A workplace becomes people-centric when trustworthy leaders ask the all-important question: “How does it feel to walk in someone else’s shoes?”

As an employee stepping into an annual performance review, are you anxious or excited? As a manager reporting concerns to leadership, what do you hope to accomplish after the conversation? As an executive, are you setting a positive example of trust and transparency?

If you’ve ever held a role where constructive feedback was lacking (or if a manager delivered it downright poorly), you’re probably still trying to shake the awful memories.

Modern managers—take heart. It’s possible to seek and deliver helpful employee feedback without giving anyone bad vibes. Let’s explore how to provide feedback, why you should consider options beyond traditional surveys, and how to leverage employee sentiment software for maximum impact. 

What kind of feedback are we talking about?

Employee feedback in the workplace is always a two-way conversation between the worker and employer. It’s an open invitation to discuss job performance, potential struggles, concerns, and career development. 

The employee feedback street operates in both directions, giving both parties an equal chance to share and respond honestly.

That’s an important distinction. Feedback isn’t a report card in school. Instead, it’s an investment in the future growth of an employee and in the projected outcomes of a company.

Hotjar, an analytics software company the prides itself on transparent working conditions for employees, has this to say about employee feedback processes:

Employee feedback is any information exchanged by employees (formally or informally) regarding their performance, skills, or ability to work within a team. Both supervisors and peers may deliver feedback, and when done tactfully, the process can create a stronger, more harmonious workplace.

Central to this process is the act of exchanging information in very specific ways—fairly, honestly, and with integrity. 

Why is employee feedback important?

Collecting and providing employee feedback are two separate processes, but they’re both critical to the longevity of any stable corporation. 

Not only does feedback improve performance for individual workers, but it also fosters better communication and motivation among teams and departments.

Let’s be frank—employees shouldn’t feel scared to give or receive feedback, and if there’s fear or intimidation, it’s time for a cultural overhaul. An employee engagement software like Erudit monitors the impact of feedback on team dynamics and morale, so that people managers don’t have to wonder about the implications.

The benefits of learning the art of good feedback are hard to ignore, and there’s plenty of real-life evidence to back it up. 

Better on-the-job performance

Most employees, from intro-level workers to upper managers, need constructive information about how their performance affects the team as a whole. Receiving an objective perspective from a manager or leader allows workers to see how their work influences other people and projects. 

On the flip side, employees need to feel safe enough to express to leaders how the environment itself shapes their daily work ethic. This is a good intervention strategy that helps managers tackle performance issues well before an end-of-year review, when situations may already be out of control.

Plus, regular and consistent feedback allows employees to visualize performance and plan for long-term career growth. This scenario is much better than waiting until employees are under intense stress or pressure and feel the need to make a drastic change.

Healthier emotional motivation

Greater communication improves emotional health and mental well-being. That’s as true in relationships as it is in the workplace. And when employees have confirmation of a job well done—or opportunities to share their own thoughts and skills—there’s a greater potential for better outcomes.

Executive coach Alex Wisch says this about the give-and-take of feedback:

Employees in a company need to feel comfortable sharing ideas and giving feedback to management. This strategy greatly increases innovation and improves processes. In addition, it gives all employees a voice, a feeling of importance, and the opportunity to feel appreciation. Lower level workers can feel a higher level of purpose in a company and be promoted on what would otherwise be untapped potential.”

Thriving corporate and team cultures

Workplaces that prioritize healthy feedback cycles are often the same ones that are transparent, relational, and purposeful. These environments are also conversational, encouraging continuous opportunities for employees and managers to exchange thoughts and ideas out loud. 

Recent data from the MIT Sloan Management review shows that employees are 10.4 times more likely to quit as a direct result of toxic workplaces. Replacing negativity with purposeful, fair feedback processes keeps employees and boosts employee retention.  

Even if the delivery methods are different, “open door” opportunities are just as important in physical offices as they are in remote or hybrid work settings. People-first managers create bridges, regardless of how many hours people actually spend in the office.

How to give employee feedback

Offering (and receiving) regular feedback doesn’t come naturally to everyone, including even the best people managers. 

It’s natural to avoid awkward conversations, especially if they involve criticisms, tough advice, or difficult plans for professional growth. But growing our ability to both deliver and receive feedback is essential if we want to establish emotionally healthy work environments. Not to mention, a willingness to openly discuss concerns (without anger or judgment) tends to improve mental health overall.

There’s plenty of advice out there on how to give effective employee feedback, focusing on ways to be constructive and actionable. But as leaders, we need to carefully consider aspects like timing, specificity, and tangible behaviors—rather than making our concerns feel like a personal blow.

Erudit Pro Tip: If you need extra help understanding which feedback techniques are working well (and which ones miss the mark), Erudit delivers real-time employee sentiment data using scientific behavioral analysis. Stop replaying those tricky conversations in your mind, and actually help people experience better working relationships.

Respect employee privacy and confidentiality

Let’s start with one of the most obvious requirements for feedback delivery—ensure that it’s private and respectful. No one enjoys airing their laundry in public, and that’s especially true when it comes to performance reviews, work concerns, and career feedback.

