Employees don’t just want feedback—they crave it. According to research from PwC, almost 60 percent of employees would prefer to receive feedback either every day or every week. That number increases among younger workers. For this reason, businesses need to make sure they fulfill that need.
To improve performances across an organization, leaders will need to give feedback. In a sense, this is a way to give people updates on how they’re doing, providing encouragement and correction along the way. Giving feedback isn’t always straightforward, and the right feedback often depends on proper timing and the types of feedback used. As can be expected, it’s not just about giving feedback but rather about giving effective feedback.
Where Does Feedback Come From?
Feedback can come from almost anyone within a business. This ranges from feedback given by peers, employees, leaders, and customers. Learn more about the sources of feedback organizations use below.
- Peer feedback: This is when a person provides feedback to a co-worker when they are at about the same level within a company. This feedback can be lighthearted or, at times, brutally honest.
- Employee feedback: This type (also known as upward feedback) is where subordinates give feedback to their bosses. This feedback may involve self-assessments on their performance or an opinion on how management is doing.
- Supervisor feedback: Unsurprisingly, this involves managers giving feedback to those underneath them. This might happen during a performance review, or it could occur in a more informal setting.
- Customer feedback: This entails receiving feedback from those who are outside the organization. As most business owners can attest, this type of feedback can be some of the most hard-hitting (yet constructive).
Understanding the 7 Different Types of Feedback
With that understood, the following are the different types of feedback normally found in work environments. While they don’t represent every type that’s out there, they provide a good starting point for leaders seeking to understand feedback styles and incorporate them into their team culture. Knowing all seven types can help executives provide the type of feedback that works best with each employee.
1. Appreciation Feedback
Leaders who give appreciation feedback show they value how a worker performs. Hard work does not go unnoticed. Appreciation feedback can act as a motivating factor for many people. This type of feedback can be as simple as acknowledging someone for reaching a hard deadline, or it can go into detail, showing thanks for the work they put into a complex project. Appreciation feedback works best with specifics. A generic “well done” feels empty and, when used too often, meaningless. Specifics make the feedback feel more personal and gives the receiver a firm reason to be proud.
2. Guidance Feedback
Guidance feedback allows leaders the opportunity to not only praise their team members but to offer advice. When combined with appreciation feedback, this type can provide gentle correction without feeling forceful or rude. Guidance feedback can happen in the form of suggestions for improvement. That doesn’t mean it’s an indirect approach because it gives the receiver a chance to ask questions for clarification. Making guidance a regular part of feedback helps condition workers to always seek out new ways to get better. When done well, many people may actively look for guidance, leading to self-motivation. Leaders utilizing this type of feedback truly embody the role of a leader, steering people in the right direction without demanding they fall in line.
3. Encouragement Feedback
Another way to provide added motivation is to give encouragement feedback. Similar to the previous feedback types, encouragement feedback is an excellent way to boost morale, especially when someone happens to be struggling. It also applies to situations where someone is stepping into new territory for the first time. For example, newly hired employees may feel overwhelmed when starting their job. With encouragement feedback, they receive an extra boost that tells them to keep at it. This feedback really shines as a quick exchange in the office or a brief instant message. It goes to show that a little goes a long way when it comes to feedback.
4. Forward Feedback
Mistakes happen from time to time, but it’s in these moments that different types of feedback may be needed most of all. Forward feedback looks toward the future and doesn’t fixate on people’s mistakes. That doesn’t mean leaders condone mistakes, but they understand that constantly bringing up the past does little to help someone improve for the future. In fact, it might actually make them more pessimistic and take away from their confidence. Forward feedback provides necessary context for people, giving them goals to work toward. It explains the “why” for many company strategies and pinpoints each individual’s part in those strategies. Forward feedback essentially cultivates the behaviors that will help people reach new heights.
5. Coaching Feedback
When giving coaching feedback, the leader will act just like a coach, planning winning strategies that help people see where they fit in on a team. Coaching feedback is normally more formal than some of the above types of feedback. Often, it involves regular reviews which combine guidance feedback with forward feedback. Much like a coach hyping up the players on a team, leaders can inspire through this feedback, which can help workers become more effective at their jobs and keep them away from actions that might impede reaching their goals.
6. Informal Feedback
Any of the above feedback styles can be broken down further, such as giving them in an informal way. Informal feedback has several notable advantages, including not having to wait for scheduled events before giving it. It’s a more spontaneous form of feedback, one that happens in the moment. It should occur during the course of conducting regular business. As Ed Batista notes in the Harvard Business Review, feedback must “show up in everyday life—on a walk down the hallway, at the end of a meeting, over a cup of coffee.”
7. Formal Feedback
Whether just starting a business or maintaining a company with a rich history, leaders should adopt a policy of giving formal feedback. This feedback, as expected, happens in more formal settings like performance reviews and evaluations. Formal feedback includes the use of detailed information taken from an employee’s work, giving them a more thorough look at how they’re doing. This is where leaders can review if they’re reaching established goals and how well they contribute to the team.
Feedback to Avoid
Not all feedback is effective. The above types of feedback usually fall under the banner of positive feedback. However, far too often, the style of feedback most people receive comes in the form of negative feedback. Leaders should avoid using this type of feedback because it is the least likely to produce positive outcomes. For example, research shows that negative feedback rarely leads to improvement in performance.
With negative feedback, mistakes and shortcomings become the focus—not progress and improvement. Negative feedback is far from constructive, which makes many people feel belittled and discouraged when confronted with it. Some may even take it as a personal attack, which can only lead to more problems like resentment, disengagement, and conflict. While some people can take negative feedback and turn it into better results, the majority come away feeling down on themselves. In other words, avoid negative feedback as much as possible.
Is There a Best Type of Feedback?
As Bill Gates once said, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” Choosing the right types of feedback in communication largely comes down to the individual receiving the feedback and the context. No single style fits every single situation or person, so capable leaders need to adapt, sometimes on the fly. By using the correct feedback at the right time, leaders can help people see their value in the organization. This can lead to greater feelings of motivation and help to improve overall performance. It can even lead to better employee retention. Choosing the right feedback type is just one more tool in a leader’s arsenal, and with practice, it can become an effective one.
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