The Biggest Secret to Employee Engagement is Consistent Feedback.

Employee Engagement starts with consistent feedback

Originally Posted November 19, 2019; Updated April 13, 2021

Do you dread giving reviews? Do you even have a system in place to review employees? I bet your employee dreads it just as much as you. Giving and receiving reviews can be incredibly stressful for an entire studio; however, it is even more stressful for the employee if they don’t know how they are performing. Giving reviews is a tense process, yet not giving it also leads to tension. What to do?

If you hate giving reviews, you must rethink your process or lack thereof. One thing is certain: by not providing feedback to your employees, you are hurting your relationship with your employees and, ultimately, your business. It is that simple. Just because your employee doesn’t ask for feedback does not indicate they don’t need it.

Early in my career, I had this fantastic manager. She was the third manager in less than a year and a half at my first “real” job after college. My first manager told me I was wearing my dresses too baggy – I was pregnant. I wish I was kidding. The second manager threatened me that if my water broke (still pregnant) in his office, he would fire me. I am still not kidding. By the time my third manager, Stephanie came along, you could just imagine how broken I felt.

As I sat down in her office for my first review with her, she asked me a question. “How do you feel you are doing? She followed up with, “tell me what you feel is going well.” After I went on for a while, she asked, “what do you think you can improve on?” I talked some more. Stephanie piped in with pointers and suggestions. She gave great feedback.

By the time we got to the formal review part, we had covered all the information. We had a simple conversation between two people who respected one another. It was by far the most positive experience I had had at this point in my career.

Guess what? I was determined to work harder the following year than I had previously. Not that I wasn’t working hard, but it pushed me to do even more. Guess what happened the following year, the same review style. Stephanie was an amazing manager. I asked her once how she learned to be a good manager? She laughed and said she had had many terrible managers, so she did the opposite. I could relate.

Although many large firms are moving away from the traditional annual review, many continue this antiquated process. Employees need feedback, but they need it in a way that suits each individual.

Let me put this another way. If your child hits another child on the playground, would you wait until the end of the year to correct the behavior? Of course not. You would provide corrective feedback immediately. It is the same with positive feedback. If you see your child using polite manners, you reward them with a positive affirmation.

I want you to consider setting up a process that provides real-time feedback consistently throughout the year. I have some great tips that will help you, but first, let’s talk about why setting up a process is good for your business.

5 Reasons Real-time Feedback is Critical to your Business Success

  1. Develops Stronger Relationships – relationships with employees can be a tricky thing. When we are open and honest, the relationship will grow stronger. As a relationship develops, giving and receiving feedback will be more natural. Think about how you receive information from someone you barely know versus your closest friend. What is being said can be identical words, but the truth is you will receive the information with a more open mind when it is said by a friend. That is not to say you need to be buddy-buddy with your staff. It means by developing stronger professional relationships, you will improve how your employees perform each day.
  2. Feedback Shows Loyalty – These days, we often miss the loyalty employees have to a company. Years ago, employees would work at a company for an entire career, but things have changed. The problem was companies weren’t loyal to the employees. Fast forward, employees now have more opportunities than any other time in our industry to move elsewhere. When there is a workforce shortage, it is increasingly important to keep your employees. One big way of building loyalty is by showing loyalty. You can demonstrate loyalty by taking the time to provide feedback. Providing ongoing feedback, both positive and negative, and giving the employees opportunities to expand their knowledge shows that you care about them professionally.  Essentially, you are telling the employee, “I care about your career” and “I want to help you grow.” It is incredibly hard for an employee to leave a company that has invested time and money to grow her career.
  3. Builds Employee Security – it is a fact that how someone sees themselves and how someone else sees them is totally different. Many employees either don’t recognize their weaknesses or know how to overcome the weak skill, making them feel insecure. Adverse behaviors can result when an employee feels insecure. As a leader, we want to share negative feedback as well as positive. The difference between a bad leader and a good leader is the next sentence after the critical comment. It should start with something like, “I have some ideas that can help you improve in this area. Are you open to hearing these ideas?” Suppose an employee has a weak area and feels insecure, whether in communication, relationships with others, or certain design skills. In that case, it is our responsibility to provide guidance and assistance to help the employee grow. In turn, the employee will become more secure as they learn to know you have their back.
  4. Empowers Learning – by encouraging people to do their best, offering growth opportunities, suggesting training opportunities, you empower your employees to learn. As your employees learn, they tend to bring that knowledge to work and significantly impact your business. Empowering employees to learn beyond their current professional skills should be your top priority as a leader. Approving the employee to attend a continued education lecture isn’t enough. It is essential to evaluate the employee and take an active role in helping the employee find educational opportunities that meet the employees’ needs. Don’t quite know where to start? Then I suggest you start by having a conversation with your employees and ask what interests them.
  5. Timely Feedback Eliminates Surprises – unfortunately, not all employees work out. Sometimes it isn’t a good fit for both parties. By providing feedback along the way, it eliminates surprises. Although a good surprise party might be fun, no one wants to be surprised by a bad review once a year. Twelve months is a long time to hold on to every little problem. In contrast, in that 12 months, the employee, if communicated with, could have improved in a weak area. You would illuminate the horribly awkward situation that both parties feel crappy about after it’s over.

Employees want to do a good job. As their leader, it is your job to help them succeed. In turn, as your employees grow their skills, so does your business. There is a direct correlation between employee growth and business revenue.

Now that we understand why the feedback is so important let’s talk about tips to setting up a process that will help you give timely feedback.

12 Tips for Building a Feedback Process

  1. Get to know your employee(s)
  2. Identify opportunities within the project timeline.
  3. Mix formal and informal feedback opportunities
  4. Make notes and outline what you want to tell them
  5. Share a story from your past
  6. Identify educational opportunities geared to help employees grow
  7. Take the time to listen
  8. Never give feedback when your mad or upset
  9. Write the process down
  10. Make feedback an active part of your day
  11. Set employee expectations
  12. Schedule the time

Feedback can be as simple as stopping by someone’s desk and saying, “great job in that meeting,” or sharing a coffee break. Maybe even a quick “I have some ideas on how we can handle that situation better next time.” It doesn’t have to be complicated or formal. It just needs to be done.

In the end, this is your design business in which you have the unique opportunity to make an impact in other people’s lives. Yes, we often think of improving our client’s lives through design, but sometimes we overlook our professional family.

When you take the time to provide your employees with feedback, valuable insight, and training opportunities, your business will grow to unbelievable heights. Not to mention the unbelievable feeling you get from helping others grow.

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