Managers are so overwhelmed with demands that having regular feedback conversations with employees can be hard to fit in. Roly Walter from performance management software company Appraisd looks at how organisations can provide more support to managers.
The life of a line manager is a busy one. Sandwiched between the demands of senior leaders and their direct reports, they are under pressure.
The extent of this is shown by figures from a recent Chartered Management Institute survey, which reveal on average they work the equivalent in overtime of 44 extra days per year. With so much on their plates, something must give. Very often, it’s their people management responsibilities that slip.
Finding a solution to this lack of time, plus raising the importance within the organisation placed on people management are the first steps needed to encourage more feedback conversations.
According to the latest figures from the CIPD, less than half of line managers received dedicated training when they took on people management responsibilities. Organisations need to offer more support in this area and recognise providing effective feedback is a specific skill that requires training, time and dedication to get right.
To counter the lack of time that managers have available, organisations need to build a framework for feedback that is clear, simple and easy to follow. Using an online system will eliminate time-consuming paperwork and ensure a consistent approach across the business.
In this system, guidelines and tips can be provided for managers, helping them to get the conversation started and become more comfortable in this aspect of their role. For those who find face-to-face conversations difficult to begin, these can be a huge help. It also reinforces the fact that feedback is an expected part of their role.
As well as a system, providing dedicating training for managers at all levels will reinforce a consistent approach. Shining a spotlight on this area, will demonstrate feedback is important and that everyone is expected to take part. It’s that expectation that is key.
If feedback is not seen as crucial, it will get pushed down the agenda under the pressure of all the other duties managers have to complete. It needs to become a routine expectation that is an integral part of the working day.
It is not just employees who want and benefit from feedback. Leaders are no different. They also need honest, timely and regular feedback to ensure they are delivering what they need.
Building a feedback culture
“This means there is a big shift away from formal, lengthy and typically anonymous feedback surveys,” says Linda Smith, former HRD and a business consultant with Merranti Consulting. “Firms of all sizes are moving towards regular catch-ups with an emphasis on creating an open and honest culture.”
Smith states the following elements are needed to build a successful feedback culture:
Trust – employees need to feel able to see feedback as a positive development tool and not criticism.
Honesty – the feedback needs to be fair and relevant. All sides should feel able to be candid without fear of retribution.
Objectivity – feedback should come from all relevant stakeholders, not just direct managers to get a full and unbiased picture.
“Recognising and praising those who are giving effective feedback is very important,” says Smith. “Use them as role models for the rest of the business to follow and demonstrate to all that they are playing a vital role in helping their colleagues to develop and progress.”
Rachel Broome, founder of learning and development agency Talentstorm, believes managers will engage in the process if they can see the benefits for themselves.
She says: “Managers who give regular and effective feedback are able to build high-performance teams. Employees want to work for someone who shows they value their team and are invested in helping them to improve. A manager that not only gives feedback, but actively asks for it too will gain the trust and respect of their employees.”
Broome has four things for managers to remember when giving feedback:
Be purposeful – feedback is all about giving someone useful information at a time that they can do something with it. If feedback is given without context, it may feel like criticism.
Be specific – identifying and acknowledging exactly the issue will ensure the employee knows what the feedback relates to.
Be timely – we’ve shifted to an ‘instant’ culture, so it seems crazy to think we would wait days or weeks to pass on useful developmental information. With feedback, timing is everything, and the closer to the event in question the more useful it is.
Be regular – the trick is to get into the habit of giving feedback ‘little and often’, rather than saving it up when that may be too late to be useful.
Feedback conversations will start to flow when the right system, training and focus is put on them. Businesses must demonstrate clearly to all concerned, not just managers, that feedback is important and encourage everyone to get involved.
Personal development is now one of the main elements employees are looking for in a role. Failure to get the feedback process right could make it harder not only keep employees but also to attract the best new talent.