How to use effective feedback when delegating job tasks (Proceedings)


How to use effective feedback when delegating job tasks (Proceedings)

Aug 01, 2009

Veterinary owners and managers often convey frustration about job performance inconsistencies and failure of some employees to complete job tasks. Likewise veterinary teams routinely report problems with accountability in the practice when staff members aren't responsible for fulfilling their job roles and assignments. Discipline doesn't work well to correct these minor job performance problems or instances of lack of accountability. Most managers would agree that firing employees for occasional lapses in job performance or forgetting to complete certain tasks is not the answer. Practice owners and managers find lack of accountability in to be frustrating but don't know how to solve the problem.

The best way to improve job performance and accountability is to set up an effective feedback system with employees when delegating job tasks. Feedback improves communication and keeps team members on track to meet or exceed expectations when fulfilling their job assignments. The following step by step process will help you establish a feedback protocol that will pay dividends in enhanced job satisfaction and increased accountability and productivity for the team.

Steps to establish an effective feedback and delegation process

1. Assess employee skill sets. When delegating job tasks, be sure to delegate to the appropriate team member. Two basic questions to ask are "Does the employee have the necessary skills and knowledge to do the job?" and "Does the employee have the interest in performing the job task?" Sometimes job tasks are not completed adequately or on time because team members aren't comfortable with the assignment due to a lack of training or skill. Other times they simply may not be interested in the job duties. While not every job task is exciting, look for opportunities to make assignments based on the interest and strengths of staff members.

2. Give employees the tools to do job. Team members must have the tools and resources to do their job whether that is skills and knowledge, time, or proper equipment that is in good working order. Provide training for both new hires and established employees so they may gain proficiency in all aspects of their job.

3. Communicate clearly. Sometimes lack of accountability exists because supervisors are unclear when communicating with staff about their job performance or when delegating job tasks. Communicate and clarify expectations to employees in a direct, straightforward manner. Be sure to assess for understanding from employees. Ask them if they have any questions about their assigned job tasks. Don't forget to give employees deadlines when delegating job tasks. Rather than asking an employee "Can you please file these records and enter these invoices?" instead say "I need these records filed and the invoices entered by the end of your shift. Can you complete this job task by 5pm?"

4. Know when and how to deliver feedback. Once job tasks are delegated, employees need constructive feedback on their job performance. One of the most important aspects of giving feedback is to be specific and timely. Specific information about how job duties are performed is more meaningful than comments such as "Thanks for doing a good job" or "We need for you to do a better job". Specific feedback tells a team member what behavior you want them to continue and/or what behavior is unacceptable. While at times it may seem nit-picky, not everyone has the same definition of what is an "exceptional, good or poor" job performance, what is "on-time" or what is "clean". Be aware of appropriate times and places to give feedback. Follow the old adage, "praise in public and criticize in private". If you need to discuss inconsistent job performance or failure to complete job tasks, then set up a private meeting with employees. Try to be sensitive to the timing of feedback if employees are going through a difficult time period. This is not to say that managers should avoid giving feedback but rather that they should convey empathy if employees are struggling with personal issues and be prepared to offer support such as employee assistance programs.

5. Focus on the behavior not the person. Feedback given to employees needs to always focus on the behavior of the team member not on intangibles such as their attitude or intention. We cannot measure, quantify or see an employee's attitude or intention. But we can witness behavior and actions. Rather than telling an employee they need to have a better attitude or that they need to be nicer to clients, tell them specifically what words or actions demonstrate their poor attitude or poor job performance. When you focus your feedback on specific behavior and actions, employees will know what they need to do differently as well as what they need to continue doing well.

6. Relate job duties to the practice's vision and core values. Everyone's job role in the practice has a purpose and helps to further the vision of the business. Employees benefit from understanding how their individual job roles and assignments fit into the "big picture" or vision of the practice and how they help to achieve business goals. Additionally, how you want team members to act and do their job tasks relates to the practice's core values. Remind employees that their actions need to be consistent with your core values.

7. Provide ongoing coaching and ask for employees' feedback. Offering consistent, regular feedback is part of an on-going coaching process. It needs to be offered on a daily or weekly basis to be sure employees understand job assignments and to reinforce the desired behavior from team members. Part of the feedback process includes soliciting feedback from employees, not just giving them feedback. Ask staff members on a regular basis how they are doing, if they have the tools and resources to do their job, if they have challenges they need help with, and what ideas they have to make improvements in the practice.

By following the above feedback protocol, you will give employees the information they need to meet and exceed job expectations and you will be able to delegate job tasks more effectively which will lead to opportunities to empower team members.