By Juan Betancourt
Whether it’s positive or negative, receiving feedback is one of the best ways for people to know if they’re doing something right or wrong. Feedback plays a key role in a healthy workplace culture, where it fosters the growth of individuals, teams, and the organization and where employee voices are valued. Unfortunately, many businesses lack guidelines about when or how their employees receive this information.
To become more effective and more fulfilled at work, people need a keen understanding of their impact on others and the extent to which they’re achieving their goals. Direct feedback is the most efficient way for them to obtain this data and learn from it. Typically, this information takes one of three forms:
● Appreciation. Recognition for great work connects and motivates people and, because intrinsic motivation is one of the critical factors for higher performance, plays a vital role in any organization.
● Coaching. Helping someone expand their knowledge, skills, and capabilities to achieve continuous improvement also provides opportunities to address concerns, feelings, or ideas and thus help balance and strengthen relationships.
● Evaluation. By measuring someone against a set of standards, these more formal assessments help align expectations and inform decision making.
The Value of Feedback
Even people who aren’t interested in or skilled at giving or receiving feedback will participate in the process and improve when they’re working in a feedback-rich environment. (At the same time, even the most ardent and capable feedback champions will give up if the organizational or team culture doesn’t support their efforts.) In addition to helping more reserved
team members improve, feedback carries with it a slew of benefits. Here are three of the most important.
Improved Use of the Company’s Time and Money
Companies spend a tremendous amount of time and money conducting performance appraisals each year. Yet managers are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with how their companies conduct annual reviews, and the vast majority of HR leaders believe that the process doesn’t yield accurate information. Moreover, most managers spend a huge portion of their time on activities related to reviews—which cuts into the time they could be using for other tasks. Supplementing performance reviews with ongoing, real-time feedback, however, can ease the pressure and expense of the annual review. After all, a performance review is really just an aggregation of all the feedback data an employee should have received throughout the year.
Imagine the loss in productivity that takes place over twelve months when an employee doesn’t receive ongoing feedback on their efforts throughout the year. Reserving feedback for an annual performance review means missing opportunities when employees could be improving year round. Performance increases when employees enjoy their work, understand their goals, and know the values and competencies of their roles. The link between effective feedback and productivity has been well established. (For example, one study found that “69 percent of employees say they would work harder if they felt recognized.”1) Continuous feedback helps align goals, clarifies expectations, and motivates employees. It also creates a positive workplace dedicated to encouraging people to be better, thus improving their engagement and performance.
Strengthened Interpersonal Relationships
Meaningful workplace relationships form when employees engage in open feedback and dialogue with their colleagues, receive recognition for their contributions to a job well done, and get help meeting their goals. Fostering these types of relationships among employees drives both improved collaboration within and across teams as well as retention.
How to Build a Continuous Feedback Culture
Once a foundation of feedback has been established, each feedback conversation helps sustain it. To foster an environment of both personal and professional growth, people need to feel safe about giving and receiving feedback. A feedback culture emerges from fluid, two-way exchanges between employees as well as between employees and management. The end goal is to create a safe space in which employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns, suggestions, and advancement plans and employers are equally able to express constructive feedback.
In a healthy feedback culture, feedback is the norm rather than a signal that something is wrong—which means that when improvements are needed, asking for change doesn’t come off as awkward or out of the blue for either staff or employers. Instead, managers are able to enhance business processes while empowering employees to excel in their roles.
Here are five strategies companies can employ to create a continuous feedback culture in the workplace:
● During onboarding, performance reviews, one-on-one meetings with employees, town halls, and department meetings, set and reinforce expectations for giving, receiving, and using constructive feedback.
● Train people to focus on the quality of the feedback and to understand the difference between good feedback and bad feedback. Simply encouraging people to say “good job” won’t improve employee
performance or build an effective feedback culture. Building a culture of feedback starts with providing meaningful feedback—that is, feedback that is behavior-based (not trait-based), forward-looking (not backward-looking), objective, continuous, and direct and takes place in real time.
● Create multiple channels for giving and receiving feedback. Possibilities include newsletters, e-mail, surveys, town halls, and conversations during office hours. Some people like to write out their thoughts, whereas others prefer to vocalize them, so be sure to offer several options for soliciting and providing feedback.
● Couple feedback with recognition so that employees have positive associations with feedback, which can reinforce the kind of behaviors that help move the organization.
● Make feedback routine so it becomes expected. Ensure that managers are having frequent feedback conversations and check-ins with their direct reports, and encourage employees to ask for and share feedback regularly. Hold employees accountable by incorporating feedback giving and receiving KPIs.
Use Feedback to Drive Success
In general, frequent and incomplete (but directionally correct) feedback is more effective than infrequent, detailed feedback. Consistency and iteration are key to good feedback: when asking for or giving feedback, keep in mind the 30/60/90 framework, which states that feedback works best when a task is 30 percent, 60 percent, and then 90 percent complete. By transforming its workplace culture into one built on continuous feedback, an organization can propel its teams to approach tasks from a different perspective and find new solutions to the company’s biggest challenges.
Juan Betancourt is the chief executive officer of Humantelligence, whose solutions help organizations accurately measure and manage culture at
every level of an organization. Recently named a 2022 Top 30 HR Tech Influencer by Recooty and a 2021 Top 100 HR Tech Influencer by HR Executive, Betancourt is an expert in managing and hiring for culture fit and in helping organizations leverage culture analytics to build agile, highly collaborative teams and increase performance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.