6 Ways to Give Positive Employee Feedback [+Examples]

Updated on December 22nd, 2021
6 Ways to Give Positive Employee Feedback [+Examples]

Bill Gates himself said that “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” and there’s so much truth in that statement. Employee feedback helps us grow and develop in our professional ones. Without feedback, especially if you don't preach employee appreciation, it’s impossible to know how you can improve, where you might be going wrong, and how effective your efforts truly are.

Giving feedback to your employees can help you lower your employee turnover rates. Also, this simple action can help you reduce the cost of employee disengagement. Giving positive feedback to your employees is perceived as a clear sign of a healthy employee experience.

Not only are employee incentive programs necessary to increase employee engagement; giving feedback to your employees is also a crucial part of it.

Some managers don't offer positive feedback because:

  1. They don't think it's needed.
  2. They think employees might actually start to relax and perform weaker if they think they're doing really well.
  3. They believe that constructive criticism is the only effective form of feedback.
  4. They don't really know how to give positive feedback or don't feel comfortable with it.

In reality, positive feedback can have fruitful effects. A Gallup study involving over 65,000 employees showed that those who received effective feedback had lower turnover rates than those who didn't. Gallup studies have also shown that managers who received feedback show close to 9% better profitability.

Unfortunately, there’s a fine line between effective positive feedback and ineffective positive feedback. Let's take a look at some ways to give feedback better, complete with some positive feedback examples.

1. Be Thorough And Specific with Employees Feedback

Gallup found that 67% of employees felt 'fully engaged' with their work after receiving positive feedback from management, but that feedback needs to be truly detailed to be effective. As stated previously, when it comes to positive feedback, those tired, cliché, throwaway phrases like “Great job!” lack effectiveness. 

When you want to provide effective positive feedback, you have to be specific and explain why. Now, it’s important not to take this the wrong way. Employers shouldn’t be giving long speeches and presentations when trying to compliment or laud the efforts and accomplishments of their team. Instead, they should still be more specific than simply offering a vague phrase of praise.

Positive feedback requires detail and precision. It’s all about praising the worker for something they’ve done and highlighting achievement. It’s important because by providing more details to your employees about exactly why you're impressed with their work, you give them a foundation on which to grow, improve, and repeat those same actions again.

Positive Feedback Example:

For an example of this, let’s imagine that a worker has been particularly successful heading up a project. Simply saying "Nice job on the project" is vague and has no real meaning behind it, but taking the time to highlight exactly what the person did that pleases you is much more effective.

For instance, in this case, something along the lines of "I noticed how you took the time to fully research the necessary information for this project, presenting it an easy-to-follow format and taking the time to include some alternate suggestions. That's really useful."

This example cuts out the vague 'fake feedback' terms and gets to the heart of the matter. It is clear and evident to the worker that you were impressed with their efforts. Pointing out exactly what you liked about their work will encourage them to replicate that same behavior going forwards.

The Breakdown:

  • Vague or ‘fake’ feedback like “Good job” is ineffective.
  • Feedback should be detailed and in-depth.
  • Take the time to highlight key aspects of your employees’ work.

2. Get Personal

In the past, employers had a worrying tendency of seeing their workers as little more than drones and robots, all simply turning up, performing their duties, and heading out the doors. These employees are often heading home to deal with personal problems and responsibilities that their employers could be helping with.

Fortunately, times have changed. With a better understanding of the importance of individuality and the ways in which workers like to feel valued and heard, more employers listen to their employees. This is backed by hard evidence too. Studies show that employee engagement and positive workplace cultures grow much faster and have lower turnover rates.

Getting to know your employees as real people and valuing their individuality can pay off in a big way. Zappos states that using the '80/20' rule, in which 20% of your time with employees is spent getting to know them and learning more about their lives, can help to enhance your working relationships and improve workplace culture and moral.

Positive Feedback Example:

By getting to know individual workers on a more personal level, learning about their likes and dislikes and engaging with their personalities, you can provide stronger and more positive feedback overall. If you learn that a worker has a certain hobby or favorite sports team, for example, you can bring it up in discussions to create a stronger bond.

The Breakdown:

  • Engaging with employees and learning more about them is a way to get engaged and create a positive workplace culture.
  • Employees may have personal issues that you can help with.
  • Personal feedback helps every individual feel more valued.

3. Timely Employment Feedback Is Most Effective

One of the golden rules of feedback is that it needs to be delivered in a timely fashion, and this is true throughout life. If we imagine a child at school is consistently getting something wrong, for example, a teacher or parent won’t wait a few weeks before letting them know. They’ll deliver the necessary feedback right away in order to help the child learn and develop from their actions.

The same holds true for both negative and positive actions and achievements in the workplace. Any performance feedback you give to help employee development needs to be provided at an appropriate and relevant time. Officevibe statistics support this claim, with four out of 10 workers saying they feel disengaged when they aren't getting any feedback.

The faster you provide feedback, the better. Why? Because it’s in the immediate period after an achievement and accomplishment that workers will respond most positively and productively to praise. A PWC study revealed that 60% of employees would enjoy hearing feedback on a daily or weekly basis, with 72% of young employees particularly saying they'd enjoy more regular feedback.

Positive Feedback Example:

This method is relatively self-explanatory, so doesn’t need a particularly in-depth example as a means of explanation. Let’s say that a worker has been excelling on a particular project at a key moment for the company.

Rather than waiting around to an end of term review, it’s vital to provide positive feedback to that person as soon as you notice the great work they’ve been doing. Don’t wait around too long; as soon as you get a chance to let them know, take it.

The Breakdown:

  • Employees need to be getting feedback regularly.
  • Feedback becomes less effective the longer you wait.
  • Provide on-the-spot feedback, rather than monthly/weekly reviews.

