How Effective Feedback Can Boost Productivity

The way the boss talks to his or her employees plays a bigger role in a company’s success than many small business owners and managers may realize. When researchers Joshua Freedman and Carina Fiedeldey-Van Dijk studied workplace productivity, they discovered that useful feedback could boost overall productivity by as much as 16 percent.

However, a manager’s overall communication habits contribute to “workplace climate,” a factor responsible for affecting productivity by about 26 percent. Delivering effective feedback can help you get results that the equivalent of adding one more team member for every five employees already on your books.

4 Tips to Achieve Effective Feedback

1. Make feedback routine and expected

Freedman and Fiedeldey-Van Dijk found that nearly two-thirds of workers in their study reported receiving no useful feedback, even when employees said they were happy at work. Like many small business owners and managers, you may be overwhelmed with running the day-to-day operations, and you may have little more than an annual performance review in place. As a leader, make it your job to offer direct feedback every week, if not every day. This doesn’t mean adding another meeting to your agenda, either.

2. Offer short, focused and immediate feedback

Your workplace climate can suffer if workers feel like you’re harboring a grudge that could potentially fester until review season. When your team feels threatened, they may find it difficult to put their best selves forward to your customers. If something’s wrong, address it right away. It may help to sandwich constructive criticism between two compliments, emphasizing that you recognize an employee’s overall contributions. You’ll get the bad news — and the bad feelings — out of the way of real work.

3. Make feedback about the action, not the person

When feedback focuses on feelings instead of actions, employees can perceive that they’re getting “yelled at” or “dumped on.” Granted, you might feel some emotion if a member of your team caused a major error. Still, you can help your employees dig themselves out of the hole faster by offering specific direction about what to do next and how to meet expectations around a task or an assignment.

4. Praise in public, critique in private

Employees thrive on praise, but they really blossom when you validate their work in front of peers. When you’ve got positive feedback — and that should be often — share it with the whole team. Save constructive criticisms for private conversations. Your team can start celebrating shared wins, knowing that getting feedback from the boss is usually a good thing.

Many business owners struggle with building an effective feedback cycle, often because they feel they don’t have enough time or because they haven’t worked with a great mentor. Developing this skill forces you to take your hands off the wheel a little. If you’ve given your team the right direction, they can help drive your company to the destination.

Joe Taylor Jr. has covered personal finance and business for more than two decades. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, Fox Business, and ABC News. He recently completed a personal finance book entitled The Rogue Guide to Credit Cards; (Rogue Guide Books, 2012).

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