Performance Conversations

Employee feedback tools and examples: A manager's guide

Giving effective feedback can be one of the toughest tasks for many managers. In this guide, we share how to have effective feedback conversations using the CEDAR framework.

Employee feedback tools and examples: A manager's guide

We all know that feedback conversations matter.  

Positive feedback gives people a vital sense of progress and shows them how they add value. It helps people leverage their capabilities and understand where they are making an impact. 

On the other hand, developmental, redirecting or constructive feedback is just as important as it highlights where an employee can make important adjustments early to stay on track.  

Both are crucial to growth. 

The role of good-quality feedback 

Feedback is a critical component in improving performance organisation-wide.   

People shouldn’t be left waiting for recognition when it’s earned, and businesses have a duty to provide a mechanism of transparency whereby talent understands how they are performing, and they are equipped with the tools to get better at what they do.  

Gallup research shows that only 10.4% of employees whose manager's feedback left them with negative feelings (such as feeling criticised) are engaged.  

On the flipside, a report from Clutch found that when employees receive clear and consistent feedback, 7 out of 10 feel fulfilled in their jobs. 

Good quality feedback isn't just about keeping employees happy—it's about how well employees perform and how engaged they are.  The lynchpin to this is that managers have a big responsibility to deliver good quality feedback that helps their team members grow and develop. 

Why you need to learn how to deliver feedback to motivate and engage 

Giving effective feedback can be one of the toughest tasks for many managers.  

Assessing someone's performance can stir up emotions and anxiety, making it particularly daunting for new managers who often lack the training they need to deliver feedback effectively.  

Here's the reality: Nobody is inherently adept at giving good-quality feedback—it's a skill that develops with learning, guidance, and ultimately practice.  

As a manager, it's crucial to learn effective feedback skills not just to support your team's career development and performance, but also your own. 

How to facilitate effective feedback conversations 

There are different tools and frameworks designed to help facilitate feedback conversations. One that we recommend is the CEDAR™ Feedback Model. Applying questioning techniques, CEDAR aims to engage, motivate, and establish effective communication channels for constructive feedback conversations – we dive into it below. 

According to the CIPD, good-quality employee feedback should include information that is specific, relevant to the job, constructive, credible and unbiased. However, navigating feedback discussions and delivering feedback in line with what this definition – as we’ve previously identified is a learned skill, as opposed to one that every person comes equipped to the workplace with.  

Examples of ineffective employee feedback  

As a new manager, and even for those with years of experience, it can be easy to overcompensate negative feedback with positives. 

Take the typical praise sandwich approach, it’s a technique that sandwiches negative feedback with positive and is a commonly used feedback tool, but it has a clear drawback. Because for the most part, the feedback is positive, the constructive feedback can often get lost in translation.  

Other examples of not-so effective feedback might include only choosing to zero in on failures - in turn failing to acknowledge when individuals do a good job.  

Then there’s neutral or even vague feedback, feedback that offers neither re-direction nor reinforcement. 

Each of these three examples won’t work to drive employee performance. Those who are on the receiving end of the first type of feedback are likely being misled. Those in the second category feel demotivated, neglected and exhausted due to the absence of acknowledgment and support, and those provided with the third type of feedback stagnate with no reinforcement or redirection.  

In each of these examples, they also don’t allow for the individual on the receiving end to input into the discussions – it’s important to remember that effective feedback starts with a two-way conversation as a collaborative approach is vital for buy-in and accountability. 

These examples give us a glimpse into specific situations where ineffective feedback may occur. Now, let's explore the 6 key characteristics of effective, high-quality feedback. 

Six characteristics of effective employee feedback 

It's crucial to underscore the collaborative nature of feedback conversations. It's not merely about telling (a common approach managers often feel compelled to take), but rather about jointly exploring situations, insights and differences in perspectives.  

A manager's role is to provide support and ask probing questions that assist their direct reports in gaining a better understanding of the situation, enabling the employee to take an active role in shaping the path forward. 

Secondly, preparation is key: 

  1. Choose the most appropriate time and place. 
  2. Consider how your team members prefer to receive feedback (explore this when they join your team). 
  3. Think about your body language, be relaxed but fully engaged. 
  4. Collect useful examples you can draw upon ahead of time. 

Here are six characteristics that build upon collaboration and preparation to ensure every feedback conversation is effective:  

1. Clear 

Feedback should be crystal clear, leaving no room for ambiguity and should be provided both with context and examples to support the feedback discussion. When feedback is unclear or lacking context and examples it prevents people from understanding what improvements might be needed. 

2. Relevant 

Effective feedback addresses significant areas for growth rather than focusing on minor issues. It is given using descriptive language and based on accurate and credible information. 

3. Timely  

The most effective feedback is timely and often delivered in the moment. This way it addresses issues early, shows genuine consideration for someone’s development, and enables prompt resolution or reinforcement.  

4. Specific and unbiased 

Detailed feedback is essential for employees to grasp precisely where they need improvement or deserve recognition. By providing specific information, you can steer clear of bias, ensuring feedback remains rooted in objective observations of performance, work, and/or behaviour. 