4. The Importance Of Delivery

Imagine someone saying "Great job" in a monotonous, tired voice without any expression whatsoever. Now imagine them saying it with enthusiasm and flair. The second example is much more effective, and this is a simple portrayal of how the way in which we deliver employees feedback is just as important as the feedback itself.

The importance of voice tone and body language cannot be understated here. Research shows that employees respond better to empathetic and approachable management.You could take two different employers with wildly different speaking voices and mannerisms and have them deliver the same exact feedback to an employee. The employee will definitely react differently, based purely on how the feedback is delivered.

This is why, even if you’re not much of a public speaker, taking the time to simply smile, speak in an approachable manner can significantly increase your turnover rate. 

Positive Feedback Example:

It's just important how you're approaching the person and how you're speaking to them. You could be saying anything at all, from "I really liked your work on the latest project" to "I admired the way you welcomed our new recruit", but you always need to deliver it in a positive way.

This means following standard business practices of maintaining eye contact, smiling at your worker to indicate your positive attitude, and not using an intimidating tone of voice that might make them worry about you saying something negative. As explained by leading business and happiness expert Emma Seppälä, a simple smile and some facial expressions really can go a long way towards making your words have an even bigger impact.

The Breakdown

  • Positive feedback is much more effective when delivered properly.
  • A simple smile can go a long way.
  • Never underestimate the importance of body language.

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5. Gestures and Rewards

Getting rewarded for doing a great job, employees will always be happy to know and learn that they’ve impressed their employers and colleagues. Words can be very powerful and effective at helping people to grow and develop. But to paraphrase the old saying: actions speak even louder.

The best positive feedback examples for colleague development will include constructive feedback and praise, as well as some kind of reward to amplify that praise. Of course, it’s vital to be balanced when handing out rewards of any kind, as you don’t want to get employees into the habit of expecting something every time they perform well.

However, in special cases, which you can judge or deem worthy by yourself, a simple gesture of grabbing a cup of coffee with the worker or buying a box of donuts to share around the office after a successful project can be a hugely effective way of showing employees how much you care and encouraging them all to work harder. An Attacoin study has shown that 88% of workers feel that rewards are important.

Positive Feedback Example:

There are many different situations when you might want to provide positive feedback. The most common positive feedback examples are when an employee has met or exceeded their goals, overcome an obstacle, or gone the extra mile in their work. It's also good to reward initiative, acts of good behavior, or even little things that are worthy of recognition in the context.

Rewards and gestures can be used in any of these situations. For example, an employee found themselves in a situation where they were able to use their own initiative to solve a problem, saving the company a lot of resources. You could say "I noticed how you saw a mistake on that invoice and immediately took action, calling the suppliers and getting the error fixed. You saved us all a lot of hassle."

From there, as a sign of recognition of the employee’s hard work, you could invite them to take a short break. If you have a personal and professional relationship with the employee and feel that this would be appropriate, ask them to grab a cup of coffee for you to have a chat. Or you could simply remember their act and offer to help them with something else they need.

The Breakdown:

  • Studies show that a large number of workers believe in the importance of rewards.
  • Simple gestures and acts of kindness can go a long way.
  • Employers should be careful not to go too far with rewards.

6. Keep Employment Performance Feedback 100% Positive

Employers naturally have a tendency to want to push for perfection, hoping to attain the unattainable. They constantly search for areas of improvement, changes that can be made, ways in which systems and productions can be enhanced to provide more productivity and better results. In short, employers are always looking for flaws and problems that need solving.

However, when it comes to the people, your workers, you shouldn’t take this approach. Positive feedback needs to be just that: positive. Some employers have a habit of using positive feedback moments as opportunities to slip in some slightly negative comments or criticisms, hoping that their positivity will help to offset the negative side of their comments.

If you always frame your positive feedback with a “But…” at the end of it and have the habit of balancing out your positives with negatives, employees will actually start to fear your feedback. Research undertaken by Francesca Gino at Harvard Business School has shown that employees have a tendency to strengthen bonds with those who act positively towards them, while fearing and disengaging with those who are negative

Positive Feedback Example:

Let's say an employee impressed you by doing something particularly difficult, like giving a winning presentation at a major meeting or conference. This is clearly an act deserving of praise and positive feedback. It shouldn't be used as an opportunity to point out any flaws, especially if the presentation took a lot of hard work and placed additional stress on the employee in question.

Some employers would be tempted to say something like "I appreciated your work on the presentation. I was impressed with how you managed to overcome your nerves to deliver it confidently. Why weren't you able to do the same at the last conference?" This example starts off positively, but immediately ends up on a negative. Employees, just like any other person, will tend to focus more on the negatives than the positives.

Instead, the feedback should be 100% positive from start to finish, focusing on what the employee did well, acknowledging their efforts and hard work, and pointing out a few specific details. Something like “I was impressed with the presentation you gave. I understand it was a stressful situation, but your confidence really shone through, your delivery was terrific, and the overall message was clear.”

If you do want to bring up something from the past that might not have been quite as impressive, you can simply add on to the feedback something like “You’ve really come a long way over the last few weeks” to acknowledge that the worker might have struggled in the past but is much stronger now.

The Breakdown:

  • Research shows that employees respond much better to positive than negative feedback.
  • Feedback that starts positive but becomes negative is self-defeating.
  • Staying totally positive in your feedback makes it much more effective overall.

Time to Implement Positive Feedback in Your Culture

The examples and studies cited above show some of the many ways in which positive feedback can contribute to a much happier workplace overall. Everyone appreciates hearing that their efforts aren’t in vain and that their hard work is appreciated. A happier workforce is more productive, so every employer can benefit from making use of positive feedback each and every day.



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