When used correctly, feedback can be an incredibly valuable business tool. But, if you feel like the feedback you give is falling on deaf ears or it is not inspiring any action or change, then you could be wasting your breath. That’s not worthwhile for you or your employees.

Get the 2017 report on the state of appraisals and feedback in UK small businesses now

Research from Breathe has identified that almost one quarter (23%) of UK small business employees only receive feedback once a year during their annual reviews, whilst 21% never receive feedback at all. With feedback being so infrequent, it is unsurprising that employers may not have mastered the practice and are therefore not reaping the benefits that come as a result of giving effective feedback.

The reason employers should give feedback is to close the gap between the action of a person to achieve a result and the result itself. Effective and impactful feedback should help a person see the gap between the action and the result, whilst building the motivation needed to convert the feedback into improved performance. And, in an ideal world, getting the result.

So what stops you from giving effective feedback? And how can you ensure that your feedback has impact to achieve the results you need? Here are five ways you can give impactful feedback.

Begin with the end in mind

As we’ve established, the point of feedback is to achieve an end goal so it makes sense to have that goal in mind when giving feedback. This easy three-step method is a good way to do this:

  • Step one: “I would like to begin by sharing my observations on how you might be successful”
  • Step two: “How do you think this gap can be closed to achieve the result?”
  • Step three: “Let’s conclude with the next steps.”

Where and when

The gap between the action and the result will determine the amount of feedback that will be required. For example, if there’s a big gap, then it means there are probably a number of actions that will need to be taken to reach the goal and as a result, more feedback.

Consider whether it’s appropriate to give lengthy feedback like this in public, or if a private space would be more appropriate. Equally, think about the individual that you are feeding back to. When is a good time that they will be receptive to feedback? If they’re not a morning person, are they going to take in what you’re saying? Or should you let them finish their first coffee of the day before approaching them?

Be balanced

Balance is the key to ensuring your feedback has impact. If you’re solely giving someone negative feedback it is unlikely that they will come away with any motivation to change their behaviour. You need to balance telling and asking, as well as positive and negative. Research shows that the ideal praise to criticism ratio is 6 to 1. That’s six positive comments for every negative one.

Likewise, successful managers will alternate between telling and asking their employees to optimise the feedback. Telling provides direction and clarity whereas asking builds ownership and commitment.

Clarify performance

Once an employee has understood where the gap occurred or was allowed to open up, it is wise to clarify what they need to do next to close the gap.

First you need to ensure that the employee understands what success looks like and therefore what they are being measured against. If you had a deadline that they didn’t meet, but you didn’t tell them about the deadline, you’re setting them up for a fall.

In that situation, understandably, the employee will be shocked to have their performance evaluated against a standard that they didn’t understand was important or wasn’t aware of.


By feeding forward you recommend what the employee can do next time to avoid the situation they are in. Is it that they missed the deadline because they had too much on? If they’re in that situation again, who do they contact to help them, do they need to reprioritise their workload?

In doing this, you let the employee know what you would like them to do again, or not, to achieve the important result.

“If you do ‘x’, then you will make ‘y’ happen.”

When used correctly, feedback can be one of the most powerful tools in a manager’s arsenal. More than ever, employers need to improve on the quality, frequency and impact of their feedback to ensure it achieves the desired results and the businesses overall aims. These five ways will ensure your feedback has impact and will help you lead your employees to success.

breatheHR appraisal report