As a small business owner, you owe it to your employees to provide honest, open and frequent feedback on their job performance. Giving a pat on the back for a job well done is simple enough for most people, but what about those times when an employee has not lived up to your expectations?
Many business owners are reluctant to provide constructive criticism for fear that doing so may harm their relationship with the employee or, worse yet, that it simply won’t result in more positive behavior. Some people simply avoid conflict at any cost and try to ignore problems in hopes that they will resolve themselves. In most cases, however, the problems increase in scope and frequency.
Providing frequent feedback to your employees can motivate them to duplicate their successes and correct any shortcomings before they become major problems for them and you.
Here are a few points to keep in mind when giving feedback to your employees.
Focus on Specifics
Don’t simply tell an employee that he or she is doing a good job. Such vague praise can leave them guessing about exactly what aspects of their job they’re excelling at. It can also appear somewhat disingenuous. By telling an employee specifically what it is about their job performance that pleases you, you will encourage and motivate them to duplicate their successes.
Likewise, it’s important to be specific when pointing out an employee’s shortcomings.
Don’t make it personal
When discussing an employee’s shortcomings, remember not to appear as if you’re attacking them personally. Instead, discuss specific behaviors that you would like them to improve on.
Examine your business processes
Before immediately jumping to the conclusion that problems are always the fault of the employee, look at the processes you’ve put in place. In some cases, you may find that an employee who appears to be underperforming is actually performing to the best of their abilities within the confines of the company’s stated processes.
Ask for their feedback first
If you’re unhappy with a particular employee’s performance, try asking them how they think things are going. Again, focus on specifics. Instead of asking them if they’re happy with their job, ask them what they like best about the position or what they feel they could improve on.
You might be surprised to find out that there are pressures or obstacles that you were unaware of.
In most cases, your employees will appreciate the interest you’re showing and will be far more willing to listen to you once you’ve given them the opportunity to speak.
You may even find that the employee is aware of the problem he or she is experiencing. Once the employee has acknowledged a problem, they’ll be much more open to your suggestions on how to improve the situation.
Before confronting an employee about a problem with their behavior, come up with a possible solution. You know what you expect from your employees in the way of their job performance. You should also understand how they can achieve those goals and be able to offer solutions to help them achieve their goals.
Simply pointing out failures without offering solutions can cause them to feel hopeless and lead to even bigger problems.
Feedback is always more effective if given at the time of desirable or undesirable behavior. Immediate positive feedback reinforces the desirable behavior and can lead to increased productivity and job satisfaction. When undesirable behavior is observed, delaying the feedback will almost certainly lead to repeated occurrences by the employee and unnecessary frustration for you.