5. Constructive 

Whether reinforcing positive behaviours or redirecting negative ones, these actions are examples of what good feedback needs to be to drive positive change: constructive. Constructive feedback focuses on future improvements, and guides individuals to continue, change or improve their actions, with helpful advice on how to get there.  

6. Actionable  

Effective feedback is actionable. It provides specific guidance or suggestions for improvement that individuals can implement. Unlike vague feedback, actionable feedback gives clear direction on what behaviors to continue, adjust, or change so that a plan can be made to move forward. 

Giving feedback using CEDAR 

The CEDAR model is a great tool to learn how to give effective feedback. Comprising Context, Examples, Diagnosis, Actions, and Review, CEDAR embodies the above 6 characteristics by structuring feedback discussions openly and providing a framework for constructive 1:1 discussion.  

Here’s how each component of the CEDAR model facilitates effective employee feedback and how to put the CEDAR model into practice: 

Stage 1: Context 

This stage sets the scene for the feedback discussion by providing background information and establishing a clear understanding of the situation from both perspectives.  

For example, a manager might begin by explaining the specific project or task in question and opening the floor for discussion. 

A useful question to use at this stage might be: 

Let’s look at the outcomes together. What did you see as the impact (on others/the task)? How important is this?  

Stage 2: Examples 

Here, you provide specific instances or examples to illustrate the context—the CEDAR model encourages using concrete, real-life behaviors or performance when sharing feedback examples. This approach helps people better understand the feedback and its implications. 

Positive: examples are given to reinforce  

Negative: examples are given to redirect 

Remembering this is a two-way discussion, you would want to ask questions that get their input or take on the sequence of events relating to the example in question such as: What happened? What did you or others say or do? 

Stage 3: Diagnosis 

At this stage, the focus shifts to analysing the feedback and identifying areas for improvement or reinforcement. You want to help your direct report identify why they are where they are. Developing insights in this way is crucial to selecting the right actions moving forward. 

Once again, you can employ probing questions to assist your direct report in reflecting on their actions and identifying potential underlying reasons for their performance. They might recognise influences impacting on their work that are beyond their control, such as access to resources, level of support provided, or the dynamics of their work environment. Additionally, influences may stem from your direct report's own capabilities and actions. Considering both aspects is often beneficial, and beginning with an exploration of the external environment can help build trust. 

Useful or probing questions could take the form of: 

  1. What wider influences were there?  
  2. Looking at your own actions or capabilities, where might these have influenced outcomes? 

Stage 4: Actions 

Following the diagnosis and discussion, the next stage involves asking what actions your direct report may wish to take to address the feedback and drive positive change.  

Do add your own suggestions, especially if their proposed actions don’t go far enough, just don’t do this too early. The more your direct report decides upon the next steps for themselves, the more they will own the outcome rather than you.  

Here’s how to add your suggestions without overshadowing their decision-making process - as it’s all part of holding them to account and getting them to take responsibility for the path forward. 

  1. From these discussion points, what actions would you like to take? 
  2. What if you tried… [X] 
  3. How can I help? 
  4. Change is vital here. What more could you do? - This question is great for setting clear boundaries.  

Stage 5: Review 

Finally, the review stage involves monitoring progress and providing ongoing support and feedback to drive forward progress, ensure undesirable behaviour is redirected and positive performance or behaviour reinforced.  

Make sure you round off the discussion with one of these questions (depending on the severity of the feedback discussion you might want to be a bit more formalised but otherwise these questions will work well):  

  1. What steps will you have taken to address this by [date]? 
  2. When should we follow up next?
  3. Here’s what I will do to help…

By scheduling follow-up meetings you’ll be able to track improvements and celebrate achievements along the way. 

By incorporating the CEDAR model into your feedback conversations, it helps to ensure that feedback is not only timely, specific, and actionable but also conducive to employee growth and development. 

Creating a culture of effective feedback  

Creating a culture of effective feedback hinges on equipping yourself and your team with the skills to provide good-quality feedback consistently, especially in spontaneous, unrehearsed moments such as those that come about during 1:1 conversation. 

Shifting from an annual to a regular feedback model is a big part of making this happen at a cultural level, and is vital to positively influence employee development and growth on an ongoing basis.  

Waiting for a yearly performance review to collate and share feedback leaves individuals uncertain about their progress, where they might be going wrong and needing redirection, or where they are doing well and needing reinforcement to spur them along.  

And that's the essence of it. Feedback works best when it's ingrained in the workplace day-to-day.  

To understand how OpenBlend helps to equip managers and employees with the skillset, toolset and mindset required to have effective 1:1s that drive employee performance and promote a culture of effective feedback, get in touch for a demo.  

New: Lightbulb has now launched. An embedded module within OpenBlend that gives your teams learning, and bite-sized coaching content in the moment to improve the effectiveness of 1:1 conversation at work. Download our product guide to find out more. 

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