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The crucial role of employee feedback in slowing the Great Resignation

Carrie Bender
Carrie Bender is Director of People and Culture at Strategic Security Solutions (S3).

The last few years have thrown some major curveballs in the general direction of people management. The Great Resignation has people resigning from their jobs in droves. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shared that 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November 2021 alone. Talent, particularly in highly skilled tech sectors, continues to be difficult to attract and more difficult to retain, and as some organizations return to in-person operations, just as many are continuing to navigate hybrid work models.

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These complexities are compounded when we consider that, for the first time in history, the active workforce in the U.S. today spans five generations. Each of these generational groups brings radically different perspectives to the table regarding work/life balance, motivators, and what they need and want to feel fulfilled in their careers. Now, more than ever, employers must encourage and enable regular and frequent conversations to set and clarify expectations, provide feedback and ensure the entire employee base is successful.

One thing is common among most employees, regardless of their age, work location or level of skill: Consistent, regular feedback is essential to streamline workplace operations. Encouraging frequent feedback from managers can help to maintain clarity, level the playing field and ensure employees know what is expected of them. From my experience, here are three benefits of providing frequent and actionable feedback in today’s workforce:

  1. Business benefits

By creating a culture of continuous feedback, employees are more apt to respond to and become actively engaged in their work and the business. Frequent, constructive feedback allows employees who may be struggling to understand their direction, receive input and discover how they can take the initial steps to improve. This enables good employees to become stronger and great employees to excel further, which in the end benefits the business.

See also: 5 retention strategies for combatting the Great Resignation

Additionally, smaller course corrections are easier for employees to internalize and apply than expecting major behavioral changes at one single point in time, which may occur during a traditional annual review. This is because as employees improve, even incrementally, they can make more substantive contributions, leading them to be more engaged, loyal and create better outcomes for the business.

  1. Engaged, confident employees

Timely feedback with measurement of actionable outcomes and behavioral changes can help an organization identify when a particular role isn’t a good fit for the person. This gives both the organization and the employee the opportunity to reevaluate their position, adjust when possible and hopefully develop a job description and set of duties that better align with the employee’s strengths. When an employee is performing to their strengths, they’re more confident in their results.

  1. Positive morale

The dangers of not investing the time in good coaching and regular feedback are infinitely more impactful than the time it takes to give the feedback. When employees are unclear what is expected of them or whether they are meeting those expectations, they are at a risk for becoming disengaged, less interested in their work and contributing less. Employees need to know that they are valued and understand how their contributions impact the overall success of the organization. When an entire customer base feels respected, confident and supported, morale increases exponentially and business operations reflect accordingly.

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Where do I begin?

As obvious as it sounds, creating opportunities to review performance and give feedback requires time and commitment. HR leaders should encourage all managers to schedule a regular touch-base meeting with each of their direct reports at the onset of the year (weekly or bi-weekly is recommended) and include performance feedback as a standing agenda item.

Related: Can ‘stay interviews’ help HR, managers build better relationships

Designate time

With so many people remaining in a virtual work environment, devoting time to sharing performance feedback and clarifying expectations is critical to ensure employees remain dedicated and driven to perform. Remote work naturally offers fewer organic opportunities to communicate, meaning scheduling a regular touch-base with all team members shows employees that the organization and managers are committed to them and their success. These progress check-ins encourage an open line of communication with remote employees and allow ongoing feedback that can be applied to address smaller issues before they become larger performance problems.

Utilize tools and technology

HR leadership can research and invest in a performance management platform to help facilitate real-time tracking of feedback and performance improvement. In absence of this, a shared document to capture short-term goals and growth objectives, and progress towards those goals, can be used to ensure team members remain aligned.

Clarify expectations

HR leaders should clearly define what success looks like at every level to help guide employees in their efforts. Identify critical skill areas for the line of business or industry and provide clear descriptions of behavior that the organization needs to be successful. People have a vastly improved chance of meeting or exceeding expectations when they can clearly visualize the goalposts.

Understand it is a company-wide effort

HR should enable managers to give effective and actionable performance feedback and offer them support in developing their own communication style and confidence. Model good behavior and make performance feedback an expectation of all managers within the organization. It is no secret that when managers understand that their own performance is reliant on their providing regular feedback and coaching, they are more inclined to prioritize these activities.

A life-long lesson

In an era of vast uncertainty, one thing is clear: People remain at the core of every business. Just like people, organizations continue to learn and adjust what it means to be successful. Recently, we’ve learned that success means investing time and opportunities into the employees who help make a business thrive. Organizations must now be willing and available to provide them with transparency, ongoing communication and the resources they need to be successful because it’s more than a business imperative, it’s the right thing to do.

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