A dramatic shift in the job market has led many companies to use feedback to improve employee retention rates. 

Unlike in the past, employees feel less tied by loyalty to a company and freer to take on new opportunities. Millennials in particular have been slapped with the job-hopping label, with the average expected tenure being three years. 

Employee turnover can result in major costs for your company and significantly impact company morale. Think about how much time you’ve already spent recruiting new people to replace those who left. 

Attracting top talent also becomes more challenging as potential hires look not only at salaries, but also at the quality of the work environment. Rating-based reviews on websites like Glassdoor help hires become more selective and raise concerns amongst companies over the potential for disgruntled employees to scare off new talent. As companies focus more on trying to reverse this trend, clear communication — in the form of feedback — has emerged as one way to better engage employees.

To some, giving candid feedback more often may seem counterproductive, but a 2009 Gallup Inc. study showed that 98 percent of employees fail to be engaged when managers give little or no feedback. As a result, some companies are investing in feedback technology to encourage the exchange of feedback between managers and employees. 

What Feedback Provides Managers

While the entrance of millennials into the workplace presents new opportunities, it also requires adjustments to your management style. The top two most commonly cited reasons for employee turnover are problems with management and a lack of opportunities for professional development. 

In fact, a 2014 study by Deloitte University revealed that two-thirds of millennials believe managers are responsible for providing them with further development opportunities. In other words, managers must become more open and engaged in their employees’ career growth to meet their expectations. 

When given effectively, providing your employees with more feedback is one of the best ways to demonstrate your involvement in their professional development. Giving your employees’ advice on how to enhance their skills and helping them to develop career goals is a powerful way to motivate your team. 

Even if you don’t have any constructive feedback to give, giving positive feedback is a great way to acknowledge an employee’s work and make them feel valued within the team. In the long term, feedback can significantly boost team spirit and productivity.

Feedback is not only helpful for improving your employees’ performance, but also allows you to pinpoint adjustments that you need to make to your management style. Employees might be reluctant to voice concerns about your performance as a manager until it’s too late. Creating an open environment in which employees are encouraged to give you feedback in return will foster greater trust between you and your team, and alert you to potential conflicts before they heat up. 

Cultivate a 'Growth Mindset' 

To realize the benefits of a feedback culture, you and your employees will need to overcome some common misconceptions. 

Managers may hesitate to give constructive feedback to employees for fear of hurting or offending them, instead choosing to shower top performers exclusively with praise. Managers may also feel uncomfortable or defensive when given constructive criticism from their reports, questioning if opening themselves up to feedback undermines their position as manager.

If this sounds familiar you may have what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck terms a “fixed mindset” towards feedback. People with a fixed mindset see their intelligence and personality as static features. Constructive feedback is therefore taken personally and can elicit a more emotional response. 

People with a “growth mindset” see their abilities as learned traits which must be exercised and enhanced in order to develop. People with growth-centered mindsets will view feedback as a way to re-assess and hone their skills. 

Remember that employees with fixed and growth mindsets may react differently to your feedback. If an employee becomes defensive or emotional when you review their performance, this may be a sign that they have a fixed mindset. To create a positive feedback culture, it’s essential that you coach your employees on how to open themselves up to and benefit from feedback.

Create a Feedback Culture in the Workplace

1. Set the tone 

Become a role model for open communication by asking for more feedback. Creating an open environment in which employees feel comfortable reviewing your performance will help you improve your management skills and encourage them to see feedback from a different perspective. 

Chances are some of your reports will hesitate at first to give you honest feedback. Here are some ways you can break down these barriers. 

2. Encourage employees to come to you for feedback

Make yourself available when employees seek feedback and follow up after giving it. Giving your employees feedback more often will motivate them to come back to you for advice when they need it. 

The most important part is to learn how to give a mix of positive and constructive feedback and work on delivery. Communicating feedback in a clear and constructive way will ensure that it’s received well and taken into consideration. 

3. Promote peer-to-peer feedback

Getting used to giving and receiving feedback from each other will help employees improve their interpersonal communication skills and build a greater sense of team spirit. 

Some employees may continually take on an informal mentorship role: Help them to develop their potential leadership skills by providing extra training on how to give effective positive and constructive feedback. 

4. Identify and coach employees with fixed mindsets

Employees with fixed mindsets will need extra coaching to overcome their defensive tendencies. Consider holding one-on-one sessions where you can discuss their reactions to feedback, and come up with a plan to overcome their inhibitions. 

When given and received effectively, feedback can be a powerful tool to not only improve professional skills, but also to motivate, increase productivity and raise the profile of your company’s work culture. However, as a manager you will not only need to adjust your mindset towards giving and receiving feedback, but also that of your employees. 

Title image by Alexis Brown