Learn How to Give Feedback

January 9, 2024 | Reskill Your Workforce | 5 min read

Feedback is an effective way of coaching people to do the best work they can.

But providing direct, specific, and actionable feedback can be intimidating. It is a power skill, and one that managers typically learn over time as they become more experienced. Not to mention, there are conflicting opinions about how to best offer feedback. Here are many popular models of doing this, but here are two that come to mind:

1. The Feedback Sandwich

When I first became a manager, I was told that the easiest way to provide negative feedback was to “sandwich it” between compliments or praise. For example, “You are so creative. But, your recent project strayed too far from our brand message, so we’ll have to revamp it. I can’t wait to see what ideas you come up with next.

However, according to Wharton Professor Adam Grant, data shows that “Giving a compliment sandwich might make the giver feel good, but it doesn’t help the receiver.” And he might be right. Feedback must be direct and actionable – and the feedback sandwich leaves too much room for ambiguity.

2. The Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) Method

Often held as the gold standard in giving feedback, the SBI Method is relatively straightforward. Call attention to what happened, talk about the specific behaviors you observed, and explain the impact of those behaviors on the team or the organization. In this way, you can provide context for the feedback and offer team members constructive advice for improvement.

Some professionals follow the SBII Method of feedback, which adds “intent” as a last step in the process. Managers are encouraged to inquire about the original intent behind the behavior of their direct reports. This helps to draw a parallel between the impact and the intent and create more coachable moments.

But how can you give your managers low-risk opportunities to develop their feedback skills – before embarking on these difficult conversations in real life?

Skillsoft CAISY Conversation AI Simulator, an innovative GenAI-based tool for simulating business and leadership conversational skills, can provide your employees with an emotionally safe space to practice important business conversations with an AI-powered trainer.

Why is this important for your organization? According to a VitalSmarts survey, every failed conversation at work costs an average of $7,500 in time and resources, and even worse, employees waste seven days or more. Yet, people are still hesitant to provide direct feedback:

  • 72% of workers fail to speak up when a fellow worker fails to pull their weight
  • 68% don't speak up when they see someone disrespected
  • 55% fail to speak up when there is confusion about decision rights

CAISY is one way to enable feedback. It can help you find gaps in your communication style without exposing yourself to the vulnerability of a real human being until you create a plan to fill these gaps. It is the definition of a judgement-free zone!

CAISY provides personalized feedback via 60+ scenarios, including “Coaching Your Team” and “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).” Learn more about the scenarios in these two categories, below.

CAISY Scenarios for Coaching Your Team

Coaching a Struggling Employee: Practicing coaching scenarios in advance of experiencing them can help your managers refine their communication and motivational skills, ensuring a more constructive and supportive interaction. Managers can anticipate potential reactions and plan strategies to handle them, fostering a more confident and empathetic coaching experience.

Managing Up / Delegating Up: It can be awkward to ask a superior to complete a necessary task. But by rehearsing the delegation process, individuals can become more adept at matching tasks with the skills and strengths of their managers, while also enhancing their ability to navigate organizational dynamics and promote a more streamlined and productive workflow.

Coaching an Employee through Career Development: Preparation allows managers to anticipate potential questions or concerns their employees may have about their career paths, enabling them to provide well-thought-out and insightful responses.

Subscribe to the Skillsoft Blog

We will email when we make a new post in your interest area.

Select which topics to subscribe to:

CAISY Scenarios for DEI

Embracing Psychological Safety: By rehearsing scenarios, a manager can develop the skills needed to actively listen, validate diverse perspectives, and respond empathetically. This might also help the manager to anticipate potential challenges in fostering psychological safety and develop strategies to address them effectively.

Creating an Inclusive Environment: Understand the nuances of fostering inclusivity, including identifying potential biases and addressing unconscious prejudices that may hinder inclusivity. By rehearsing inclusive practices, managers can develop the skills necessary to communicate effectively and ensure that team members from diverse backgrounds feel valued and respected. This proactive approach also helps the manager anticipate potential challenges in promoting inclusivity and implement strategies to overcome them, contributing to a more supportive workplace culture.

Making Decisions Inclusively: Managers may assess potential biases and consider diverse perspectives, ensuring that their decisions are fair and equitable. By rehearsing the decision-making process, managers can refine their skills in actively seeking input from a variety of team members and promote a culture of inclusion and diversity.

Understanding Implicit Biases: Recognize and acknowledge biases and foster self-awareness that is essential for effective leadership. By rehearsing scenarios and understanding implicit bias, managers can develop the skills needed to make more informed and unbiased decisions, creating a fairer and more inclusive workplace.

Addressing Micro-behaviors in Team Meetings: Develop the skills needed to recognize subtle, potentially harmful behaviors that may go unnoticed by others. Then refine your ability to address these micro-behaviors in a constructive and sensitive manner, fostering a more inclusive and respectful team environment.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Feedback is a gift.” Not only does it help employees understand what is expected of them, but it clarifies how they might meet those expectations. Providing regular feedback can help to build trust and improve communication between managers and employees, leading to a more positive work environment, increased employee engagement and motivation, and better business outcomes.

If your organization is looking for a way to empower its managers to give more effective feedback via low-stakes practice conversations made possible by artificial intelligence, we can help.