By now, we all know the importance of feedback in terms of employee growth, development, and engagement. Employees want to know how they are doing, they want to know how they can improve, and they want to exchange honest words with their managers.

There’s just one problem: Many managers don’t know how to deliver feedback in a helpful way. Many managers need some instruction and training on how to give and receive feedback. In essence, they need a little feedback on their feedback. An effective performance management system only works if managers know how to give meaningful feedback.

Here are the five core elements of effective feedback, which all managers need to know:

1. All Feedback Should Be Specific and Clear

Generalizations are always dangerous when it comes to feedback. When delivering either positive or constructive feedback, managers need to be clear and forthright. Employees need to be told what they are doing well and why you value that behavior. You also need to explain the impact of this positive behavior on the organization as a whole. It is not good enough to simply tell an employee they are doing a good job; go into detail about what they have done so they will know what actions to repeat in the future and how to improve.

If you’re delivering constructive feedback, employees need specific examples. How and why was their behavior not acceptable? Why did it fall short of expectations? How can they improve in the future? You could also address ways in which the company and/or its processes can adapt to help the individual improve.

2. Good Feedback Needs to Be Honest

Neither hyperbole nor evasiveness have any place in business. Give your employees the respect they deserve. Don’t beat around the bush. You might not want to enforce a policy of “radical candor” in your office, but know that your employees can handle more than you think they can. They’re not made of glass.

By the same token, you shouldn’t exaggerate to prove a point. Doing so will just make you appear melodramatic. Your employees aren’t likely to take you seriously after that.

3. Feedback Should Be Timely

Managers should be encouraged to adopt a “now or never” approach to feedback. Timeliness is critical in relation to feedback. This fact is partly responsible for the demise of the annual performance review. It is much more useful to give feedback to employees when it is still relevant, rather than to wait until the end of the year – long after the opportunity to course-correct has passed.

The only thing better than exchanging feedback on a regular basis is implementing a system wherein employees and managers can exchange real-time feedback. Thankfully, modern technology makes this possible through various software platforms, collaboration platforms, and communication channels.

4. Feedback Should Be Ongoing

If feedback is exchanged on a regular, ongoing basis, both employees and manages will feel more comfortable receiving and delivering feedback. Managers should let employees know that they are available at all times, and they should hold regular performance check-ins to ensure feedback is delivered regularly and consistently.

5. Employee Feedback Should Be Helpful

A manager isn’t there simply to point out where an employee has gone wrong. Effective employee performance management requires a manager to be constructive and helpful. They need to act as a coach and offer guidance wherever they can.

Not sure how to be of the most help to your employees? A good way to find out is to just ask them what they need. How can the company step in to boost productivity?

Bonus Tip: Remember the Importance of Body Language

It isn’t just the words you say that matter when delivering feedback. You should also be cautious of the way in which you deliver those words. Be mindful of your body language. Make eye contact, don’t cross your arms, and don’t check your watch as if you’d rather be somewhere else. Turn off your technology and give your employee your full attention. This will show them you care about the feedback as much as they do.

Stuart Hearn is CEO of Clear Review.

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