Feedback, whether positive or negative, must be given to your employees in the most comfortable setting possible. If you've got awards to hand out, be aware that not all employees enjoy having to stand up in front of a group. For others, a public presentation may be a thrill they'll remember for a long time.
Offering Help First
If you notice someone struggling, before offering feedback, offer help. If the employee missed some instructions or is under too high workload, feedback won't help and may damage the relationship.
What kind of tools has the employee been given? Depending on their workload, the employee may need a new computer or an additional monitor to successfully complete the work they've been assigned.
If the employee works in a busy cube farm and needs more quiet space for proofing or detail work, offer noise-canceling headphones or a standing screen for a bit of privacy.
Start With Praise
If the employee has received assistance and gotten any additional training necessary, be absolutely certain to offer praise for a job well done. We all tend to focus more on our errors than our triumphs, so take care in pointing out mistakes.
As you point out the work you're really impressed with, the employee may notice their own mistakes further down the page. They may start to open up to you as they point out errors. This is a great time to ask for their suggestions or do a small brainstorming session on alterations as well as mistakes. This is particularly critical if you work in a creative industry. Employees who never risk making a mistake will ultimately add less to your bottom line because they settle into churning out the same old product, project after project.
Areas For Improvement
Be extremely specific about any work product that needs more attention. If possible, start with a physical example of excellent work, such as a print-off of a report or marketing layout. Then move into areas for improvement, and finish up with a timeline for revisiting the less-than-stellar work product example.
This chance to revisit the product will give you, the supervisor or business owner, several benefits.
1) The employee will know exactly the sort of work you're happy with.
2) Ultimately, the employee will be able to study their work through your preferences.
3) As the employee gains confidence in their work product meeting your standard, you will have trained yourself an assistant for reviewing projects when your time is very limited.
Negative Feedback or Punitive Action
Negative feedback needs to be given in as private and comfortable a space as possible. Additionally, if the feedback involves any sort of punitive action on the part of the supervisor, you should have a witness present and get a signature from the employee, the supervisor and the witness to confirm that the conversation was held and a decision was reached. Finally, track the results of this meeting via paper folder or HR software for future reference.
Monitor Your Time
There's a difference between training an employee to a new task and hand-holding through new mistakes on the same old assignments. It may be time to freshen up on effective leadership skills if you're spending a lot of time preparing to meet with one employee over the same mistakes as last month, or facing a lot of hostility every time you meet with one particular employee, it may be time to cut your losses.
Embrace The Variety When Receiving Feedback
However, there are many spectacular employees who offer great value but have a quirk that makes new projects a challenge. Perhaps you have an employee who doesn't handle change well. Give them space as they adapt to new software or a new office space, and offer them the chance to make suggestions for improvement. Be prepared for their feedback, and be aware it may not be positive.
Feedback doesn't have to be a formal