Employee Recognition 101: What, Why, How, Best Practices

Timely recognition is the secret to driving employee engagement and retaining top talent. Get all your questions on employee recognition answered in this single article.


min read

Employee recognition has been one of the top tools that most organizations are leveraging to create an empowering and positive work culture to attract and retain top talent. You must have come across at least one discussion over the past couple of years on how your organization needs to develop and implement a robust employee recognition program. 

However, we understand that with several priorities in your mind and limited resources, there might be multiple questions that you would have on employee recognition and the best way to maximize its effectiveness and ROI. 

After working with several fast growing organizations, we have been able to identify some of the tried and tested ways to get started with employee recognition, in a way that is efficient, cost effective and bears incremental results

Here is a detailed guide to help accelerate your rewards and recognition journey. 

Create a culture of recognition and appreciation

The first major question or thought that is likely to strike you is how to create a culture of recognition and appreciation. It goes without saying that if you simply recognize the work of your employees on an ad-hoc basis, there will be no sustained efforts or results. 

It will be a one-off event, leading to no impact on performance, retention or motivation. Therefore, it is important to create a culture of recognition and here are a few steps to achieve the same:

1. Recognize early and regularly

First, your employee recognition efforts need to be in real time and regular in nature. There are two aspects at play here. On one hand, you need to ensure that you recognize and appreciate the performance or efforts of your employees when it is due and not months after, when the cause of appreciation is out of mind. Therefore, you need to ensure early employee recognition. 

On the other hand, you need to be regular in your recognition efforts. Appreciating your employees once every six month is not enough to create a culture of recognition. You need to make recognition a habit, across all levels of the organization.

Pro-tip: Having regular 1:1 check-ins with team members is a quick, easy and cost-effective way to induce a culture of regular recognition. Check out our short guide on how to take your next 1:1 check-in to the next level

2. Be specific 

A culture of recognition and appreciation thrives when you are specific. Simply telling your employees that they did a good job is not enough. Be specific and clear on what they are receiving appreciation and recognition for. 

Whether it is for closing a deal or for improving customer satisfaction, you need to be clear when recognizing efforts and performance. This will help them understand what they are being recognized for, and will further enable them to work towards the same with greater motivation. 

Being specific will also give cue to others on how recognition works best, and, thereby, encourage them to emulate the same.

3. Celebrate effort and intention

If you wish to truly create a culture of recognition and appreciation, you need to recognize every aspect of an employee's work and not focus merely on the results. This includes appreciating the efforts and intention, even if they were unable to achieve the desired results. Creating a culture is all about encouraging others to follow the same, and when you appreciate efforts and intentions, others will too. 

Top 5 Best Practices for Employee Recognition

An idea closely linked to creating a culture of recognition revolves around the best practices. These best practices can help you ensure that your recognition culture grows and thrives effectively. 

1. Have a clear recognition program

As one of the best practices for employee recognition, it is important to have a very clear recognition program. There are several aspects to this. 

First, you need to align on what the objectives of your recognition program are or what you seek to achieve by focusing on employee recognition. It could be a combination of results like increased sense of belongingness, better performance, greater satisfaction, higher engagement etc. 

Second, you need to be clear on what kind of behaviors will be rewarded and recognized. You can define these behaviors based on the culture or practices that you seek to establish in the organization. For instance, if you feel that your employees are not as responsible as you would like them to be, recognize accountability. 

Other factors that you need to decide on include the frequency of recognition as well as who should recognize, leaders vs peers. Having these bases covered will ensure that you have a robust employee recognition program. 

2. Experiment with different types of rewards

Next, you must ensure that your employee recognition efforts are actually bearing fruits, you need to experiment with different types of rewards and ways of appreciation. While in some situations a pat on the back can go a long way, others might require public appreciation or a combination of incentives and rewards along with recognition. 

However, don’t be afraid of using recognition and reward ideas like a day off, or a gift voucher. They can be as effective as any other form of recognition. It is important to play along with a bit of variety to make the experience of being recognized fun and exciting. 

3. Make it personal

One of the best practices that has had a high success rate for almost all organizations has been the ability to make recognition personal. You need to understand that you are recognizing a human being for their efforts and that requires personalization. 

Instead of sending out the same gratitude message to all, make each message personal and highlight how you appreciate their individual contribution and performance alongside team effort. 

Having a standard template for recognition looks more of a tick in the box and does not express any genuine or authentic effort for employee recognition. Invariably, you will be unable to achieve your desired result. Therefore, make each instance of recognition personal and customized to employee performance. 

4. Recognize everyday

When you seek to learn about the best practices for employee recognition, you need to understand that confining recognition to celebrate only the big wins is not enough. You need to recognize the everyday small wins for your employees and make them feel motivated at all times. 

The idea is to celebrate small wins like checking all points in a task list. All great leaders know that recognizing efforts everyday will act as a motivator for employees to outperform themselves everyday and give in their best, because they know their efforts and contribution are always appreciated. 

5. Recognize even when times are slow

Finally, don’t save recognition only for the good and happy days. To make the most of your employee recognition program, it is crucial to appreciate efforts even when times are slow. For instance, if your team has been putting 12 hour long days for a deal and the deal doesn’t come through, you still need to appreciate the effort that went into the preparation. 

