Informal Feedback is the Key to Successful Formal Feedback…Here’s Why

The Importance of Feedback

Feedback is important because it not only drives performance in a positive direction, but it also positively impacts the attitude and mindsets of all employees. When employee mindset and attitude are on the up and up, business results like profits, satisfaction scores, and employee experience will follow suit, in a positive, upbeat direction.

Great leaders are true coaches who master the art of both informal and formal feedback.

Informal feedback is every day, casual conversations regarding how work is being done.  Formal feedback is more organized, clearly documented, and saved in an employee’s or business’ files. 

Research tells us that most formal feedback falls flat because leaders haven’t engaged or connected through informal feedback – casual conversations – along the way.

Most of us have experienced this, first-hand; when we don’t hear from or see leaders of our own for days or even weeks at a time, only to be surprised when they call us in for a “formal feedback” discussion.  

The Challenges of Feedback

It can be challenging to give team members informal feedback, especially if they are unfamiliar with receiving any feedback; they only receive feedback when something goes wrong; or if you do not have a positive relationship with them. 

Feedback can be perceived negatively and consequently result in a negative reaction from the team member. 

How to Deliver Informal Feedback

Because of these challenges, we must understand the key characteristics of effective informal feedback. 

Tips for delivering effective informal feedback:

-Be fair and balanced: Consider the circumstances in which the behavior occurred. Balanced means that not all the feedback you give is negative or for improvement. In fact, you should be providing more positive feedback and recognition than critiquing performance. 

-Make it timely: The informal feedback should occur right after the behavior was observed or ideally within an hour. 

-Be personal: Use the person’s name when delivering the feedback.

-Be specific: Provide details of what was observed or heard.

-Remove your negative emotions from your delivery: Informal feedback cannot be emotional, especially when it is a negative emotion. Informal feedback is often given in the operation or a team member’s work area where others may be present. 

-Informal feedback should be just a quick, casual conversation that does not stand out in anyone else’s mind, so any emotions must be kept to a minimum.

-Ask questions rather than make statements: Ensure the person understands the impact of their behavior by asking them questions. By asking questions, the person receiving the feedback has to process information rather than just being a passive listener.

-Be genuinely thankful: Always thank a team member after giving feedback.