Why Giving Effective Feedback Makes a Big Difference

We all know that giving effective feedback is the key to getting your staff to consistently perform at a high level, but how many managers actually do this on a regular basis? As well as lifting performance there are a number of other benefits such as:

Staff know where they stand

By following up and providing feedback on a regular basis, staff know where they stand; they clearly know what is required to perform at the required level. If they slip below the required level, they know they will receive feedback so there is a consequence for poor performance.

My belief is that all motivated staff want to know where they stand, how they are doing, where they can improve, and they want this feedback on a regular and consistent basis.

Poor performers are exposed

One of the biggest frustrations to high-performing staff is when poor performers are not dealt with. This causes frustration because the high performers see the poor performer’s behaviours and attitude are not being dealt with, that they are being allowed to get away with it.

High performers can also experience a double whammy; they see poor performers getting away with it and they have to pick up the slack. This is deeply demoralising and has the high performers start to ask themselves “what’s the point?” They too then start to slacken off, and overall productivity falls.

Good quality, consistent feedback prevents this vicious cycle. Poor performers are dealt with so their behaviour and attitude doesn’t spread. High performers remain positive and motivated as they see things are dealt with. Poor performers know where they stand and also know that they are dealt with fairly if their performance doesn’t meet expectations.

It’s required by law

Firing a staff member can be difficult and time-consuming. It’s also a task most owners/managers want to avoid because of the fear of confrontation and the legal ramifications in getting it wrong.

While owners/managers can chafe under the number of steps they have to take in order to fire a staff member, it’s important they follow the process so the staff member understands clearly where they need to improve and gets a chance to do so. The law generally requires owners/managers to go through a number of steps, starting with verbal warnings and finishing with written warnings.

This is exactly what coaching and giving quality feedback is all about. In fact, the coaching process kicks in immediately where there is an issue and identifies the area the staff member needs to work on.

I believe that coaching will reduce the number of poor performing staff as the issue is dealt with immediately. It will also lead to a reduced number of staff going through the warning process for the same reason.

In my experience, most poor performers who are receiving regular feedback to improve their performance do one of two things: they either improve (which is the result you want), or they leave. So to avoid the challenge of going through the disciplinary process, owners/managers need to spend more time coaching in the first instance, a process that is easier to do and has a better outcome.

Feedback lifts overall performance

Most staff want to do a good job; one of the primary reasons they don’t is an absence of feedback. If they are doing well, no-one acknowledges it; if they aren’t doing well, nothing happens either (unless there is a customer complaint or mystery shopper).

To ensure your team is motivated and heading in the right direction, regular feedback is required. Owners/managers need to let their individual staff members know how they are going – whether good or bad.

If this is done consistently and regularly, overall performance will increase.

A proven model

The need to evaluate first

The only way to provide effective feedback is to base your feedback on observed behaviours. By this I mean owners/managers have to be watching how their staff members are performing in their daily duties. This is the skill of evaluating: ie, watching and observing.

In order to give effective feedback owners/managers have to identify the behaviours they are going to evaluate. There is no point in asking the staff member how they performed; often they don’t know or will tell you the “expected” thing.

Evaluating is the skill that mystery shoppers use when they go into stores. The challenge with mystery shopping is it is not done often enough so owners /managers must be constantly evaluating their staff to provide effective feedback on a regular basis.

What sort of feedback do I give?

We keep this process simple. We recommend two feedback models.

The first and easiest is giving positive feedback. Most staff are very responsive to positive feedback and, if asked, would want more positive feedback about how they are doing. If you have evaluated the staff member’s performance and found they are performing more of the preferred behaviours than not, we simply recommend picking one or two areas for which to acknowledge them.

Now this may come as a shock to a lot of staff who are only used to receiving negative feedback. I’m sure they will look at you strangely, but the result will be a continuation of what they have done right.

If there are one or more areas where they are not performing as you want, the type of feedback we recommend is improvement feedback. As the name suggests, it’s about identifying the area in which the staff member needs to improve. The word improvement is not negative and implies the staff member is performing at a certain level which only needs to be improved. We recommend that feedback is provided on one behaviour at a time to avoid confusion.

Feedback and follow up

The feedback models are premised on the need to follow up with staff once training is completed. There is no use knowing how to give great feedback if you don’t use it.

Following up and giving your team regular feedback against the standards that are set in the business is the key to improving service and sales – and staying ahead of the competition.

Roger SimpsonRoger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Retail Solution” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service and selling skills.