The Kind Of Positive Feedback That Works

We all know that giving attaboys or attgirls to our team is a good thing, right?  Not so fast, or should I say, not so general.  Research from Bersin indicates that certain types of accolades or recognition works better than others – especially when it comes to Gen Y employees.  

What works?  Highly specific feedback that identifies exactly what your employee did, the difference it made and how you feel about it.  What fails? Vague feedback that doesn’t isolate your employee’s thoughtful action and its output. 

When you tell someone, “you are doing a great job” that is a case of vague feedback.  When you say, “I appreciate the detail you put into that client report, especially the metrics you included on opt out.  It’s one of the the top reasons they’ve renewed the campaign, and I’m proud of your thoughtfulness” you are being highly specific.  

This is important to Gen Y employees that play work like a videogame, seeking to master it and not just suck-up-to-the-suits.  General feedback gives them the idea that it’s not personal to them or thoughtful on your part, by the way.  A recent article in Harvard Business Review pointed out that most companies ranked giving feedback as dead last in competencies, but a top priority to Gen Y employees.  So think before you give praise, even if it means you give it less often.  

The other reason specific positive feedback works best is because it perpetuates the specific behavior that you want to see happen more often.  A generalized, “good job last quarter” doesn’t signal to your employee what they should be repeating, other than “doing a good job.”  

Recently, I gave feedback to my event coordinator at my speaking manager group that was highly specific.  She added power point format to an event report (telling me that the event manager wanted me to know that she was using the 16X9 format instead of the default 4X3).  That’s really important to a speaker that doesn’t want to have to reformat a presentation at the last minute…and I use a lot of screen captures that would look stretched otherwise.  When I told my event manager that including that type of information was helpful and saved me time and stress, she noted it and told others they should start to include such logistics reporting for all speakers and all events.  That’s how specific feedback can improve the entire system!