The idea here is not to completely dismiss what happened and celebrate despite being in a backstep when it comes to organizational success. But, it is important to motivate the team to perform better when the next opportunity comes along and avoid the fear of failure as well as prevent self doubt. 

Role of qualitative vs. quantitative recognition

A key component for employee recognition is to gauge performance review and evaluation effectively. That is what forms the basis for quantitative vs qualitative evaluation and consequently recognition. 

  • Quantitative evaluation refers to gauging the level of performance numerically in terms of deals closed or targets achieved. They have a clear goal, achievement of which turns to recognition. 
  • Whereas, qualitative evaluation is ideal for roles which have a more abstract outlook, especially the ones which come from a creative side. Qualitative employee evaluation is also useful to gauge employee behaviors.

Based on the type of evaluation, you can leverage different ways of recognizing your employees. These can include bonuses, praises, written notes, etc. You can leverage quantitative recognition when you wish to appreciate their achievements from a quantity or volume of work lens. However, leverage qualitative recognition when you are truly impressed by the quality of work your employees have been able to turn around or the kind of energy and enthusiasm they bring to the team.

What is the difference between recognition and rewards?

Many hyper growth organizations face a lot of confusion when it comes to understanding the relationship between rewards and recognition. There is often a question if there is a connection between the two and if one should take precedence over the other. 

For a simple understanding, you must look at recognition and rewards and intrinsically linked. If you look closely, recognition is relational in nature, while rewards are transactional. While rewards are tangible and constitute gifts, bonuses, vouchers etc., recognition is an intangible form where the work of an employee is appreciated by calling out their accomplishments and the like.

If you are wondering if you can replace one for the other, you need to think again. Both of them play a different and equally important role in advancing the cause of employee retention and satisfaction. 

While rewards are materially driven and become an important incentive and source of motivation for employees, recognition helps in employees believing that their efforts and contribution are being valued, even if it doesn’t translate to tangible rewards every time. 

For a more comprehensive understanding, you may want to see rewards as a way of recognizing employee performance which is less frequent and comes with an attached cost of realization. 

Whereas, recognition can be more frequent and does not necessarily require resources and investments. All that is needed are words of gratitude and a genuine willingness to appreciate efforts. 

Top 7 career milestones for employee recognition

As a fast growing organization, you will have many employees who will be celebrating key milestones in their professional life for the first time when working with you. It is extremely important to celebrate such career milestones from an employee recognition lens to create a greater sense of belongingness. 

We believe that the top 7 milestones can be divided into two major segments. The first ones include those which are more common and are generally considered to be more important, like:

1. Work anniversary

Celebrating the day when employees complete a tenure or a year and more with your organization to recognize their efforts and contribution. 

2. Landing first big deal

Recognizing the hard work and commitment of your team members when they accomplish a major target in their functional area which has large scale positive impact for the organization.

3. Promotion and appraisal

Celebrating promotion and appraisal for your team members. Here employee recognition comes in the form of appreciating their performance and congratulating them as they move up in the professional ladder of success. 

4. Retirement

Finally, the last of the most common career milestones for employee recognition is retirement. Here you can express gratitude and appreciate your employees for all they have done for the organization throughout their journey. 

While these are some of the common career milestones that you take into consideration as a part of your employee recognition framework, there are a few others too which may not be as prominent, but are equally important. These milestones deserve equal recognition and celebration to boost employee morale and encourage efforts and perseverance.

5. Meeting goals

Celebrate and practice employee recognition when your team members are able to meet their weekly or daily goals. A simple email or words of appreciation can go a long way to help employees strive harder for their goals. 

6. Sharing insights and knowledge

You must focus on employee recognition when your team members go out of their way to share insights and knowledge with others in the team. This will help expand the overall capabilities and competencies of the team and encourage others to contribute towards collective growth.

7. Mentoring peers

This is an important career milestone that you must recognize. Your employees deserve due credit if they make a genuine effort to mentor their peers and those who are new to the organization. If they are trying hard to help others navigate through the challenges they faced, they definitely deserve recognition and celebration of an important milestone. 

How to implement an effective employee recognition program?

Many growth stage organizations today struggle with getting started with the whole employee recognition journey. While we have talked at length about how to create a culture of recognition and the best practices you can follow, we have also captured here a few tips to commence your journey in a way that is destined for success. 

1. Get leadership buy-in

You need to start your employee recognition journey by ensuring leadership buy-in. This involves creating a business case for employee recognition and convincing those on top about how it has the potential to make a business impact. 

Back your pitch with evidence and data points and make a clear pitch around the return on investment. Leverage metrics like greater retention, increased productivity, etc. and how each one impacts the bottom line. 

2. Have a clear criteria

Once your leadership is aligned on the entire employee recognition agenda, you need to be clear on what recognition means to you. Furthermore, other factors like on what basis and how will recognize employee efforts need to be brainstormed and documented for effective implementation. 

3. Explore different ways of recognition that fall in your budget

There may be several ways to facilitate employee recognition including some of the most extravagant ones like a foreign trip. However, you need to identify ways of recognition that best suit your budget. Dig deep and you will be able to find many ways to recognize employee efforts which come with no attached cost and have the potential to create large scale impact. 

