How Feedback Shapes The Employee Experience

By Sara Salam

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

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It’s no secret that communication is always a hot topic in the workplace.

While there isn’t one training session that could cover every research initiative or scholarly probe into how to communicate better, we can focus on how goal-directed feedback can help people bridge communication gaps at work and improve productivity as a result.

Goal-setting has been found to increase productivity by as much as 25%. Secondly, 70% of employees would like to spend more time with the managers.

By consistently integrating goal-directed feedback into your 1:1 meetings with direct reports, your employees will feel happier and more engaged, and will also perform at a higher level.

Think about it this way: they get HYPE’d (where Happiness Yields Productive Employees).

The Employee Experience

Let’s think of the employee experience as a story.

Each employee lives their own unique narrative as they navigate the responsibilities and challenges of their role within any organization.

We all interact with other employees, encounter business problems, and aspire to reach resolutions. That is the nature of work.

What are the essential elements of a story? The characters (employees, clients, vendors), setting (workplace, culture, values), plot (framed by the company’s mission and purpose), and conflict (achieving business goals and objectives).

Each of these elements contributes to and shapes the employee experience through a critical communication mechanism called dialogue.


Feedback is a large part of the dialogue exchanged between colleagues, clients, and vendors – i.e., the characters.

The narrative develops based on feedback exchanged between these characters.

One might say that this dialogue has the single largest impact on a storyline – outside of natural disasters and uncontrollable events.

We’re going to approach feedback as a tool for you to help you write your story in a goal-directed way, as well as those whose work you immediately impact: your direct reports.

Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen wrote a great book, Thanks for the Feedback: The Science & Art of Receiving Feedback Well, that speaks to those on the intake end of feedback.

Though written for those who receive feedback, it’s a great resource for managers to derive insights of how to deliver feedback. It also informs the following strategy.

Feedback Spiral

Feedback is part of a greater process I like to refer to as the “feedback spiral”.

Named for the conversation between team members, the feedback spiral describes how feedback is communicated and built upon to improve an employee’s productivity and performance.

We call it a spiral versus a loop or cycle because the intent is to continuously broaden and enhance the dialogue, leading to growth and focus on more complex and loftier goals.


Feedback is based on observations. Observations are comprised of facts and points of view – essentially, the data we collect with our eyes and how to interpret it with our brains.

When we give feedback, it’s communicated through the lens of what I call the “giver’s filter.”

It’s just what it sounds like. The data is filtered by the person giving the feedback via their own unique perspective.

Feedback is a reflection of how managers respond to their expectations of how their employee accomplishes their goals. “I see this, but I expect this.”

Setting Expectations

To establish direction for how a manager expects an employee to do/perform their job, it’s important to create a set of goals the employee can work towards to meet those expectations.

The dialogue between a manager and their direct report is a fluid conversation about how an employee goes about achieving their goal.

We can use feedback as the basis for forming goals, which can be crafted using SMARTe goals:

SMARTe Goals

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Action
  4. Results (or relevant)
  5. Time
  6. Environment

Desired Outcomes

This is just what it sounds like – the results that come about as a result of setting goals.

These are the concrete actions we want to see our people embrace and execute.

Once those are established, we see their performance, which brings us back to observations: the facts and p.o.v. we witness that further leads to more feedback, and so on.

So the spiral continues to grow outward as our visions and goals evolve and change.

Action Plan

To engage in a dynamic feedback spiral, listening consistently to your people is essential. There is a difference between hearing what they’re saying and listening to what they’re saying.

Active listening can be achieved using the following 3 R’s:

  1. Repeat
  2. Recap
  3. Revisit

During each pre-scheduled 1:1 meeting with your direct report (weekly is recommended), use the 3 R’s to frame your conversation:


Studies show repeating keywords in dialogue helps retain the information and also increases the likelihood of follow-up later.


Along the lines of repetition, recap the conversation at the end and review action items that each of you will complete prior to your next meeting.


Kick-off your next meeting by revisiting what was previously discussed.  Allow your direct report to share their updates first, then follow up with your own.

Then ask, where are we differing and where are we similar? How can we close the gap?

What About Performance Reviews?

Performance reviews are a point-in-time version of feedback conversations.

Think of them as opportunities to recount trends in performance and provide examples of those trends.

Looking Ahead

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to designing and executing an effective employee experience strategy.

Along with consistent and meaningful feedback, employees need to build trust and credibility with their managers and teams.

Remember that you play a pivotal role in your employee’s experience. You play a critical part in shaping the dialogue of your employee’s narrative.

Hopefully, you’ve read some tips you can put to use as you build your relationship with your direct reports with trust and communication.

How Important is the Employee Experience?

If you have ideas about the employee experience at your company that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Sara Salam
Sara Salam
As the VP, Client Engagement for SDLI, Sara Salam works with leaders to drive business results by assessing and diagnosing critical leadership and people strategy challenges. In her 7 years as a Human Resources professional, Sara focused on performance management, people analytics, and Predictive Index programming. She is also a published author.
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