How to Give Memorable (and Effective) Feedback
Providing feedback is a crucial step in the healthcare environment. Mistakes can have high costs, so it’s essential to address potentially problematic behaviors before they become an issue. But what are some ways to provide actionable feedback to staff without trampling on morale?
“You should have a positive approach,” says Kent Rondeau, an Associate Professor at the University of Alberta who specializes in healthcare administration. “You really need to believe in the potential of your people rather than focus on their drawbacks and negatives.”
But getting the right balance between providing the feedback people need to grow and focusing on their strengths can be tricky, especially in the fast-paced healthcare industry. Here are three ways you can utilize feedback to move your organization forward.
Offer Formative Feedback
Summative feedback is the type most people are familiar with; it tends to be evaluative, measuring overall success in reaching a goal. Formative feedback, on the other hand, breaks down practices to show which were successful and which weren’t, and it relies on specific criteria. However, it’s important that you don’t just point out where someone wasn’t successful; you have to explain why and show them how to fix it.
“You have to find that ‘sweet spot’ between people leaving happy with their work and learning something to improve on in the future,” says Angus Woodward, an Associate Professor at Franciscan University, a healthcare-oriented school. “The best way to find that sweet spot is by acknowledging what someone did well and giving specific, actionable advice to become better.”
Focus on Behavior, Not Personality
When offering feedback, confine your suggestions to things that can be changed, like habits or behaviors. For example, if you’re a nurse leader giving feedback on patient interaction, focus on the behavior of the person you’re training — not their personality.
It’s also important to frame the feedback positively. “If you focus always on the negative, people get really defensive,” Rondeau says. This prevents any progress from happening. The individual receiving feedback should never feel personally attacked.
“You want your employees to feel good when leaving your office,” Woodward says. “Be self-aware about your tone.” Be sure to include positive reinforcement along with suggestions for behavioral modification. This maintains a positive learning environment, as opposed to making someone feel personally attacked.
Encourage a Culture of Learning
Creating a culture where your staff wants to learn and grow goes a long way in easing the feedback process. Tapping into influencer culture at your organization is one way to create that culture. Rondeau suggests identifying the most respected people on your staff and observing how they interact. Another great way to do this is to keep your staff involved in the feedback process. “Quality improvement teams are really important,” Rondeau says. “You want your staff to feel engaged. Shared governance is a great way to do that.”
Woodward agrees and takes it a step further. Since feedback relies on specific criteria, you want your staff to know how they’re being measured, and you want them to know ahead of time. “A great way to encourage a culture of learning, and deep thinking about work processes, is to get your staff involved in collaborating on a rubric for evaluation,” he says. “Imagine how much more engaged your staff will be if they set the standards themselves; the work becomes a point of pride, and they want to improve.”
Ultimately, focusing on providing formative, constructive feedback and getting staff buy-in for the process can help create a workplace culture that thrives on growth.