Whether it comes as a gut-punch or a standing ovation, feedback is one of the best ways for us to know if we’re doing something right or wrong.
Every business has guidelines about how feedback is handled. A strong feedback culture welcomes feedback and uses it to foster the growth of individuals, teams, and the organization. Employee voices are valued.
Instead of being an exploiter of talent, organizations with feedback cultures are investors in talent.
How a feedback culture benefits a business
How a company incorporates feedback into culture greatly impacts employee engagement. Our research shows that feedback initiatives—such as one-on-one meetings, formal recognition programs, and annual employee surveys—are far more common at highly engaged companies. Multiple studies have found employee recognition increases retention and productivity.
Organizations with a strong feedback culture let their employees’ voices lead company improvements, whether facilitating a merger transition, reducing turnover, or improving company communication. In addition, many companies see financial improvements when they listen to employee feedback.
Designing a feedback culture isn’t something that just happens; it’s intentional. So how can you create a stronger feedback culture to improve employee performance? Here are 10 tips for building a feedback culture:
1. Nurture a growth mindset.
People with a growth mindset believe their abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. They view their innate abilities as a starting point and have a love for learning.
Strong feedback cultures value this mindset. They value learning and development and view feedback as an opportunity to improve. And they don’t just say they value these things—they show it and integrate it into their business. Here are a few ways you can nurture the growth mindset in your organization:
Make it part of your hiring process. Is the candidate a lifelong learner? Do they independently pursue growth? How do they talk about and respond to failure?
Financially invest in growth. Offer an annual professional development allowance, provide access to internal and external learning opportunities, offer tuition reimbursement, or cover professional license or certificate costs for employees.
Recognize growing and getting better. Outputs aren’t the only thing worthy of recognition. Regularly recognize employees when they’re investing in their growth.
Lead with vulnerability. Strong leaders admit weaknesses and show willingness to take and learn from feedback. Be transparent about where the organization and leadership can improve.
2. Provide feedback training.
Both giving and receiving feedback are skills. Like any ability, they must be developed and practiced. To support a feedback culture, provide training and resources to your employees.
- Share how-tos on giving and receiving employee feedback
- Show videos or let employees observe examples of good and bad feedback interactions
- Train employees on how to communicate feedback effectively
- Help employees understand their resistance to feedback
- Train employees on asking questions, seeking examples, and clarifying meaning
- Develop manager skills in setting development goals for employees and help them achieve those goals
3. Set the tone from the top.
When employees see leaders model strong feedback principles, they’re more likely to fall in line and do the same. Your leaders must hone their ability to give and receive feedback and set the example. They must consistently ask for feedback (up and down the hierarchy and sideways) and visibly show that they receive feedback well.
4. Create a feedback-safe environment.
Nurturing a feedback culture to work relies on one important factor: having employees who are willing to give honest feedback. Employees need to feel safe and know that if they give feedback they won’t face negative repercussions. This starts with building trusting relationships and is reinforced by how feedback is received.
Different employees will have different comfort levels with both giving and receiving feedback. It’s important to be respectful and not force feedback. Use emotional intelligence to gauge whether a person is ready to give or receive feedback, and if you can’t tell, ask.
5. Set clear expectations around feedback.
Create organizational standards for what feedback looks like and consistently convey that message to managers and employees. Set organizational expectations around your feedback structure. Address the following:
- Who gives feedback?
- Who receives it?
- How often does it occur?
- How do we do it?
- What is the goal of feedback?
6. Make it routine.
Practice makes perfect. When feedback happens routinely, it becomes expected. It integrates into everyday operations; and we get better at it.
Take Hudl for example. The sports technology company ingrained the idea of feedback into its culture with its value to be Respectfully Blunt, inspiring its own hashtag, #RealTalk. Hudl incorporates #RealTalk into everyday conversations among employees.
Culture is made up of shared traditions, habits, artifacts, and language. Look for opportunities to create these shared experiences around giving and receiving feedback. At Quantum Workplace, we participate annually in QW Voices, our employee survey and focus group initiative, and monthly in GOOD lunches, our manager-employee performance conversations.
7. Use different feedback channels.
A feedback culture doesn’t only have one way to give or receive feedback. People prefer to receive feedback in many ways, and different situations call for different feedback channels. By providing a variety of feedback channels, you give employees the opportunity to give feedback in a way that they’re most comfortable in different situations.
Consider what type of feedback would be most effective for the setting, giver, and receiver:
- Attributed vs. anonymous
- 1-on-1 vs. 360 feedback
- Individual vs. group
- Face-to-face vs. written
8. Nurture positive and corrective feedback.
Everyone loves positive feedback. But if you only focus on the good stuff, you risk ignoring problems and stagnating the growth of your employees. On the other hand, if you only focus on corrective feedback, you risk ignoring successes and undervaluing employee contributions.
Strike the right balance of positive and corrective feedback, and provide outlets for employees to give and receive both on a regular basis.
9. Highlight decisions made based on feedback.
When you make a decision or change based on someone’s feedback, let them know. Don’t only focus on communicating the decision or change; focus on the why. “Why did we do this? Because of your feedback.”
Feedback is a gift. If you don’t use it and appreciate the gift, you might not get another one. Having a feedback culture means that you actually respond and act on feedback. Employees need to see that giving feedback is worth their time. Don’t underestimate the value of following up on what you do with feedback.
10. Power your team with feedback tools.
Finally, be sure to power your team with feedback tools. A technology partner can facilitate feedback processes by giving employees an easy way to record notes from feedback sessions, conduct two-way feedback conversations, request 360 feedback, give positive feedback via recognition, and collect feedback via surveys. This takes the administrative work out of feedback, allowing everyone to focus on growth.
Ready to create your feedback culture? Download our ebook: A Practical Guide to Giving and Receiving Feedback with a Growth Mindset.