4. Include employee voices

As a fast growing organization, while setting up the employee recognition program, you have the golden opportunity to include the voices of your employees. You can ask your employees what ideal recognition looks to them and incorporate those ideas when devising your program. This will ensure that your employee recognition efforts are accepted and appreciated by the employees and they will actually be able to drive performance and results. 

PRO-TIP — Conduct a quick survey to get insights into how your employees want to be recognized. Click here

5. Collaborate with external partners

Finally, as you may have multiple priorities to take care of and limited expertise in the area, it might be a good idea to collaborate with partners like SuperBeings. 

What features to look for in an employee recognition platform?

Taking cue from the point above, to accelerate your employee recognition efforts, you can collaborate with external platforms, especially if you have limited time and resources at hand. 

Most high-performing organizations believe that leveraging the services of employee recognition platforms has enabled them to create a culture of recognition effectively. However, if you plan to go with a platform, you need to check for the following features:

  • Does it offer real time employee insights for recognition?
  • Does it align OKRs with recognition based on performance?
  • Does it enable your managers to have 1:1 recognition conversations effectively?
  • Does it provide you with industry insights and best practices for recognition?
  • Does it help you gauge employee pulse to refine your recognition efforts?

If you are looking for an employee recognition platform that takes care of all these and much more, you need to collaborate with SuperBeings. It can help you ensure a consistent and regular approach to employee recognition coupled with OKR alignment and guided templates for your managers for effective 1:1 conversations. Click here to book a free demo.

How to align your DEI initiatives with recognition for workplace success?

In recent times, organizations have seen a lot of focus being diverted towards fairness and inclusivity in the workplace, which takes into account recognition as well. Here are a few ways to ensure that all your recognition efforts promote inclusivity: 

1. Have a diverse criteria

Don’t have a narrow or a single criteria for recognition. Be open to recognizing different efforts and achievements. Have unique criteria for each team to ensure that you are recognizing employees based on what they bring to the table and not on the basis of a standardized approach. 

2. Emphasize on inclusive rewards

While your criteria needs to be diverse, your rewards and ways of recognition need to be inclusive. Ensure that the way your recognition messages are worded do not exclude anyone in the team. Similarly, your rewards should be such that can be utilized or enjoyed by everyone and not limited to a particular group. 

3. Leverage technology for performance review

To promote inclusivity, you need to ensure that your review is fair and unbiased. Here, you can use performance management tools like SuperBeings to get a real time picture of performance which can help you eliminate recency bias or horns/halo effect and recognize and reward holistic performance based on continuous review and feedback. 

PRO-TIP — Are you looking for the perfect performance review tool that suits your needs? This quick guide will help you to find one.

What role does technology play in effective and fair recognition?

As mentioned in the point above, technology can play an integral role in ensuring that employee recognition is effective and fair. 

If we look closely, recognition is based on performance reviews and feedback. However, these reviews can be vulnerable to recency effects in which only the events closest to the review are taken into consideration. Similarly, reviews can be clouded by the halo or horns bias where one positive or negative feedback becomes the base on which the employee is reviewed. Invariably, these biases prevent fair recognition. 

Fortunately, technology can play a major role in preventing the same. On one hand, technology is unbiased and can help provide a true picture of the employee’s performance. On the other hand, it can help you capture performance and effort in real time with a continuous lens to ensure that single instances or events don’t cloud recognition in the long run.

Efforts vs Results: The Best Approach for Recognition

If you feel confused whether you should be recognizing efforts or results, you are not alone. However, replacing one at the cost of the other can be detrimental. Undoubtedly, you need to recognize results, but recognizing and appreciating efforts is equally important because of the following reasons:

1. Motivates employees

It encourages them to keep trying and striving for excellence and enables them to believe that their contribution is being valued. 

2. Promotes innovation and risk taking

Employee recognition of efforts encourages them to take risks and unlock innovation rather than follow the same path for results every time, which will eventually lead to growth stagnation.

3. Facilitates engagement and a positive experience

Finally, it will create a positive experience for employees where they see recognition of efforts as an empowering environment for growth and development, reducing voluntary attrition. 

3 common problems with employee recognition programs

It would be an overstatement to say that the path to building a culture of employee recognition is one without challenges and struggles. Here are a few challenges that you might face along the way:

1. Inconsistency

Due to other pressing priorities, you might find yourself unable to maintain consistency in recognizing employee efforts. This will lead to an ad-hoc mechanism, which will not reap sustained and scalable impact. 

To facilitate consistency, you can collaborate with a platform like SuperBeings which will help you recognize employee efforts on time and ensure that you don’t miss any accomplishment that deserves celebration. 

2. Lack of authenticity

Sometimes, your managers or leaders might recognize employee efforts just for the sake of it, devoid of any authenticity. Employees are generally able to recognize the lack of authenticity and such recognition will backfire as a simple tick in the box. The best way to navigate through this challenge is to invest in the training of your managers on key leadership competencies to enable them to lead and recognize authentically. 

3. Inability to communicate effectively

At times, you might have the right motivation, but the inability to communicate your recognition and appreciation effectively can impact the whole situation adversely. Here, you need the right guidance and templates to sail through the conversations in an effective manner.

