Opinion

Giving and getting feedback – advice from HR consultant Ros Stephens 

Our HR development programme is for HR professionals who want to develop their careers. In 2021 the programme was made up of four sessions, each led by a guest speaker. These provide insight into new concepts, practices, ideas and skills. The third session was run by Ros Stephens, a coach, trainer and HR consultant, and looked at how to get and give feedback at work in positive ways. Here are the key takeaways. 

‘Silence guarantees nothing changes.’ This is a quote from Alan Eustace, former senior vice president of engineering at Google Knowledge. It neatly sums up why feedback at work is so important. But whether you’re giving or receiving it, how can you make sure you do that in the best way? 

How to give feedback 

As Ros herself put it during the session: ‘Giving feedback is at the heart of developing people for improved performance.’ Here are her thoughts on the best way to do just that. 

1. Think about reframing the word ‘feedback’ 

Feedback is simply sharing information with someone to raise their awareness about something. It might be something you want them to do more or less of. Either way the focus should be on development and learning, not on the feedback itself. So always be clear about your intention to encourage growth when giving it. 

2. Always describe the impact  

When you’re giving someone feedback, remember to describe the impact of their actions or behaviour. This is the ‘so what?’, and it could be the impact on you, a client, harmony in the team, efficiency, costs etc. Doing this moves the conversation on from being about a pet peeve or personal differences, and helps the person getting feedback understand the wider impact of their actions or behaviour.   

3. Move away from a feedback triangle 

Feedback should come directly from the person with the feedback to the person getting the feedback – nowhere else. In a nutshell: talk to people, not about them. 

Ros’ top tips 

  • Give feedback little and often, rather than letting things build up or slide. 
  • Always make sure you’re coming at it from the right angle – feedback is about helping someone improve their performance. 
  • Empathise – if you’re giving improvement feedback, say things like ‘this might be hard to hear…’. 
  • Stay open – it’s a conversation, not a monologue. So be ready to listen and ask questions. 
  • Remember the good stuff – giving someone praise is the best way to improve their performance. Make sure they know what they’re doing that you appreciate and what you’d like to see more of. 

How to get feedback 

The key to getting feedback, good or bad, is to stay open minded. And remember that it’s about helping you learn.  

Ros’ top tips 

  • Take a deep breath and stay calm – be brave enough to listen, and remember that there’s something valuable in all feedback, good or bad. 
  • Think about your mindset – stay open and curious. 
  • Keep listening so you can respond, understand and learn. 
  • Respond in the right way – say thank you for the feedback, then take action. And remember to check back at a later date to make sure you’re still acting on it. 

A last word from Ros 

Even if giving or getting feedback can be a bit painful, ultimately it’s a gift. So choose it thoughtfully, present it carefully and receive it graciously. 

Want to know more? 

If you’re interested in finding out about how our HR development programme could help you, feel free to get in touch 

Written by

Judith Pugh

Judith joined Pure in 2017 and is responsible for marketing the business, marketing strategy and delivering campaigns. Judith has worked in marketing for more than 20 years across a range of industries from health and fitness, horticulture, GIS software, education and now recruitment.

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