Any manager will tell you that the hardest part of the job is giving employee feedback – and even according to a Harvard Business Review Case Study 1 , it is. Trying to maintain the fine line between constructive criticism and destroying someone’s confidence is a tough challenge. Part of that challenge is then finding an appropriate reward and recognition scheme to motivate everyone. If you have employees under you, here are the five most common mistakes you need to avoid when managing staff feedback.
1. Not giving ANY employee feedback
Perhaps the idea of sitting down and going through an employee’s performance is a task you just can’t face. Perhaps you don’t have the time or want to avoid a potential conflict. The problem with not giving employee feedback is that you lose staff confidence. It also deters the possibility of setting improvement goals for your individual employees. If you don’t have time for a one-to-one sit down then, instead, take time to create an accurate and clear email. Lay out everything you need your employee to do to improve performance while praising everything they’re doing just right.
2. Recognition isn’t part of the rota
If employees don’t know when it’s bonus time or approaching a mid-year review it makes them nervous and confused. Not understanding when or how you are being evaluated and ultimately rewarded is unsettling and unhelpful for everyone.
“Making sure that you have a regular schedule for all of the above is fair and consistent. It will help organize you, your business goals and the projects being carried out by your workforce. Set time aside to talk one-to-one shows employees that their voice counts. It has the added bonus of being able to deal with potential issues before they become gaping problems”, – explains Dean Bennett, a Recruitment Manager.
3. Top-heavy recognition
While praise from the boss or even the boss’ boss can be very satisfying. But if this is the only recognition being used you’re going to end up with an unhappy workforce. Giving colleagues the chance to recognize, praise and reward each other’s work is good on a number of levels. Firstly, it gives employees the power to make decisions and it also shows that those decisions are respected and acted upon.
“Remember that this type of recognition should not be generic but recognize specific achievements such as reaching project objectives and so on. All of this comes together to give a sense of unity among colleagues, build friendships and drive morale up through the roof”, – says Rodney Vaz, an HR Manager at Reviewed and Writing populist. You can also use tools that enable peer to peer review like Xoxoday.
4. Making money the only reward
An effective monetary reward system is a standard tool for giving employees recognition and is important in most industries. An annual bonus shows staff you know their worth and value their input but there are other reward schemes to consider.
Extra vacation days, concessions such as a subsidised gym membership or a great health care plan can also be leveraged to show staff they are valued. In many ways, the more creative you are with monetary alternatives, the more staff will know that you’ve looked at what motivates them personally; they’ll appreciate the extra thought.
The key is to set these extra rewards at just the right level. If the reward system is a piece of cake, then winning them will not be seen as special enough. If they’re made too hard, then employees will lose motivation and feel they’re out of reach. It’s a difficult act to balance but the difference it can make when you get it right, can be enormous. Distributing badges and having an employee leader board could be other ways of non-monetary rewards.
As a bonus, with the right reward system, you can increase employee engagement and productivity 2.
5. Being self-referential
If you constantly talk about how you would do something when giving negative feedback, you could risk making the employee resentful. As a bonus, they might not learn what it is that they need to do to fix their mistake and improve their behaviour.
You could also be making a mistake of boring them with unnecessary details of your own success which probably has nothing to do with their improvement. Be mindful of your words and focus on giving them the pointers about their own improvement – and if appropriate, include some elements of your story into the review.
6. Talking only about what is not working
Most employees fear their reviews because bosses constantly talk about what isn’t working when they should be focusing on what is working and providing the right support to inspire improvement in the employee. Focusing only on the negatives is not constructive and it doesn’t change anything – it can only add to customer animosity and prevent them from advancing. A company shouldn’t have a blame culture but rather an environment which supports growth and provides the right facilities and resources for that change to be made.
7. Thinking you know what makes staff motivated
While it’s true that motivational tools like staff competitions can act as great incentives for improving performance 3, not everyone enjoys or engages with the same things. For one, a simple word of praise or encouragement will have the same effect as another winning a leader board. The key is getting to know your employees personally and figuring out what makes individuals motivated and happy. Not everything has to be a competition or a challenge; sometimes a softer approach is the way forward.
By instituting a blanket reward system you run the risk of employees building a sense of isolation. It also causes resentment and failing to engage with your organisation and its objectives 4.
If you recognise your management style in some of these pitfalls, then now is the time to take affirmative action. If you can address some of these issues or, better still, avoid them completely then employee evaluation, employee feedback and recognition can only lead to positive results. Consistent and open communication between all levels of your organization has tangible benefits for everyone. With a strong, motivated workforce behind you; your business can only go from strength to strength.
- HBR.org, https://hbr.org/2014/11/why-government-workers-are-harder-to-motivate
- Ecommons.luc.edu, https://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1126&context=business_facpubs
- OPM.gov, https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/performance-management/performance-management-cycle/monitoring/feedback-is-critical-to-improving-performance/
- Forbes.com, https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2013/04/08/how-to-demotivate-your-best-employees/#75772ae638f8