If you want to avoid these challenges and effectively implement the best practices for employee recognition, book a free demo with SuperBeings today. As a one stop platform for all people management needs, we can help you take your recognition game to the next level.  

Sudeshna Roy

Marketing, SuperBeings

Hi There! I am Sudeshna. At SuperBeings, I lead our content strategy to bring you the best and latest on everything related to people management

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50+ Most Useful Employee Onboarding Survey Questions

‘Onboarding: How to get your new employees up to speed in half the time’ - George Bradt, founder and Chairman PrimeGenesis

Did you know that a strong onboarding process improves new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%? 

However, only 12% of employees strongly agree their organization does a great job at onboarding new employees. 

This clearly states that while employee onboarding has a direct impact on the bottom line, most organizations miss out on how to get it right. 

Don’t let that happen to you. To onboard new employees like a pro, keep reading.

What is an onboarding survey?

By definition, an onboarding survey is a questionnaire that is administered on new hires to gauge their initial experience and level of satisfaction, in an attempt to understand their engagement and retention potential. 

As an HR, you can get multiple insights from an onboarding survey, including:

  • what employees thought about the organization when they heard about it for the first time
  • how their impression changed over time 
  • whether or not their experience aligns with their expectations, etc.

It can help you estimate how long the employees are likely to stay and how you can further optimize your onboarding process to make it more aligned with employee expectations. 

Why are onboarding surveys important?

An effective onboarding survey can help you reflect on your performance through the onboarding process, which directly impacts KPIs for organizational success, including:

1. Retention

93% of employers believe a good onboarding experience is critical in influencing a new employee’s decision whether to stay with the company. At the same time, 25% of a company’s new hires would leave within a year if the onboarding experience was poor. 

2. eNPS

20% of new hires are unlikely to recommend an employer to a friend or family member and an onboarding survey can help you identify the reasons for the same. However, new team members who were asked to provide feedback prior to their start date also had a 79% increase in willingness to refer others. Thus, illustrating how onboarding surveys and feedback can impact eNPS.

Read: How to use eNPS for better employee engagement

3. Satisfaction and Engagement

Employees with exceptional onboarding experiences are 2.6x more likely to be extremely satisfied with their workplace and 70% say they have ‘the best possible job’.

4. Performance

77% of employees who went through a formal onboarding process were able to meet their first performance goals. However, 49% of individuals who failed to reach their first performance milestone had no official onboarding instruction. An onboarding survey can help you determine the effectiveness of your onboarding process.  

5. Other

In addition, your new employees might also have an inclination towards providing feedback as a part of the onboarding survey, which you will lose out if you don’t conduct the same. Research shows that only 26% of new employees recall being asked for feedback on their candidate journey and the hiring process before their start date wherein 91% of new hires are willing to provide this feedback. 

Employee onboarding survey: Best practices

Now that you understand the importance of an employee onboarding survey, let’s quickly discuss how to effectively run an onboarding survey. 

1. Set the cadence

You must coincide your employee onboarding survey with important milestones for the new employee in the organization. Mostly, these milestones coincide with the end of the first few months. Thus, you should circulate your onboarding survey after 30, 60 and 90 days respectively, with different objectives for each. Furthermore, you can send interim surveys in case you feel the need, for instance, when the employee starts a project, or when the orientation process is over. 

“Effective employee onboarding isn’t about swag, stickers, & company value pamphlets on their desk the 1st day. But, how you help them understand their goals & how co values are interwoven in operating are more important.”- Suhail Doshi, founder and chairman of Mixpanel, Inc.

2. Identify critical areas and build questions

Based on the milestones or cadence you have set up, it is important to identify areas you would want to cover with each milestone. For instance:

In the first 30 days, you should focus on themes like: 

  • Orientation process
  • Initial thoughts
  • Expectation alignment 
  • Recruitment process
  • Onboarding experience

In 60 days, you can touch on themes like:

  • Knowledge transfer
  • Level of engagement and satisfaction
  • Induction process

By the end of 90 days, focus should shift towards:

  • Manager support
  • Role clarity
  • Likelihood to stay
  • Organizational alignment

Once you have decided the themes, you can start building questions, a snapshot of which is covered in the next section or you can download the template now here. The themes can be fluid across milestones, depending on the context for your organization. 

3. Roll out the survey for participation

Once the milestone arrives, you should roll out the onboarding survey and drive participation. It is important to explain to your new employees why the onboarding survey is important and how they can fill it up. Give them the requisite time, deadlines and communicate what will be the next steps to encourage them to participate. 

4. Follow up

Simply rolling out the survey is not enough. You must reach out to your new employees to remind them to fill the onboarding survey as amidst numerous new things, they might lose track of it. Don’t push too hard, yet send subtle reminders to get genuine responses. For instance: employee survey tools such as SuperBeings integrate with chat tools like Slack, Teams, Gchat to send personalized nudges to fill out the survey in the flow of work at set intervals as well as allows them to participate directly without switching context. 

Unlock a wide array of survey questions and employee analytics. See how SuperBeings can help

5. Take action

Once your onboarding survey responses are in, slice and dice them to get insights into what your employees feel and leverage the data points to further refine your onboarding process to facilitate engagement, retention and advocacy from the beginning. 

