Skip to content

The Leader’s Guide to Employee Feedback

One Minute Takeaway

  • Coaches get better results than old school “managers”
  • Feedback affects every aspect of an employee’s work
  • Remote work doesn’t change the fundamentals, but there are some watch-outs

Employees love feedback. They want more of it and they want it to be more meaningful. This is great news for leaders. But you can only take advantage of employees’ desire to develop if you let go of a “manager mindset” and start thinking of yourself as a coach.

A leader is around to help people help reach their potential. Make it a priority to create an environment where learning is at the heart of every interaction. Feedback isn’t an annual event—it’s a continuous conversation. The better your feedback, the faster your employees will develop.

Key Employee Feedback Principles

Let’s start with the fundamentals. How can leaders give better feedback?

  • The right feedback at the right time
    Sometimes when is more important than what. A hint: immediately after a presentation might not be the best time to give “constructive criticism”. People need time to process. Takes notes, and give feedback when the time is right for your employee.

  • Delegate ownership to facilitate learning
    People grow by taking on responsibility. Managers need to have faith that even though an employee may not be totally ready, the chances of growth are greater than the risks of failure. Challenging an employee can be better than any feedback you can give.

  • Be a Motivator
    Coaching isn’t all about motivation—but it’s an important part. This doesn’t mean you should be shouting on the sidelines. But remember, employees have to believe that development is worthwhile. If an employee isn’t inspired by the challenge you set, you’ll face an uphill battle.
  • Teach employees how to solve problems
    It’s a cliché, but it makes an important point: give someone a fish, solve they’ll eat for a day. Teach them to fish, they’ll eat for the rest of their lives. As a manager, it’s often tempting to do an employee’s job for them. It takes patience to let an employee learn themselves. When it comes to feedback, asking the right questions can more helpful than having all the answers.

  • Feedback doesn’t always need to be scheduled
    If you share a workplace with your employees, you have a head start. Everyday interactions provide rich real-time feedback opportunities, in addition to scheduled feedback sessions.

How to Provide Effective Employee Feedback

Time is valuable. Make the most of your employee feedback sessions by following these best practices:

  • Start with a question
    Open up with a question such as “How do you think you are doing on this task?” It provides context to start with and makes the person feel included in the conversation. Feedback should be a conversation, not a one-way task-list.
  • Bring an objective perspective
    Be careful to separate emotions from your feedback. Feedback is for helping individuals improve. It is not an outlet to rant.
  • Be specific with your feedback
    Each feedback session should be about a focused topic. Don’t bring in extra people if it’s unnecessary. Feedback should be between two individuals, about a particular aspect or action item.
  • Go in with realistic expectations
    Everyone is at different position in their career. Be mindful to set expectations based on previous employee feedback sessions. Don’t expect everyone to be at the same level, at the same time. Feedback is about continuous growth, so be empathetic. Change takes time.
  • Build a transparent culture with open communication
    Leading by example also means being open to help, and receive feedback at any time. Continuity is key.
  • Providing effective peer-to-peer feedback
    You don’t have to do it all yourself. Peer-to-peer feedback helps both parties develop, build bonds and exchange ideas.

Remote Employee Feedback

The pandemic meant that many organizations joined the remote-work revolution a lot faster than they ever planned. The reality is, it’s been a challenge. Leaders have realized that top performers in the workplace can easily become isolated and disengaged when working from home.

It’s not true for everyone—there are many introverts who thrive working remotely. What’s certain, though, is that effective remote leadership requires new thinking about feedback. Here’s where to start:

  • Get the tech you need
    When it comes to remote technology, it pays to go with the more reliable option. Dodgy Wi-Fi can kill engagement in seconds. Meetings don’t have to be face-to-face, but if one of you is heavily pixelated you might as well give up. Non-verbal cues and body language are more important than many imagine, even on video calls.
  • Keep collaborating
    Working in teams remotely can be a hassle, but don’t take the easy option. Connection takes effort, and it may not be as organic as in person, but teamwork and cross-functional connection drives business success and employee engagement. 

  • Double down on 1:1s
    Frequent individual meetings between manager and employee are at the heart of the remote work experience. In the office, you know you’ll see each other. Remotely, you can’t leave it to chance—put it down in the calendar. Don’t restrict the topics of conversation: if something’s bothering them outside of work, let them explain.

  • Pay attention
    The same rules of politeness apply remotely as they do in-person. Video calls aren’t just an excuse to check your emails—an employee might not mention it, but they can tell. When you commit time, you should also commit concentration.

How Paycor Helps

Paycor builds HR solutions for leaders. With Paycor, you can modernize every aspect of people management, from the way you recruit, onboard and develop your team, to the way you pay and retain them. See how Paycor can help the leaders of your organization solve the problems of today and tomorrow.