If and when employees receive great news about a promotion or job well done, let them be the ones to share it. Have boundaries in place if and when certain announcements need to come directly from human resources (HR) personnel.

Likewise, if employees want to share feedback with an employer, welcome them to do so in confidentiality and full trust. This is easier to do in remote scenarios with direct private messaging, but in physical offices, set aside time and space to host one-on-one discussions.

Make it actionable and practical

Whether it’s during scheduled performance reviews or spontaneous conversations, feedback is most relevant when it’s actionable and realistic. Instead of telling an employee that they need to work on their delivery times, it’s better to offer something detailed like: 

“Your project delivery times have been hovering around two months, but we are hoping to turn around assignments in six weeks. Are there any challenges you’re experiencing that could be slowing things down? How can we better support you?”

Right away, you’ll notice that this type of feedback is different from a general complaint. Instead of giving vague scenarios, it includes:

  • Specific details about the employee’s current performance standards
  • An actionable goal to work towards for improvement
  • A measurable benchmark that the employee can use to measure their growth
  • Empathy and understanding, with an offer to help or support

From an employee standpoint, this feedback resonates in a personal but helpful way, which is much better than feeling cornered without any sense of direction.

Avoid lectures and unsolicited performance advice

In a helpful and supportive culture, employees probably want to grow and improve. Plus, many employees crave actual engagement, but they might miss opportunities for it. Up to 69% of employees say they’d actually work harder if their managers appreciated them and fostered a sense of on-the-job engagement.

What this doesn’t look like? Passive-aggressive comments and unsolicited advice. 

If employees are being diligent in their work and aiming for peak performance, build them up with thoughtful encouragement and support. When they request help, provide meaningful feedback and recommendations that solve real problems.

Avoid public criticisms or ill-timed quips disguised as professional advice. Employees rarely appreciate these engagements, especially in front of their peers and colleagues. 

Approach feedback scenarios with empathy

Harvard Business Review points out that even solid leaders struggle to deliver tough feedback, and up to 44% of managers experience stress or difficulty when doing so. Fortunately, providing feedback isn’t about putting employees on the chopping block.

Empathy is a key ingredient in delivering employee feedback experiences that are mentally and professionally uplifting. If you struggle to know what this looks like in practice, consider the following elements of an empathetic feedback approach:

  • Practice and prepare your delivery method ahead of time (including what you’ll say and how you should say it).
  • Give employees the time and space they need to process the communication.
  • Make it a two-way channel, opening the door for return comments and follow-up questions.
  • Develop a check-in plan for after the conversation, allowing space for important actions or changes to happen as needed.

Once these conversations are over, it might be tough to measure the implications. That’s where AI-powered communication tools like Erudit factor in. You can measure employee sentiment in real time to better understand how employees feel before, during, and after tough conversations—and see how these moments change employees’ perception of metrics like burnout and team engagement.

What is the employee feedback loop

The employee feedback loop happens when an organization produces a continuous cycle or flow of improvement between employees, managers, and executives. This involves feedback from management, willingness of employees to improve, and safety in terms of job security and career progression. 

Any healthy feedback loop involves continual listening, interpretation, proactive response, and monitoring. It’s a never-ending process that gives every single person a voice, ensuring that employee sentiments always have a rightful place. In the best examples, employees don’t need to be stakeholders in a boardroom in order to make a positive difference or to have an influence on working conditions.

Erudit Pro Tip: With Erudit, people leaders can more easily facilitate this loop through continuous tracking and measurement of real-time behavioral responses. Leaders no longer have to trudge through rigorous attempts at boosting employee engagement. The data is readily available—making it easier than ever to tell the story of how employees genuinely feel. 

Why an employee feedback survey isn’t the only option

Progressive people managers think about employee feedback as an active, give-and-take continuum. Because feedback stems from real human interactions, it’s never truly static, and it always comes with small but meaningful nuances.

Relying solely on employee feedback surveys is no longer the best (or only) option out there. Although surveys are easy to create and send, they lack personalization when you’re asking tough questions. They can also delay feedback delivery depending on how long it takes to view and process internal results.

The alternative approach? Intuitive workplace analytics. With AI-powered workplace insights from Erudit, keep a real-time pulse on workplace dynamics while respecting employee privacy and confidentiality. Plus, it’s easy to track engagement, turnover risk, and burnout risk in one handy dashboard—without ever having to ask employees to rate their experiences on a Lichert scale (no really, we promise). 

Grow with straightforward, reliable feedback

Employee feedback plays a valuable role in improving the employee experience. Constructive insights give workers playbooks for improving personal performance and reaching their own milestones. Similarly, trustworthy feedback loops also give employers opportunities to change course based on honest conversations.

You can’t create healthy, stable work environments when you only rely on guesswork and passing comments. At Erudit, we know that it’s possible to work and do better. 

Erudit - AI-powered people software supports businesses in tracking, managing, and enhancing employee feedback so that it’s a positive experience overall. Work through those tough conversations and grow together.

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