Sample onboarding survey questions for 30-60-90 day review

Taking cue from the section above, here are 50+ onboarding survey questions that you can leverage to gauge the pulse of your new employees as they complete different milestones.

You can also download these questions as a template and use it whenever you need. Click here to download

1. Onboarding survey questions for 30 day review

a) Onboarding and orientation process

  1. How can we change or improve the onboarding process?
  2. What did you like most about the onboarding process?
  3. Was the orientation interactive and engaging?
  4. Did the onboarding process meet your expectations?
  5. Do you feel welcome and proud to be working here?
  6. How would you rate the duration and quality of your onboarding experience?
  7. How would you describe your first day?

b) Decision related questions

  1. What were the top 3 reasons for joining this company?
  2. Do you think those reasons have been met?

c) Technical training and knowledge transfer

  1. Have you received the training that you were promised during your induction?
  2. Did the training meet your expectations and was accurately described during the hiring process?
  3. Is the training relevant to your roles and responsibilities?
  4. Were adequate tools and materials shared during training to facilitate knowledge transfer?

2. Onboarding survey questions for 60 day review

a) Engagement related questions

  1. Would you recommend the company to others in your network?
  2. Do you see yourself working here in 2 years?
  3. Do you feel motivated to come to work in the morning?
  4. Do you feel prepared for your role?

b) Onboarding experience

  1. Did the first 30 days of onboarding go as expected?
  2. What is the one thing you would like to change from your experience so far?

c) Company policies

  1. Are you clear on the different company policies shared with you?
  2. Do you have any concerns about any of the policies that you would like to highlight?
  3. Do you think any policy is missing that you think must be a part of our governance?

d) Questions about team

  1. Have your team members been integral in smooth onboarding?
  2. Have you been able to connect and collaborate with all your team members?
  3. Do you consider your team members to be welcoming and inclusive?
  4. What is the thing you would like to change about how your team works currently?

e) Reflection questions

  1. Have you been able to achieve the goals you set out for your 60 days?
  2. How has your journey been so far?
  3. What has been your biggest accomplishment in 60 days?
  4. What are some achievements you would like to ensure in the next 30 days?

3. Onboarding survey questions for 90 day review

a) Role and expectation clarity

  1. Do you have an understanding of what is expected from you as a part of this role?
  2. Is your role similar to what was communicated to you during the hiring process?
  3. Do you have the necessary resources you need for the role?
  4. Do you have clarity of your goals?
  5. Do you understand how your work will be evaluated?
  6. Does your role meet your career aspirations?
  7. What do you think is the most difficult part about your role?
  8. What excites you most about your current role?
  9. Do you understand the importance of the work you do?

b) Organizational alignment

  1. Do your values align with the organizational values?
  2. Do you believe in the vision and mission of the organization?
  3. Do you believe your ideas are valued?
  4. Do you have clarity on the organization’s future plans and do you align with them?
  5. Do you see yourself as a part of this organization 5 years from now?

c) Manager support

  1. Have your conversations with the managers been effective?
  2. Does your manager support your career aspirations?
  3. Does your manager provide you with the necessary support to perform your role effectively?
  4. Do you receive regular feedback from your manager?
  5. Does your manager include you in key discussions, wherever applicable?

d) Other questions

  1. What are some of the challenges you have faced so far?
  2. Do you feel your onboarding was successful?
  3. How can we help you in improving the overall experience?
  4. Do you feel included and accepted by everyone in the team?
  5. How do you see yourself progressing from here?
  6. Do you have access to all the information you need?

Wrapping up (TL:DR)

By now, it would be very clear to you that an employee onboarding survey can help you in multiple ways to create a high performance culture. It can enable you to augment retention, engagement, satisfaction and advocacy among employees to ensure that there is minimal turnover and you are able to attract high quality talent. Ensure that you roll out an onboarding survey at 30/60/90 days frequency to check onboarding experience, knowledge transfer, manager support, role clarity, etc. 

You should focus on other forms of employee feedback on culture, training and development opportunities, level of engagement, manager effectiveness, workplace collaboration, work-life balance, among others. 

Finally, you should focus on leveraging technology and automation to add efficiency and effectiveness to your onboarding survey and process. 

Research shows, automating onboarding tasks resulted in a 16% increase in retention rates for new hires.

Thus, consider partnering with a survey platform which enables you to:

  • Use science-backes best practices onboarding survey templates
  • Track employee milestones automatically and roll out surveys on due date with zero to minimal manual intervention 
  • Integrate surveys with existing chat tools for reminders and sending out survey questions
  • Use NLP for decoding sentiments behind open comments to understand the reason behind each response
  • Use other employee engagement surveys to get the whole picture of new hire engagement

Related Reading

How to use employee engagement survey comments

Best employee engagement survey tools in the market today

min read

How to Give Constructive Feedback? (With Examples)

When it comes to performance management for employees, you would agree that feedback plays an important role. However, only offering positive feedback and appreciating the performance of your employees is not enough. You need to give them an equal amount of constructive feedback which is specific to ensure high levels of performance. If you feel that your employees may not embrace constructive feedback, think again.

