Give employee feedback to your online sales and operations teams to achieve overall success. Here are nine tips on the right ways to do it.
1. Give employee feedback before mistakes get repeated.
No feedback is too small if it’s about something that can have a bigger impact over time. Whether it’s a communications issue, or about efficiency or something else, acting quickly to guide your staff so they don’t repeat an error means the problem for your company won’t compound, and you won’t carry the aggravation of seeing it happen.
Choose a good moment when they’re between tasks, overcome any hesitation, and then give employee feedback. If your attitude is kind and helpful, they’ll hear the message and clean up their act right away, in most cases. Just try not to be this guy.
2. When you give employee feedback, keep it at a level that’s appropriate for the context.
If someone is in the middle of preparing a big shipment or handling orders during a big sale, and the feedback is about something big but unrelated to their current task, it’s better not to come at them that moment. That would feel like harassment. Wait until they’re ready to turn back to whatever work it is that relates to the issue you need them to address.
Friendly feedback about little things can be delivered just about any time. Don’t wait till you have a big laundry list of little things, though, because again, that can feel like harassment. It’s easier to take criticism in small bites.
3. Set clear objectives before you give employee feedback about them.
There is nothing worse than being told you aren’t performing to goals when there aren’t clearly stated goals from the get-go. Before you tell them they’re falling short of expectations, make sure they were previously given objectives or other performance metrics to measure against. Vague feedback such as, “You need to add more value,” doesn’t really tell them what kind of performance you expect from them.
Give clearly stated goals, in writing. Use a whiteboard or post it in Slack, and put it into a monthly objectives format, so your whole team knows what targets they’re expected to reach. Set start and end dates and be clear on deliverables. The clarity of your instruction will have a big effect on their quality of execution.
4. Assign work they’re capable of doing.
It’s fine to stretch your employees’ knowledge and skills with graduating challenges on the job, but be flexible yourself and know their limits, too. Allow your approach to change based on feedback from your team. Once you have set objectives, situations may arise that prevent them from delivering.
However, don’t accept delays for weak excuses. In all cases, be honest and expect honesty in return. If their under-performance is due to a fundamental lack of skills in a critical area, they may need to be reassigned. In one job in my early marketing work, I was put in charge of assembling analytics reports and making spreadsheets. I hate that kind of numbers work, it doesn’t come naturally to me, and I never quite got it done to the boss’s satisfaction. I took her fair criticism and admitted my own lack of capacity for the task, and no one got upset.
5. Listen, and don’t be afraid of their feedback.
One of the biggest mistakes a manager can make is to immunize themself from constructive criticism coming from employees. Remember, it takes some courage and moxie for someone whose paycheck you sign to even offer criticism in the first place, so give them their props for that. Obviously, we don’t mean rude talkback But every employee should have the freedom to input and comment without fear of reprisal.
When handled the right way, employee comments can lead to better productivity overall. That’s why it behooves you to open channels for employee input. Encourage them to speak up about, say, how production or sales can be improved, or about obstacles they see on the front lines that you don’t, or even about ways you may be holding them back from doing their best. (Like, maybe you can be a bit of a helicopter boss?)
6. Remember, they’re human.
There are times when people need a supportive ear. And sometimes rules should maybe be bent to help them.
If one of your team has problems that affect his/her performance, discuss it rationally and privately. Understand the problem and work with them to find a solution.
Recognize the limits of compassion, though. Don’t allow flexibility to conflict with your team’s output. If the problem persists, it may be time to bring in HR, which has various tools for employee assistance in these cases.
7. Be as specific as you can.
The feedback we give isn’t going to stick with the other person if we’re not specific about it. This seems intuitive, but it’s so easy to gloss over details or make generalizations when giving feedback.
But the employee can’t read your mind. It’s up to you to share exactly what you observed, and precisely how you think things can be improved. This means talking less about your assumptions. Avoid phrases like “it felt like” or “it seemed like.” Instead, tell them your observations (“I saw” or “I noticed” or “I heard”). The more specific you are, the easier it will be for them to change their behavior or methods.
8. Make it a conversation.
Feedback is not a monologue. You shouldn’t be talking at them. Rather, see it as a conversation. The best way for the employee to feel agency in changing their own behavior is for them to actively engage in the discussion.
The easiest and most effective way to do this is to ask questions when you give feedback. For example, one of my favorite questions to ask after sharing feedback with someone is to say, “That’s just what I observed. What do you think?” That invites the other person to weigh in, to contribute, and to think with you together about the implications about the feedback you delivered.
If you want to take a deep dive into the concept of 1:1 employee feedback, see Quora.
9. Lead by example.
The performance of your team is a reflection of your skill as a manager. There will almost always be mavericks who are a bad fit for the team ethos, and you either need to tame them or move them on. However, it is your ability to lead that creates the team environment. Lead by example.
If you expect your team to be structured, controlled and logical, act the same way. Time management is essential, so set the tone by being highly organized with your own time. Help your team by setting a useful structure to team life to help them manage and deliver on their tasks.
“Morale is the spirit by which Huns submit their services to the tribe. It is not uncontrolled celebration and romping around the campfire.”
– The Leadership Secrets of Attila The Hun