Giving actionable and measurable feedback

January 31, 2023

We’ve heard the saying, “feedback is a gift,” but just how actionable or measurable is the feedback you give to employees? Employers need to know the impact their feedback has on employee productivity and morale. Effective communication is crucial to employee engagement.

You can choose from many different types of feedback structures. Using these structures consistently and embedding them in your company strategy is key and can lead to a culture of continuous growth and motivates employees to improve.

The benefits of structured and actionable feedback

We’ve all received feedback at one time that was vague. “Your code needs to tighten up a bit.” “This report is almost there.” Maybe you struggled to know exactly what to do next.

Organizations boost their chances of success when they provide employees with clear, structured, and actionable feedback. It helps employees understand their strengths and gives them a chance to improve their performance and grow in their careers. It benefits both the employee and the organization. Feedback is not just about pointing out an employee's areas for growth but also recognizing their strengths and providing clear pathways for development.

One of the most important benefits of providing this type of feedback is that it helps employees understand what is expected of them. When employees know the expectations, they are more likely to meet or exceed them as they build trust and confidence in their abilities. Feedback also helps employees identify areas where they need to improve, giving them the tools to make those improvements.

Another important benefit is that it helps employees understand how their performance is impacting the organization. This can be motivating! Team members want to have a positive impact at work. Feedback can help employees understand how their performance compares to others in their role or department, helping them set goals for improvement.

However, it's important to note that providing feedback is not a one-time event. It should be an ongoing process, as employee performance and organizational goals change over time. Feedback styles and expectations change throughout an employee’s career path, but the important common thread is ensuring it is clear, structured, and actionable.

How to measure the impact of feedback

Feedback consists of praise, constructive criticism, and suggestions for development. It’s usually given to employees by their managers, who track the progress of their teams over time and identify areas of improvement. Feedback actually strengthens relationships between managers and employees when done well and motivates employees to achieve higher goals.

Employers need to measure the impact of their feedback to make sure that employees receive the type of guidance they can act upon. Feedback is a two-way process - employers can deliver feedback, and they can measure its effectiveness by receiving feedback.

Here are some ways employers can measure the impact of the feedback they deliver to employees, inspired by the SMART goals framework:

  1. Get specific by setting clear goals and achievable expectations: Before delivering feedback, employers should work with employees to set clear goals and expectations that are tied to development pathways. This will help both sides measure the progress made and determine if feedback has been effective in helping the employee achieve their goals. This may include giving tips on specific skills or techniques, providing resources for further development, and offering encouragement to help employees take their performance to the next level. For example, setting a professional development goal to complete one workplace learning course in well-being is measurable. 
  1. Measure with performance metrics: Employers and employees should track performance metrics such as productivity, attendance, and quality and quantity of work. These metrics can provide valuable insight into whether the feedback given has had a positive impact on the employee’s performance. For example, employees who know they need to complete three reports by the next quarter can measure their performance against this metric.
  1. Conduct regular check-ins to keep it timely: Employers should schedule regular check-ins with their employees to discuss their progress and any areas of improvement. This will give the employer an opportunity to gauge the employee’s understanding and application of the feedback given. For the examples above, at a check-in, employees can share how likely it is that they will meet the targets of three reports and one workplace learning course by next quarter. The key shift is that the feedback itself, and checking goals against metrics, does not wait for year-end. The quality of each deliverable can be assessed in the moment. 
  1. Ask for feedback on the feedback to make sure it’s relevant: Employers should also ask their employees for feedback on the feedback they receive. This will give the employer an understanding of how the employee perceives the feedback and whether it’s been helpful. Employers may be giving feedback and encouraging development goals that lack enabling structures. 

We often think of asking employees to set SMART goals, but we don’t often flip the script for employers to structure their feedback using the same principles. Employers can use specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely strategies to provide actionable feedback. Employees can then take this feedback to develop their own career progression pathways. Rather than simply providing general opinions or evaluations, employers should focus on concrete goals and objectives that can be used to measure the performance and impact of their feedback. 

Setting ambitious but achievable goals for growth can provide employees with a sense of direction and purpose, promote accountability, drive progress, support continuous improvement, and facilitate communication and collaboration. All of these build organizational commitment to continuous development.

Timely and relevant feedback can make these important conversations more productive and easier to execute. Continuous practice builds trust and enables a growth-focused workplace.

Pando can help you implement continuous feedback into your company strategy. Learn more about how our platform enables structured, clear, and fair career progression.