Study after study has shown that effective feedback methods are one of the key prerequisites for strong performance. Almost every organization wants its employees to perform well. So it makes sense to put procedures in place that encourage regular constructive feedback.
Having the knowledge of effective feedback methods is also a part of strategic human resource management as it helps the organization plan its long-term objectives.
But many organizations promote employees to managerial positions based on their performance in a previous role which means many managers need additional training to support best their direct reports, including how to offer feedback.
As an HR professional, your job touches every part of the organization. So you’re in a unique position to help coach managers regarding effective feedback methods.
So, in this blog post, we’ll take a close look at how to coach managers to give effective feedback. We’ll cover different types of effective feedback methods, and give you actionable strategies to start coaching managers right away.
By the end, you’ll have a step-by-step plan to create a feedback coaching program that will benefit your organization at all levels.
Why does giving feedback matter and why it is so hard to learn effective feedback methods?
How to teach effective feedback strategies to managers?
How to follow up and track success?
Let’s get started.
Why Does Giving Feedback Matter and Why It Is So Hard?
Constructive feedback strategies are one of the most powerful tools managers can use to guide their direct reports. Since managers see their teams from a higher level, they have the insight to coach individual contributors in ways that move the whole team forward.
Without this feedback, direct reports would have no incentives to change ineffective behavior since they often don’t even know there’s a problem.
But many managers struggle with providing this feedback, most probably due to a lack of knowledge about effective feedback methods. Performance reviews are often either too vague, too harsh, or too infrequent to do much good. When managers notice a problem, it can be difficult to bring it up. After all, even constructive criticism often calls for a difficult or uncomfortable conversation
The desire to be liked by one’s employees can discourage managers from having those conversations and risk employee dissatisfaction. Despite these challenges, there are several reasons giving effective feedback is worth the trouble.
Feedback is in the team members’ best interest. Managers’ job is to support and guide their team, so they’re responsible for helping that team grow and improve.
Effective feedback methods help avoid technical debt. Technical debt is a term originally used among software companies to describe what happens when a team prioritizes fast delivery over clean and efficient code.
While the immediate result is a complete project, sooner the code is more subject to bugs and more problems emerge later that could take a longer time to fix.
The same is true for feedback. While it’s easier and faster for managers to gloss over concerns with their employees until they become bigger problems. In the long run, it’s cheaper in hours, resources, and energy to address issues right away.
Feedback does help managers be liked and appreciated. While you might think giving critical feedback means employees will produce more bugs like their boss, consider the big picture.
Helpful feedback now might ruffle the occasional feather, but for example, in three years a team member who has excelled and been promoted after responding to feedback will likely be more grateful than one who feels stuck in a position and doesn’t know why.
So while managers coach their employees, HR can help coach the managers regarding effective feedback methods. As an HR professional, you can point to your own experience to show managers what’s wrong or what needs to be improved. That takes courage, but it’s the number one area where HR can help with coaching.
3 Steps To Teach Effective Feedback Methods to Managers
Of course, it’s not enough to just send an email announcement that managers should start giving feedback. They’ll need to be introduced to concepts of effective feedback methods and have an opportunity to practice them.
We recommend three steps in this process.
- Creating a Manager Handbook
- Designing a Reading List
- Planning Regular Practice Time
The Manager Handbook
The first way to introduce effective feedback methods to managers is through a manager handbook specifically tailored to team members in leadership roles. Manager handbooks often include tutorials for interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and terminating employees, templates to communicate key information, and best practices for all sorts of common management scenarios.
These guides not only establish a standardized approach to management, but they can also save you and your organization so much time and trouble, adding a lot of value to your role in HR.
Once you have a manager handbook to work with, it’s time to decide what to include in it with regard to giving feedback.
Here are three tips that serve as a good starting point.
First up, keep feedback direct.
Managers should be prepared to address any employee issues head-on, rather than skirting around them or offering vague criticisms. This is also true of positive feedback.
In general, you’re doing well so far comment, while nice to hear is not as helpful as the good work identifying the prospect’s needs on your sales call yesterday.
