Providing Informal Feedback

Informal feedback is ongoing, in-the-moment coaching given to employees (given by managers outside of the formal review), providing them with a clear idea of their performance throughout the year. According to the Corporate Leadership Council, informal feedback that is fair and accurate can improve performance by 39.1%!


To get the most value out of these informal coaching sessions, we recommend documenting the conversations in a system so the feedback can be referenced during the more formal review time.


Prepare Before you Provide

The benefits of informal feedback are seen when feedback conversations occur regularly.


Setting regular weekly, monthly, or quarterly cadences ensures that these conversations happen and employees receive the most benefit. 

To help you remember the basics of informal feedback, feedback should be ‘FAST’:


  • Frequent—Managers should provide feedback on an ongoing basis so that employees have an accurate and up-to-date understanding of their performance strengths and development areas.
  • Actionable—Feedback should help the employee do their current job better or recognize actions or work ideal for the current position. Ensure that recommended actions or behaviors are within the employee’s control in his or her current position.
  • Specific—Managers should identify specific actions the employee took or particular things that were appropriate or inappropriate. Specific and targeted feedback has up to a 6.6% positive impact on employee performance.
  • Timely—Managers should give feedback as soon as possible to the action or event. Timely feedback will maximize the impact of feedback on the employee’s performance and minimize the chances of resentment.


Continuous Feedback, Continuous Improvement

Managers should aim to provide effective informal feedback throughout the year to improve employee performance through in-the-moment coaching to decrease the chances that the formal review is a surprise to the employee.

Regular feedback helps build a trusting relationship and solidifies the impression that performance management is consistent and fair. These performance check-in conversations provide valuable insight into how the employee is doing and what managers can do to support the employee’s development.


Pre-Conversation Checklist

  • Is your feedback fair, accurate, and directly applicable to the employee’s tasks?
  • Do your comments focus on single behaviors that direct the employee’s attention to a few specific and vital improvements?
  • Are your comments straight-forward, without any personal opinions?
  • If you are delivering negative feedback, have you secured a private setting to provide the feedback and set aside time in a quiet place for the conversation?
  • Were any of the current development areas discussed previously? If so, are you prepared to incorporate that into the current conversation?

Before providing feedback, have employees answer a few questions beforehand and allow them the opportunity to give updates on their goals. Their responses can serve as a reference point for the informal coaching conversation.

Here are some example questions:

  1. What are your biggest accomplishments since our last check-in? What are you most proud of?
  2. What are your key priorities for this check-in cycle?
  3. How can I best help you?

When preparing for the informal feedback conversation, it is also important to remember to avoid the following common mistakes associated with manager feedback:

Avoid Common Mistakes

  • Making Interpretations—Limit feedback to the employee’s behavior without using any personal interpretations.
  • Talking too Much—Once you have acknowledged the situation, behavior, and impact in question, allow the employee to provide their opinion on your feedback.
  • Focusing on Weaknesses—Frame missing skills not as weaknesses but as obstacles the employee should overcome.

Checklist of Daily Reminders of When to Provide Performance Feedback  

  • Did any of your employees do anything exceptional today (either good or bad)?
  • Did you see your employees doing anything inefficiently?
  • Are there development areas where you have seen an improvement or drop-off in performance?
  • Did an employee’s performance have a positive or negative impact on a client or colleague?
  • Have any of your employees missed deadlines?

During the Conversation, Identify the Situation, Behavior, and Impact of the Action or Event

After reviewing the basics of what should be covered in informal feedback conversations, use the Center for Creative Leadership’s three-step process to increase the feedback’s quality and effectiveness. To keep your feedback relevant and focused, identify the situation, behavior, and impact of the action or event. 

While this method works for both positive and negative informal feedback, any severe performance issues will require a more structured performance discussion. Here are some examples of how to differentiate positive and negative feedback using the situation, behavior, impact framework:

  1. Situation – Describe the situation in which you observed the employee
  2. Behavior – Describe the behavior you observed
  3. Impact    – Describe the impact of that behavior on you or others who were present in the situation

Positive Feedback 

  • State the Behavior and Its Valuable Aspects: “Thank you for helping Mark with that software yesterday.”
  • Note the Behavior’s Impact on Productivity or Environment: “Helping him boosted his enthusiasm for the task.”
  • State Your Appreciation: “I was able to spend time on another important project while you helped Mark.”
  • Provide Impetus for Continuing Behavior: “As you work towards your next role, I’m hopeful that you will continue to play a crucial role in the team.”

Development Feedback

  • State Unacceptable Behavior: “I’ve noticed that your e-mails often have spelling errors.”
  • Note the Behavior’s Impact on Productivity or Environment: “I worry about what our clients will think when they see a misspelled word.”
  • Describe Alternative Behaviors and Desired Outcome: “We want to send 100% error-free information. Please spend a minute to re-read and spell-check your e-mails before hitting the ‘Send’ button.”
  • Set Goals for the Future: “The team needs you to help preserve our image, and sending error-free e-mails is one way to do that best.” Use goal management software to help monitor and track goal achievements. 

In summary, informal feedback is an effective way to provide in-the-moment coaching to employees. Documenting this feedback ensures there is context around employee’s past performance and behaviors when completing the more formal performance review.

In the Performance Culture software, these informal conversations are documented using check-ins. These check-ins can then be referenced directly in the employee’s performance review allowing managers and employees visibility into the previous coaching conversations throughout the year. 

Set your team up for success by being more intentional with informal feedback and get started documenting check-ins in a trusted system that will help provide a framework for these informal coaching conversations. 

Request your free demo of our performance review software and see how you can start using check-ins with your team today!