Research shows that 92% of people believe that constructive feedback is effective at improving performance.

In this article we will help you understand how you can give constructive feedback and examples you can leverage. 

What is constructive feedback?

Constructive feedback is essentially a tool that most forward looking professionals leverage to help others in their team with specific and constructive inputs on areas where one’s performance can be improved. Put simply, if you have an employee who doesn’t pay attention to detail, constructive feedback involves helping them acknowledge that this is a problem area, and more than that, enabling them with the support to overcome the same. It involves not only identifying a performance problem, but also, providing action items and ways to address the same. 

Importance of constructive feedback

Now that you have an understanding of what constructive feedback means, let’s quickly look at some of the top reasons why constructive feedback is important. Constructive feedback:

  • Improves performance: It enables your team members to understand how they can perform better with specific inputs on areas of improvement
  • Reinforces expectations: It helps your employees clearly gauge what is expected out of them in terms of performance, and sets clear deliverables and measurement parameters to avoid any surprises during performance appraisal
  • Boosts morale and confidence: It involves also appreciating employees for a job well done and illustrates how they can become a better version of themselves
  • Facilitates employee stickiness: It ensures that employees see your organization which cares about their professional growth and encourages them to stick around longer, and even act as advocates for others.

Positive feedback vs constructive feedback 

When delivering feedback, you must understand the difference between positive and constructive feedback and ensure that you use both of them where they fit the best. Here a quick distinction between positive feedback vs constructive feedback:

  • Positive feedback focuses on a job well done and highlights where an employee has excelled. Whereas, constructive feedback talks about areas of improvement and action items for desirable outcomes. 
  • While positive feedback seeks to reinforce the positive behavior, constructive feedback focuses more on facts and traits.
  • Positive feedback is a reflection of the past performance and doesn’t necessarily have a futuristic orientation, however, constructive feedback takes reference from the past to feed better performance in the future.  
  • “Your presentation during the board meeting was crisp and informative” is an example of positive feedback. Whereas, “While your presentation was informative, you can focus more on articulation to ensure that all your research is communicated in a way that everyone is able to understand. Using pointers can help here”, is an example of constructive feedback.
In a nutshell, positive feedback is a reinforcement tool, whereas constructive feedback is a mechanism to facilitate development. 

How to give constructive feedback

With an understanding of the fundamentals of constructive feedback, let’s quickly jump to the best practices which can help you deliver constructive feedback in a nuanced and effective manner. 

1. Decide when to give the constructive feedback

The first thing you need to focus on is ensuring that the timing of the constructive feedback is ideal. For instance, a busy period when the employee is putting in a lot of effort may not be ideal for giving them feedback about their performance from three months ago. At the same time, ensure that you provide constructive feedback regularly and consistently, to avoid recency or primacy bias. However, don’t offer feedback when you are angry about their performance either. 

2. Set the context and build trust

Before you get down to giving the feedback, set the tone. Share with the employee the purpose of the meeting and make them comfortable prior to sharing your reflections. It is important that you build trust so your employees can share their perspective and don’t feel intimidated by what you have to say. 

3. Share your reflections

Once the context and tone is set, start sharing your reflections. Your focus should be on sharing what you have observed about their performance. However, ensure that you also share how the same is likely to impact their career growth as well as organizational success. For instance, if you are providing constructive feedback about missing deadlines, you can use the impact of losing clients for the organization and a casual attitude marker for the employee.

4. Give specific examples

When sharing reflections, use specific examples of when you noticed a particular behavior. For instance, in the above example, you can share instances of when the employee missed his/her deadlines. Ensure that you use examples which illustrate a pattern, rather than a one off incident, which is very uncommon. Furthermore, always use concrete examples and not interpretation of what you hear or see.   

5. Balance positive and negative

With constructive feedback, your focus should be on helping the employee improve their performance and work on their areas of development.

However, simply pointing out their weaknesses or negatives in their performance will not help. You need to also talk about some of the positive aspects of their performance and how those qualities can help them absorb and implement their constructive feedback. 

6. Be empathetic

Emotional intelligence is extremely important when delivering constructive feedback. You cannot be apathetic towards your employee when delivering the same. Put yourself in their shoes to choose your phrases carefully. We will share some examples in the next section. Also, use your EQ to read the situation when you are delivering the feedback. If you see that the employee is getting uncomfortable, take a pause and comfort them first. Read their gestures and body language to ensure that the employee is not feeling attacked. 

7. Don’t make it personal

Like it or not, constructive feedback involves pointing out one’s weaknesses and areas of improvement. However, you should refrain from equating the performance of the employee with his/her personality or whole self. For instance, if someone misses deadlines, encourage them to be more organized or prioritize important work, than labeling them as a procrastinator. 

8. Encourage response from the other side

While you are delivering the constructive feedback, you have to make sure it is a dialogue.

The idea is to give the other person enough room to share their side of the story.

Try to understand whether or not they agree with your feedback and how they perceive the same. They may share the lack of support or resources, which have resulted in a weak performance. Be open to some reverse feedback as well. Again, your EQ must be at play here. If your employee has an outburst, or reacts negatively, you need to stay composed and calm them down. 

