Providing feedback to employees is often part of a manager’s job. Staff members need to know the company’s assessment of their performance in a helpful, neutral way.  Feedback isn’t about praise for a job well done, or criticism of a shortcoming. It’s factual information provided to help improve and maintain high levels of productivity.

When feedback is presented in a neutral manner, the employee doesn’t feel threatened, morale is maintained, and productivity may increase.

Here are some helpful tips to help improve your ability to get the most from each employee by providing productive feedback.

1. Understand the difference between praise, criticism and feedback.  In fact, they are three different forms of communication. Praise should be a reward. Criticism should identify problems and solutions. Feedback should be informational, based on substance and fact, non-threatening, and most of all, helpful.

2. Begin the discussion by explaining the purpose of the meeting. Eliminate any confusion, and get the employee on point. Don’t blame, don’t criticize or praise – just state the facts, for example: “I’ve noticed some miscommunication between the marketing and sales departments.” Simple, straightforward, neutral.

3. Always cite specifics. Support your feedback with specifics. If sales are down, have the numbers in front of you. If the report is missing key data, have the report on your desk. Use specifics to clarify your assessment of the situation, positive or negative.

4. Keep the discussion focused on your assessment. Avoid using “you” in your discussion, as in, “You should have informed me.” That’s a criticism that may put the employee on the defensive, diminishing the value of the meeting. Instead, use “I”: “I would have intervened if I’d been informed” or, “I’ve identified a potential problem.”

5. Get to the point. Chances are, the employee already knows the events leading up to your feedback, so you probably don’t need to dwell on details. Get to the point in a calm, neutral manner, but if questioned, provide enough additional information to make the employee understand the situation and its implications.

6. Provide feedback in person whenever possible. With large businesses, this isn’t always possible, but when it is possible, set up some face time with the employee or department team, and provide the feedback directly. While written feedback is useful, your presence in person is likely to have a greater impact than an email memo.

7. Provide feedback in terms of your observations, not your opinions.  Avoid “interpreting” business activity by attaching an opinion to it. Productive feedback isn’t opinion-based. It’s based on specific facts and activities that have come to your attention.  Facts and descriptions of employee activity add substance to your feedback.

8. Tie the feedback to an outcome as soon as the outcome is determined. Don’t wait to deliver feedback. Positive or negative, feedback should be delivered quickly. Useful feedback isn’t something that occurs quarterly, annually, or at the time of the employee’s review. Your feedback should be delivered in a timely fashion to tie your input to specific actions of employees.

9. Make feedback part of your work routine. If you only provide feedback occasionally, it may be viewed as praise or criticism, with the key information lost in the “big moment.” Instead, provide feedback on a routine basis – daily, if you see that it improves employee performance. When feedback is provided regularly, it won’t be interpreted as praise or criticism. It’ll simply be the information employees require to perform at their best.

10. Offer solutions in your feedback. Managers don’t simply point out problems. Proactive managers provide solutions. Simply handing off a “problem” to an employee may not deliver the outcome your company requires. When you identify the challenge, and provide the solution, employees will know what to do, and you know the expected outcomes.

Offer praise. Criticize when necessary. Use feedback to help improve business efficiencies with good information and solutions that meet the challenge.

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC