Employee Engagement

Is Employee Feedback Missing at Your Company? Here's Why and How to Fix It.

Is Employee Feedback Missing at Your Company? Here's Why and How to Fix It.
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Employees want to know how they’re doing, and giving them feedback is the best way to keep them informed. However, a new study from Leadership IQ found that fewer than half of employees surveyed knew whether they were doing a good job. With the increased focus today on HR technology and performance analytics, just the opposite should be true.

Related: Five Steps for Giving Productive Feedback

So, what’s going wrong with this picture? Here are three of the biggest reasons employees still aren’t getting the performance feedback they need and what managers and HR can do to help:

1. Reluctant Delivery

Managers are overly cautious when it comes time to give constructive feedback because they think employees will react badly to what they have to say. But the absence of feedback isn't necessarily a matter of negativity -- it’s a matter of delivery.

Zenger Folkman’s 2014 Feedback: The Powerful Paradox study of 2,700 employers and employees found that 72 percent of employees surveyed said they thought their performance would improve if their managers provided corrective feedback. Additionally, 92 percent of the respondents agreed with the assertion, “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.”

Employees, then, desire redirecting feedback, but managers still feel uncomfortable providing it.

The 2015 Many Leaders Shrink from Straight Talk with Employees report from Interact addressed this conundrum. It found that 37 percent of the 616 managers surveyed said they were uncomfortable having to give direct feedback and criticism about an employee’s performance that that individual might respond badly to. Clearly, managers need direction when it comes to delivering feedback.

Tip: Empower your company's managers with development and coaching on how to deliver constructive feedback the right way. That means focusing on the situation and the performance of the employee, not on the employee himself or herself. When providing feedback, managers should be forward-thinking and offer solutions and advice for the employee to progress. The best tool to provide the most impactful feedback? Real-time performance data.

2. Underutilized Technology

The introduction of advanced technology and talent-management platforms has permanently changed HR -- especially the way employees relate with their employers and managers.  Plus, it’s the best tool for improving performance. So, why aren’t companies embracing it?

The Global Workforce Leadership Survey from Workplace Trends, and Saba, released in March 2015, found that 58 percent of companies surveyed were still using spreadsheets as their primary means for tracking performance metrics, according to the 700 leaders surveyed. What’s more, less than a quarter of businesses worldwide were using technology to capture and develop insights about their people and about the effectiveness of their talent programs.

Tip: The solution is simple -- get with the times! Various tools and technologies exist that empower HR with important performance stats. These metrics can inform impactful discussions about employee performance and equip leaders to follow up and track how employees use the constructive input.

Companies that invest in these revolutionary HR technologies need to use them wisely. Make the real-time performance-tracking accessible to all levels of employees. This way, they can see how they’re progressing across various projects, where they can improve and how they’re measuring up to expectations. This kind of information will allow them to perform accurate self-assessments -- an important practice that can be used during formal reviews.

Related: 7 Tips for Delivering Negative Feedback to Employees Without Being a Jerk

3. Untimely formal reviews

The Global Workforce Leadership Survey also found that 52 percent of all companies still conduct annual performance reviews. Making employees wait 12 months to hear how they’re performing contributes to the main problem at hand: Employees don’t know if they’re doing their jobs well.

Empowering HR and managers with talent-management solutions that measure how well employees are performing gives employers the opportunity to fix issues in the moment. It’s proactive, not reactive. How can employees get better if they’re waiting a whole year before they find out what they’re doing wrong or right?

Tip: Make more time for frequent one-on-one check-ins. That means providing ongoing feedback to employees, to steer them in the right direction. Formal evaluations don’t need to happen on a weekly basis, but more casual performance feedback can, and should, be given in a timely manner. The good news: The time invested in regular check-ins means time saved on elaborate performance improvement plans or talent replacement searches.

Supplement regular formal reviews with casual sit-downs where leadership can show employees their performance in real time, which is helpful for both parties involved. A May 2016 Gallup study called How Millennials Want to Work and Live found that 44 percent of millennials surveyed who said their managers held regular meetings with them, were engaged, compared to just 20 percent of those who didn't meet with their managers regularly.

Related: 5 Fatal Feedback Flaws You Must Fix 

When employees can visualize how they’re performing at that exact moment, they are more engaged and feel more accountable for their actions and decisions. When that happens, too, performance will soar, job satisfaction will rise and turnover will drop. This is the formula for a high-performance company that empowers its staff members to do their best work.