9. Discuss potential solutions

Once you and your employee are aligned on the areas of improvement, the most important part of constructive feedback is to provide adequate solutions to address the performance challenges. Don’t give abstract or vague solutions like be punctual if the employee misses deadlines. Rather, give very specific and action oriented solutions which are directed towards a particular outcome. The idea is to collectively understand the cause of the weak area of performance and use concrete solutions to remedy the same. 

10. Create a time bound action plan

Now that you have shared some potential solutions, you must revise the top action items with your employee to avoid any confusion. At the same time, you should focus on creating a time bound plan with key milestones to ensure that development is taking place. Summarize what was discussed and how you will proceed from there. Best is to set up a date to review the progress to ensure constructive feedback is paid heed to. 

Read our article on Start Stop Continue Feedback to give action oriented feedback

20 Constructive feedback examples 

Here are top 20 constructive feedback examples that you can use during your next conversation. To make your constructive feedback more effective, we have also illustrated examples of what you should steer away from.

1. Communication skills

Example of how to give constructive feedback

I would really like to know how you have progressed on the tasks assigned to you last month. It would be ideal if you could share a progress update on what has been achieved with a small summary of challenges/ support needed at the end of every week to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Example of how not to give constructive feedback

You have not kept your team updated about your work, this is highly unprofessional.

2. Attention to detail

Example of how to give constructive feedback

I was going through the work you submitted last week and I can see you have put in a lot of effort. However, I could see that there were some small errors and inaccuracies in the report across multiple sections. I believe that if you proofread your work thoroughly before turning it in, it will reduce the number of iterations and improve your quality of work. 

Example of how not to give constructive feedback

You seem completely distracted as you have been submitting flawed and below average work, this will not be tolerated. 

3. Time management

Example of how to give constructive feedback

I understand that you are working on multiple projects, however, you need to ensure that the most important projects are not overlooked and their timelines are not missed. Therefore, I would suggest you create a list of tasks you are working on and check with the respective reporting managers on the priority and set clear expectations to ensure that no deadlines are missed. 

Example of how not to give constructive feedback

You have missed your deadline again, it seems like you are not serious about you work. 

4. Goal achievement

Example of how to give constructive feedback

I see that you have been able to achieve only a part of the goals that you set out for this year. Maybe you were trying to spread yourself too thin. I would suggest you reduce the number of projects you are working on and ensure that the goals you set you are able to achieve. Furthermore, you must be vocal about the support or resources you need to achieve your goals. 

Example of how not to give constructive feedback

Are you even serious about your work, your level of goal achievement indicates otherwise. 

5. Absenteeism

Example of how to give constructive feedback

I see that you have been taking some time off lately, without any prior intimation. Let’s try to understand if there is a particular reason for the same. We can work on your schedule to make it more flexible. 

Example of how not to give constructive feedback

You have been missing all meetings lately, this tardiness is not appreciated. 

6. Problem solving

Example of how to give constructive feedback

I see that you are excellent at execution of ideas. However, I believe that you need to focus more on coming up with solutions on your own. I would suggest participating more in the brainstorming sessions and coming up with solutions. Try to think on your own, before you reach out to others with the problem.

Example of how not to give constructive feedback

You lack any problem solving capabilities, and will be stuck to execution for the rest of your career.

Wrapping up

Constructive feedback is integral to organizational success. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Always use facts and examples to deliver constructive feedback
  • Don’t forget to differentiate between positive and constructive feedback
  • Make sure you have practical tips or suggestions 
  • Leverage specific constructive feedback examples for specific performance problems, instead of being vague

Related Reading

50 top 360 degree feedback question examples

150 performance review phrases

min read

How to Use Performance Management Cycle for High Performance Teams

While performance management has been a key priority for organizations, for a long time, year end reviews were considered to be the most effective way to facilitate the same. However, recently organizations are observing a shift towards continuous performance management with an introduction of the performance management cycle. This article will focus on different aspects of the performance management cycle and how it enables unlocking the potential of high performance teams. 

What is a performance management cycle?

Before going into the diverse aspects, you should first understand what a performance management cycle essentially is. If you have an idea of what continuous performance management is, you’re already a step ahead in the understanding. Performance management cycle primarily is a way or a model in which you evaluate or focus on the performance of your employees throughout the year. The idea is to break down the different elements of employee performance into different stages and focus on them consistently. It starts with setting goals and ends with rewards for a job well done, which leads to setting of new goals and the performance management cycle resets.  

Understanding 4 stages of the performance management cycle

While you may want to divide your performance management cycle into any number of stages, mostly there are four stages. 


The first stage, at the very beginning of the performance management cycle, focuses on creating a plan for the performance ahead. The idea is to have a clear understanding on what your employee must achieve and how you will eventually review and evaluate them. During the planning stage, you and your team member, collectively should:

  • Set SMART goals of OKRs based on the performance expectations
  • Have clear KPIs or metrics which you will use for performance appraisal
  • Clarify how individual goals or OKRs contribute to organizational vision

Thus, the planning stage of the performance management cycle sets the tone for the year ahead and ensures there is clarity at all levels. 


