Giving employee feedback that helps your team improve is no easy task. When doing performance evaluations or meeting one-on-one, it’s tempting to focus on either only the positive or the negative in the meeting. According to studies, 37% of managers feel uncomfortable giving feedback. Employees need to hear from you when they’re doing well (and when they’re not). As a manager, you want to find the best way to give your employees feedback that makes the content impactful.

So how do you give the feedback that matters when it matters? By keeping in mind these three things:

  1. What is the impact of (or how urgent is) the feedback?
  2. What is the appropriate setting for this feedback?
  3. How does your employee prefer to receive feedback?

According to Forbes, creating positive feedback loops that are healthy and authentic is essential to the success of a manager-employee relationship. Ask yourself these questions for giving employee feedback that matters.

What Is the Impact/Urgency of the Feedback?

One of the most important components of feedback is timing. The sooner you can give your employee feedback, the more impactful it is. When your team finishes out a project strong, you should give them recognition for their hard work and success.

In the same vein, you should also time your comments with the urgency of the content. If you find an employee is doing something that is detrimental to the project, his or her professional reputation, or to the business, you should give that feedback as soon as possible.

Of course, the setting also sets the stage for the timing of your feedback.

What is the Appropriate Setting for Giving Employee Feedback?

Assuming all your employees are not making the same mistake at the same time right in front of you, it’s typically best to give any negative feedback in a private setting to maximize the benefit to your employee. Criticism can be hard for people to absorb, so finding the right time and place to do it is important. Unless it is a small quick fix, most employees respond better to feedback received in person, instead of through e-mail.

For positive notes, sending a quick e-mail acknowledging an achievement or a job well done is perfectly fine, and your employees will appreciate those notes for even small things. Be sure to also acknowledge your team members’ accomplishments publicly as well. Public recognition can go a long way towards making your employees feel valued.

Having said that, you should also keep in mind the next question.

How Do Your Employees Prefer to Receive Feedback?

Not all of your employees are the same in how they respond to criticism and praise. You might find that some of your employees find public praise uncomfortable, and those employees could prefer to keep public recognition generic to the entire team or to receive praise in private.

In addition, some employees prefer to receive negative feedback in a way that enables them to process it before returning to the conversation to continue discussing how they can improve with your help. Those employees respond better to an e-mail rather than to a face-to-face or respond well with multiple meetings once they have had time to reflect.

So How Do You Know How Your Employees Preferences?

It’s simple; just ask your employees. Of course, you want to push back on the ones who say they prefer no feedback (after all, everyone needs it to improve), but through engaging them and their preferred communication style, you set up your employees for success and improvement.

It can be helpful to incorporate this question into your hiring process. By asking how candidates prefer to receive feedback (and why), you gain valuable insight into the type of employee they could be and into the best way you can manage them towards success.