Next, Set Clear Expectations.
After giving direct feedback, managers should set expectations on the next steps so employees know how to improve.
If a team member is consistently late on weekly deadlines, it may help to set smaller daily deadlines so the team member knows if they’re running behind before Friday afternoon.
Finally, Balance Courage and Consideration
Throughout the feedback process, managers should work to be both courageous and considerate.
It takes courage to bring up uncomfortable topics like performance problems. But it’s just as important to address the issue considerately, offering information and seeking to understand the cause of the problem before jumping to anger or putting an employee down.
While effective feedback can’t fully be summarized in three steps, these steps would lay strong foundation managers can continue to build on as they gain experience as leaders and learn effective feedback methods in a better way.
Secondly, when a team member becomes a manager, they must take on some required reading to help acclimate them to their new leadership role.
For example, all new managers must read a book called coaching for improved work performance, which includes tons of practical tips for coaching employees at all levels.
This helps set the stage for what’s expected of managers and also helps establish consistency throughout their team.
There are dozens of great books out there that can help learn various effective feedback methods and get your managers on the same page.
Choose works that best reflect your organization’s values and goals. As important as reading is, it’s also crucial to give managers an opportunity to practice what they have learned through the third step.
Regular Training Time
It is recommended that you gather your entire management team to train. They are managers who shared tips, tricks, and other best practices regarding a variety of topics including giving feedback.
One way to use this time is to roleplay certain scenarios with managers, especially if they’re struggling with certain issues.
For example, you can conduct a roleplay where a problem employee brings down the rest of the team. The managers can act as themselves, and HR can act as a dissatisfied team member. For the role plays, the manager prepares feedback in advance and “posts it” to you just as they would the team member in advance of a 1:1 meeting.
You can then talk through the feedback in person to practice delivering effective, immediate, and straightforward feedback that balances courage with consideration.
How To Follow Up and Track Success
As management consultant Peter Drucker famously said, “what gets measured gets managed.” And that’s why it’s important to follow up and keep track of how a manager’s constructive feedback strategies are working. The easiest way to do this is through monitoring managers’ 1:1 meetings with their direct reports.
Managers should conduct weekly 1:1 meetings with their direct report employees. During these meetings, two team members discuss everything from performance to current projects and development.
Of course, if HR had to send in all these meetings there wouldn’t be enough hours in the week. Not to mention, the awkwardness of having a silent third person taking notes in the corner of what was supposed to be a one-on-one conversation.
That’s why one-on-one documentation is so important. If direct reports send their managers an agenda before each meeting and a summary afterward, HR can review this documentation when necessary without intruding on the meeting.
If you use an all-in-one HRIS, all this documentation can be housed in the performance management feature or similar features.
When a manager gives feedback to their team member, it will be tracked in a meeting summary. With the added advantage that the manager can review the summary to make sure there was no miscommunication.
One-on-ones and their documentation ensure organizational accountability. Put coaching at the forefront of the manager-direct report relationship and give HR an avenue to check in and guide the feedback if necessary.
As you review the reports from one-on-ones across your organization, you’ll likely notice some patterns and have feedback of your own to provide.
Consider holding HR and managing your check-ins a few times a year either individually or as a group. To guard your company culture, share ideas, and serve as a quality assurance measure.
Finally, keep the manager manual updated. Let’s say that during a training session or manager check-in, you identified a great new tactic that managers should use in their 1:1 meetings, like starting each meeting with a recap of the previous conversation. As HR, you should codify this best practice in the manager manual.
That way, every new manager can see the guidance when they join your organization, and current managers can review it as a refresher.
So, in this article, we covered everything you need to know about coaching managers to give great feedback. Starting the moment they begin managing teams. From reading assignments to role play you now have all the tools, you need to build a robust feedback program at your organization.
The time you put in to make your managers learn effective feedback methods now will pay off before you know it. An improved performance, lower turnover, and better running teams
As always remember that your role is as strategic as you make it.