By now many organizations are realizing the value of moving from one annual performance conversation to a continuous feedback loop. But it’s much more than a simple process change. Real-time feedback is a culture shift taking place across companies of all industries and sizes. It’s turning managers into constructive coaches and employees into proactive listeners..
The best employee feedback begins with asking the right questions. The old standby “How am I doing?” is fine on the back on a delivery truck, but won’t get employees what they need to elevate their performance in the workplace.
It’s important to note that the questions that yield the best feedback aren’t universal. We all have unique backgrounds, skillsets, environments, challenges, goals… the list goes on and on. While there’s no instruction manual, the best employee feedback shares three traits: it is constructive, tangible and forward-looking.
Here are some examples of questions that will help employees get the most out of feedback in different scenarios.
Ask your mentor: “What’s holding me back?”
Having a mentor is tremendously valuable, regardless of an individual’s career stage. Mentors can help employees through a number of bigger-picture challenges: do a gut check when things feel uncertain, navigate through salary negotiations or re-route when career roadblocks appear.
This question takes advantage of a mentor’s unique view of the employee. Since they observe them at a higher vantage point than a manager or peer, they have a better understanding of what makes them successful or where they have challenges. This question gets to the heart of the problem, whether they’re lacking a specific skill, educational degree or even confidence.
Ask your manager: “Where have I gotten lazy?”
This is a great question for a variety of reasons. First, it shows that an employee is thoughtful and proactive about their own improvement, and that they are coachable – three great traits. Second, chances are a manager isn’t the only one who has noticed, but might be the only one who would tell them. For that reason, this question takes advantage of the unique employee-manager relationship perfectly.
It goes without saying that this is not a surface-level question. It opens up the opportunity for managers to be more candid and honest than they might be on their own. For employees who already have an understanding of their strengths and challenges, the answer to this question could help them see the slight changes that are beginning to be noticed.
Ask your peers: “What makes me different?”
Not all feedback needs to come from those who have more seniority or even work directly with us. Employees contribute to a team but also to an organization’s culture. This question is perfect to ask of a teammate or even someone in a different department.
Ultimately this question will help someone get to the bottom of how they stand out vs. fit in. In situations where employees are evenly matched, knowing this information can help them market themselves for promotions and other career moves.
When determining how best to participate in a feedback culture, employees should be encouraged to go after the feedback that gives them the best chance to succeed.