’ve worked with someone, the better you know how well they take criticism and praise. The easier it is going to be to adjust the content and the tone of the message. Additionally, as your employees grow more experienced, they should be given more independence to analyze their work. When dealing with a senior employee, it is a good idea to ask them what they think they did well and what needs to be improved. A person who is just starting their career in your company might, on the other hand, find it difficult to evaluate their own work and will need your guidance. 

Feedback isn’t always positive, which makes it quite stressful for both parties. What to do when you need to deliver a negative performance evaluation? How not to discourage the employee with your feedback?

Let me start by saying that you should prepare for feedback, whether you give it or receive it. It is also important to keep in mind that it is not the person who is getting evaluated; it is their performance. Let’s suppose I have made a mistake in my project. When my boss speaks about them with specifics, I will find out what to correct and what to avoid in the future. I’ll quickly get to it instead of thinking, “ oh, I’m so useless, I can’t do this work, and I never do anything right.

Pendelton model is an interesting way of delivering feedback. According to it, the recipient indicates the areas that may be improved, and then the feedbacker gives his or her opinion. The plan of action is drafted together. The advantage of this model is that it enables you to move away from your emotions and focus on the corrective action. 

You work in the IT industry. Is there anything here that needs to be taken into consideration?

To be frank, I am not a big fan of categorizing employees by the industry. Of course, there are specific aspects to each sector that one needs to consider. Someone who has no idea about programming will not be able to provide feedback about, let’s say, code cleanliness. And someone who doesn’t have a clue about baking will not be able to offer feedback about the ingredients you use to make bread. 

There is no rule that says a programmer should be given feedback once a week, by email, and an accountant - once a month, during a specially planned meeting. What you should care about is the individual needs of your employees regarding your opinion about their work. As I’ve said, some people expect frequent feedback, and others don’t. Some like it to be delivered more formally; others prefer informality. That is why it is important, when starting to cooperate with a new person, to agree on how often and how you will communicate with them. 

To finish with, I’d like to ask about what should be included in constructive feedback.  

Facts. The person who is receiving our feedback should know exactly what we are talking about. It is crucial to discuss specific tasks and how well they were performed. When all you say is “well done” at the end of the working day, it will surely be perceived as something nice, but won’t bring anything useful. 

What to talk about, then? Effects. Summarize what was planned and what was achieved, both in individual tasks and final projects. Point out what was done well and what needs improvement. Another essential thing about feedback that is often neglected is to give the recipient a chance to comment. Another good idea is to finish by elaborating a joint plan of action. 

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