Research shows that companies that prioritize giving employee feedback enjoy a 14.9% lower employee turnover rate. With companies experiencing a mass move of workers to competitors with better pay and supportive cultures, it’s time to start taking employee feedback more seriously.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at:
- What constructive feedback is
- Why it’s so valuable
- How to give better constructive feedback to your team members
Let’s explore how constructive feedback can help you build stronger teams.
What is constructive feedback?
Constructive feedback is a specific type of feedback that focuses on helping someone tackle issues and grow. Instead of giving general advice, constructive feedback seeks to address a topic and find a positive way to deal with it.
While constructive feedback is often about an issue or challenge, it shouldn’t be confused with destructive feedback or constructive criticism, which look only at the problem and can feel like a direct attack. Instead, this type of feedback centers on problem solving and positive growth.
Constructive feedback is about balancing negative feedback and positive feedback, complimenting someone where it’s due, and supporting them to improve through practical means.
Here’s an example of constructive feedback:
“John, I noticed that you haven’t turned in your project report yet. You’re usually so punctual and thorough. Let’s talk through any roadblocks you’re facing.”
Instead of focusing on the problem (the late report), you’re looking for a way to support your team member in finding a practical fix for the challenge. Praise your team member for their positive behaviors and hard work, and focus on finding a resolution rather than assigning blame for a problem. It’s a much more positive way to address a missed deadline and solve the root of the issue.
Why constructive feedback is helpful
It’s easy to see why constructive feedback is more favorable than traditional, more negative styles of feedback. It allows you to explore the deeper issues behind problems or behaviors and support your team members so that you can come to a solution together.
Here’s how this type of feedback can improve your work environment:
🌱 It helps us grow and develop
Raising an issue with employee performance, behaviors, communication skills, or habits can feel like a direct attack, especially without a meaningful fix suggested. By combining specific employee feedback and a desire to suggest or find a way to resolve the problem, you’re giving your employees a better opportunity to grow and develop their skills and habits.
👋 It helps us work better together
Recent research found that 73% of people felt they were better collaborators as a result of giving and receiving employee feedback. Constructive feedback creates an open space where both parties can feel free to talk about the situation without fear of blame or hurt. Focusing on the goal and how to reach it encourages collaboration and builds stronger team relationships.
💚 It helps us identify support needs
If there’s a reason for a behavior, you’re unlikely to uncover the truth through destructive or negative feedback. With constructive feedback, you give your employees the opportunity to discuss what’s happening and seek support. Once you’ve identified a need, you can come up with a support plan that you’re both happy with.
How to give constructive feedback in the workplace
We know why constructive feedback is so powerful, but what does it look like in a work environment? Here’s how to give better, more meaningful feedback to your direct reports, team members, and managers.
1. Decide whether it’s necessary
Not every instance of lower than usual performance needs addressing. Before you schedule a meeting to discuss performance or behavior, decide whether it’s necessary.
Everyone has occasional bad days. Someone being late one morning last week doesn’t warrant a meeting, but repeatedly missing client meetings does. Use your best judgment to decide whether constructive feedback is the right response based on someone’s usual patterns, behaviors, and actions.
2. Figure out the goal
With constructive feedback, you should have a goal in mind. The idea is to raise an issue or topic, discuss it openly, and take steps towards a positive outcome. Without a goal, the discussion can feel like it has no purpose or, worse, like it’s a direct personal attack.
Before you meet with your team member, decide what your goal is. Maybe you want to support someone to manage their workload better or help someone build their communication skills. Whatever the goal is, keep this in mind throughout your conversation.
3. Choose the right time and place
Once you know that you need to schedule a feedback meeting with someone, find the right moment and place to do it. Avoid raising issues at team meetings or when others are around. Even constructive feedback is best shared in private. Host the meeting face-to-face in a private space (or video call for remote work teams).
Feedback shouldn’t be held back for quarterly or annual performance reviews. Ongoing feedback is key to growth. Work with your team members to find the meeting cadence that works for you. Also, you can use a tool like Polly to introduce continuous feedback to your organization. Send a polly to engage with your team members and find out how they’re feeling, what they’re struggling with, and what feedback they have for you on a weekly basis.
4. Give specific examples
Lead the discussion by talking about specific behaviors, actions, or issues that you want to discuss. Be as clear as you can, with specific examples that your team members can remember and relate to.
Instead of focusing on a vague lack of engagement, for example, reference particular moments where you’ve noticed this behavior. This should prompt the other person to recall that situation and why it happened. Then, you can move on to clarifying the effects and implications of that person’s actions.
Giving examples can help you both identify the problem sooner and come to a better resolution.
5. Keep the tone and language professional
It can be challenging to find the right tone in a performance review or feedback meeting. You don’t want to come off too harsh, but being too carefree means your words might not be taken seriously.
Aim for a clear, professional tone as you offer your feedback. Listen intently, and offer support. Keep your voice calm, and avoid raising it. Use clear, simple language that’s easy to understand, instead of complicated words that could be misunderstood.
6. Encourage active participation
Your feedback discussion shouldn’t be a one-sided affair. Invite your direct report or coworker to be an equally active participant and raise any issues, questions, or suggestions they might have. Use our Employee Feedback template to understand a team member’s needs after a meeting or key milestone. That way, it’s easier to react to challenges as they arise and support your team members proactively.
The feedback meeting should be as much an opportunity for your employees to discuss what’s troubling them as it is for you to raise an issue. Give them the room and confidence to talk freely, and you’ll uncover a new perspective on the whole situation. At the same time, be mindful that we all communicate differently, and find ways to make your introverted team members feel welcome. From there, you can focus on what matters: your shared goal.
7. Work together to find a solution
Once you’ve talked through the issue and understand what’s happening, you can start working on a plan to get things back on track. This is a great use of your problem-solving and collaboration skills, and it presents you with an opportunity to grow closer to your team member as you help them find a positive path forward.
Think about the areas of improvement and how you can create a practical plan of action. Consider whether there are any professional development or training needs, mental or physical health support needs, or equipment and software needs. Work together to build a plan that feels realistic, reasonable, and achievable.
8. Follow up on your plan
Your constructive feedback journey doesn’t end with your first discussion. Write up your plan, share it with your direct report or coworker, and make sure that it happens.
Check in with your team member at regular intervals to see how they’re doing. Our Weekly Team Check-In Template makes this process a breeze. Celebrate when your employee is on track, and look for ways to enhance their support if they’re falling behind or dealing with a specific challenge.
Make continuous feedback part of your work culture with the help of Polly
The value of employee feedback can’t be underestimated. Identifying challenges and resolving them in a positive way can impact someone’s entire employee experience, from employee morale and team participation to productivity and career growth. Focus on giving better employee feedback and you’ll empower your team members to thrive.
Polly can help you introduce continuous feedback to your company culture. Our employee feedback tools give you accessible, engaging ways to offer and receive feedback, check in with team members, host better 1:1 meetings, and celebrate amazing work. See how our features can help you embrace employee feedback—try Polly today.
Try Polly for free to instantly improve your employee engagement.
Written by Nicola Scoon
Nicola Scoon is a freelance writer that's passionate about employee engagement and better workplace experiences. She draws on her experience in internal communications to help companies create content that empowers, encourages, and motivates people to create better experiences for all.