Once the goals have been set in the planning stage, you enter the monitoring stage of the performance management cycle. This stage essentially focuses on ensuring that things are moving as planned. The idea is to ascertain that your team members are more or less on track for specific milestones outlined as a part of goal setting. Additionally, this stage will help you address any performance challenges that you may observe, sooner than later. Monitoring stage includes:

  • Regular one-on-one meetings to review performance so far
  • Providing feedback to your team members on what you think has been going well and what needs to improve
  • Relooking at goals in case they are behind or ahead of schedule in terms of achievement
  • Understanding the kind of extra support or resources your team members might need to improve their performance
  • Having candid conversations with your employees on wellbeing, professional development objectives, and other factors which may impact performance, morale and engagement 

The monitoring stage essentially focuses on tracking the performance of your employees against the set goals to provide constructive feedback and help them perform better. 


The third stage of the performance management cycle comes into existence towards the end. It involves reviewing the performance and providing ratings based on the established KPIs and metrics. While this is the formal review process, if you have been constantly monitoring the performance of your employees, this will essentially be a consolidation of all the reviews and feedback shared overtime. While delivering performance reviews, ensure that you:

  • Shed any performance review biases that might come your way, including primacy effect, recency bias, halo/horns effect, etc. 
  • Give your employees concrete examples and facts to support your review, rather than being vague and ambiguous
  • Should try to get 360 degree feedback and review for your team members
  • Answer some of the following questions to create an informed review:
  1. Did the employee achieve the goals set out?
  2. What were the key enablers in their achievement?
  3. Did you observe growth in the employee during the performance management cycle?
  4. Did the employee share any concerns, and were they addressed?

Since you have been connecting regularly with your employees, the reviews will not come as a surprise to them, but will help you monitor the trends of their performance and guide the next stage for the employee’s professional growth. 


Finally, the rewarding stage in the performance management cycle acts as a culmination to one cycle and sets stage for the commencement of the next. The objective is to take into account their performance over the performance management cycle and create a culture of rewards and recognition to celebrate and appreciate high performance. Some of the quick ways to reward your employees include, giving them:

  • Healthy increments and promotions
  • Public appreciation through social media, company intranet
  • Bonuses and other incentives
  • Rewards like vouchers, gifts, etc. 

This stage is important to make your employees feel valued and motivate them to keep the performance going. It will also push average performers to step up their efforts and enable you to create a high performance culture. 

Why is a performance management cycle important?

Now that you understand the various stages of a performance management cycle, let’s quickly look at why the performance management cycle is important for your organization. It will help you:

  • Clearly define goals and expectations from your employees to drive directed performance.
  • Keep your employees engaged. When you constantly connect with your employees for 1-o-1 meetings and consistently take interest in their performance improvement, they are likely to feel engaged, satisfied and motivated.
  • Address performance challenges preemptively and provide your employees with corrective actions, resources and support to bridge performance issues.
  • Retain talent as employees who feel that their performance is being valued and receive regular feedback tend to stay longer at an organization. 

Top 4 ways in which performance management cycle leads to high performance

In addition to the above mentioned benefits, a performance management cycle can help you build a high performance culture in a number of ways. Some of the top aspects include:

Clarifies KPIs and metrics

What constitutes high performance can be abstract. For some, closing 5 deals can be high performance, for others, it might be closing 15. Planning stage in the performance management lifecycle will help your employees understand what constitutes high performance and thus, proceed towards it. 

Boosts recognition

A key part of the performance management cycle is the rewards and recognition. When employees feel their performance is being valued and recognized, they tend to double up their efforts, leading to a high performance team.

Facilitates communication and feedback

Monitoring and tracking followed by 1-o-1 conversations can help you communicate with your employees regularly. Not only will you track their performance, but will also listen to their concerns or challenges and offer them feedback. Such conversations and feedback have a positive impact on performance, leading to a high performance culture. 

Ensures appropriate training

One of the foundations of high performance is enabling your team members to undergo the right training. Performance management cycle can help you understand which training is important for your employees at which performance stage, realizing high quality results. 

Top tips for managers for effective performance management cycle

As a manager, there are several ways in which you can unlock the true potential of a performance management cycle. You are one of the key stakeholders who plays an important role in every stage of the cycle. Here are a few tips that can help you augment the effectiveness of the performance management cycle:

  • Invite employee participation and make the OKR setting process collaborative and action oriented
  • Provide constructive feedback to your employees, instead of being too sweet or too negative
  • Help your employees access the right resources and training they need to meet their goals
  • Give your employees a safe space to share their concerns and challenges
  • Don’t micromanage your employees in the name of monitoring
  • Be open about relooking at the goals in case of a misalignment as you move along the performance management cycle

Benefits of using a performance management tool

A performance management tool can significantly help you streamline your performance management cycle by offering the following benefits. 

Performance snapshots

Get automated performance snapshots of your employee’s performance over the 9 box grid to track performance trends over time and provide reviews without recency bias.

1:1 conversations

Leverage guided templates with AI based suggestions for your 1:1 conversations with employees during the monitoring stage based on performance over time. Receive suggested talking points for goal-centered conversations.

Compare performance

Look at historic feedback to see improvement in performance and compare performance over time. You can also compare performance of peers over specific parameters. 

Related Reading

How to create a high performance culture using OKRs

7 steps to effective performance management system

12 common performance review biases to avoid

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