5 Feedback mistakes that kill employee engagement

Feedback. We all know we should be doing it, but sometimes going about it the wrong way can be worse than not doing it at all. With the advent of advanced system-based feedback tools there are many new and engaging options to capture and codify your team’s feedback. Encouraging and responding to team feedback is a sure fire way to super-charge your organization’s culture.


Let’s look at some common feedback mistakes as well as proven solutions we’ve tried and tested over the years to keep feedback meaningful and effective.

1. Only getting one side of the story

The best quality feedback combines multiple perspectives. Feedback should be two-way (between a manager and direct report) at a minimum, and ideally, 360 degrees (manager, direct report, self-review and peer-review). This gives a far more complete and useful view of an individual, providing both personal reflection and opportunity for coaching points.

Solution: Use 360 degree feedback

Regularly gather feedback on each individual from themselves, their manager, their direct reports and their peers to give the whole picture. This should be shared with managers and the team member.

2. Running engagement surveys that aren’t engaging

All employee engagement surveys are sent with the best of intentions, but how often do we stop to think if these are really engaging in themselves?

The major caveat of traditional engagement surveys is they are infrequent, typically long-winded, and therefore a bit of a pain to complete. These factors end up resulting in a low adoption rate, providing low quality (and outdated) data.

This also has the flow-on effect of not providing any relevant insights for leaders to act on. Once employees see the lack of results, they lose faith in the value of surveys and the cycle continues. This presents the ultimate irony – when employee engagement surveys actually have a negative impact on engagement and morale.

Solution: Send quick check-ins instead

Short and sweet check-ins sent regularly will yield better response rates and allow leaders to action feedback in a timely and accurate manner.

The lighter, continuous feedback is more likely to be responded to and more likely to provide those little unguarded insights which help leaders understand what is going on. Gathering feedback in this way also allows greater agility, as a shorter check-in form can be quickly designed and sent out when specific insights are needed.

RELATED: Why continuous feedback is critical to your organization’s success

3. Only giving feedback in annual reviews

One of the most common feedback pitfalls is only engaging in feedback at annual review time. There are a few issues with this;

  1. It’s too infrequent to allow for timely and proactive decision making

  2. The process of compiling a year’s worth of information is time-consuming

  3. The feedback being given is subject to recency bias, so those involved often end up focusing on recent events rather than the whole past 12 months.

Key Takeaway

22% of people have cried after an annual review, 37% looked for a new job and 20% quit.


Solution: Replace with regular one-on-ones

Regular check-ins largely remove the need for a formal annual review, while also mitigating these issues. The ideal process involves an automated online check-in completed electronically, followed by a face-to-face one-on-one between each direct report and their manager, once a month (aka continuous performance management).

If you can support this with an automated real-time performance summary then this will help support both the team member and manager with an up to date picture of their progress, helping to focus the conversation toward support further positive outcomes.

4. Over-formalising the feedback process

Another key reason that traditional annual reviews can be ineffective is that they are too formal, sending employees into these meetings with the wrong mindset. The more someone feels is at stake from a conversation around feedback, the less likely they are to be honest and speak openly.

Getting honest answers from all parties when engaging in feedback is crucial to extracting value, especially when it comes to acting on issues or roadblocks inhibiting people from doing their best work. The only way to uncover these is to ensure staff feel comfortable speaking openly and honestly about what they’re experiencing, without fear of negative repercussions.

Solution: Keep check-ins light

Word questions on check-ins in an inviting and conversational tone to help people feel more comfortable sharing honest answers. Keep the number of questions to a minimum (quality or quantity) so the process is quick and easy to complete.

5. Having rating scales that discourage asking for help

One of the key benefits of the whole feedback process is getting the insights to intercept problems before they escalate. This means it’s absolutely essential for check-ins to encourage employees to ask for help when needed.

One area where self-assessments can fall down, is having rating scales along the lines of below expectations, meeting expectations or above expectations. No one wants to rate themselves as ‘below expectations’, but if an employee feels they’re falling behind, it’s more important than ever for them to be reporting this so they can get the help they need to improve.

Solution: Update your rating scales

A simple change in wording can shift the focus of rating scales to where employees are performing now to how they could be performing at their peak. Options like going great, going okay or needs help help people feel comfortable admitting if they’re not performing at their best, allowing their manager to step in and ensure they have what they need to improve.