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Feedback is tough for business leaders to give to employees in the best of times, and doubly so during the challenging times of Covid-19. In high-stress environments, emotions are intensified, sensitivities are raised and plates are more than full. Understandably, business leaders are hesitant to provide feedback to employees. However, feedback is critical for employee success and the survival of construction businesses in the age of COVID-19

Feedback Under Stress

 Construction industry employees find themselves in a particularly high-stress environment with project delays, cancellations, supply chain disruptions, layoffs and furloughs. The industry is also under strain due to a high rate of COVID-19 infections compared to other industries.

“Based on COVID-19 hospitalization data through Aug. 20, 2020, construction workers had a nearly five-fold increased risk of hospitalization in central Texas compared with other occupational categories,” according to a Journal of the American Medical Association study.

Feedback is one way to strengthen a team during a difficult season. This might seem counterintuitive, but feedback that is focused on growth is highly motivating for employees. Firms with motivated employees have a better chance of surviving challenging times.

Giving feedback is a leader’s job. Feedback helps employees grow and adapt their behavior. Construction businesses cannot afford to approach business as usual. Employees need to be coached to adapt as well.

The focus of feedback should always be on development, not punishment. Feedback is a tool to ask probing questions that guide employees down a path of realization. Leaders can then probe issues and provide support as needed to help employees succeed. Feedback motivates employees, combats low morale, re-engages employees, retains talent and reduces turnover and helps companies reach business objectives.

How does feedback motivate employees?

Feedback is a two-way gateway that allows business leaders to understand what motivates employees. Asking questions is critical.

Talent is wasted when leaders do not recognize how employees think or what motivates them. For example, Terry provided a mediocre performance as a project manager until his boss discovered that he wanted to be on the marketing team. Once Terry switched roles, his performance and outcomes improved.

Disruptions, such as COVID-19, may cause employee motivations to change. Feedback is more important during unusual circumstances to keep leaders in tune with employees.

How does feedback combat low morale?

Feedback should not always be negative. Employees need recognition for hard work. If an employee is doing something positive that moves a firm in the right direction, they need to know.

Feedback also boosts morale when successes are shared with a team, department or company-wide. Good news provides a reprieve from the stress of a crisis. Good news also gets people talking to each other.

How does feedback re-engage employees? 

 Employees that already lack a high-level understanding of the business can become further removed from the big picture when working remotely. Feedback sessions can get them back on track.

Without feedback, a remote workforce becomes a sea of islands and silo walls grow higher, with everyone rowing in their own direction. Whatever feedback that happened on the fly in the office disappears in a work-from-home environment.

Feedback is even more critical when a workforce is remote. Feedback keeps employees engaged by giving them a path forward. It is hard for an employee to row hard when he or she doesn’t know which direction to row.

How does feedback retain talent and reduce turnover?

According to Work Institute’s 2020 report, 78% of the reasons employees quit in 2019 could have been prevented. Put another way, 42 million U.S. workers left their jobs because they decided there was something better. The top three reasons employees leave are:

  • Career development (19.6%);
  • Work-life balance (12.4%); and
  • Manager behavior (11.8%).

In a Gallup survey, of all the job qualities millennials most valued, “opportunities to learn and grow” is number one. In fact, 87% of millennials said personal development is very important to them.

Personal development does not happen without feedback. Feedback keeps employees growing. It can turn good project managers into great executives.

How does feedback help companies reach business objectives?

 No construction leader reaches business goals alone. It requires a team of people to latch onto the leader’s vision and execute the strategy.

Feedback is the avenue leaders can use to establish and track employee outcomes. In fact, feedback is most effective when it is tied to employee outcomes. What outcomes are employees responsible for achieving? How do they tie back to overall business objectives? Outcome-based feedback leads to increased chances of reaching business goals, especially during uncertain times.

The content in this article has been adapted from Focused Feedback in 15.

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