The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Feedback Culture
Many HR leaders fear feedback: it's the monster of workplace cultures.
Having to sit face-to-face with an employee could be a nightmare.
Yet, creating a feedback culture is one of the best gifts you can give your team. 33% of employees say they prefer to receive more feedback from their supervisors. It helps them recognize their strengths, address skill gaps, and grow within the organization.
As employees transcend into the development and engagement phase, they should receive recognition and constructive performance reviews for improved productivity. But unfortunately, not all managers know how to give feedback effectively.
💼 What is a Feedback Culture?
A feedback culture is the habit of sharing, responding, and acting on feedback between employees and management. Feedback culture should apply to anyone, regardless of the position–whether you're the manager or low-level staff.
A healthy feedback culture has the following components:
- Purposefulness: feedback should be objective. The parties involved should feel free to voice their opinions and concerns.
- Two-way communication: feedback is not centralized on one speaker. The receiver has the freedom to respond and give their input.
- Continuity: provide feedback regularly until it becomes a natural part of the employee experience.
- Various feedback types: employers use different ways to give feedback—for example, one-on-one, 360-degrees, anonymous feedback, and others.
🚦 Why Is It Vital to Have a Healthy Feedback Culture?
The main aim of giving feedback is to increase the high-quality work and, if possible, its quantity. By letting your team know which part of their job could be improved and how to do it, you are creating your way to achieving the goal.
Moreover, once the team found the best methods to do their tasks, they are expected to become proactive. As a result, managers are assured that the business can run smoothly even without much interference from the team leaders.
At this point, communication will become seamless and almost "wordless" because everyone is on the same page. The team understands what is acceptable and what doesn't base on the organization's workflow.
Increase Growth Mindset & Engagement
The bigger your business, the more people you have–and the easier it is to ignore giving feedback. Consequently, employees could feel unseen, unheard, and unappreciated for their contributions.
Employees who frequently receive feedback are 4.6 times more willing to give their best in accomplishing goals and fulfilling tasks. Additionally, organizations with engaged workers are 22% more profitable and less likely to experience losses from offboarding and rehiring.
Creating a feedback culture can prevent your organization from financial loss.
It costs 20% of a month's salary to replace one employee. Helping your workers learn from their mistakes can improve their performance and develop their skills.
🏆 Learn how to improve employee performance with 17 proven methods.
Adopting the feedback culture from the first 30-60-90 working days ensures everyone knows their role. New hires will feel more connected to your organization when they see the company's expectations, and they can adjust their work to meet the goals.
🤝 8 Steps to Create a Feedback Culture
Giving feedback is not easy. Practicing the culture of learning and assessing goes beyond telling your employees what area they're good at and what domain they need to improve.
That said, providing feedback is an integral tool for organizational success and should be treated with utmost priority.
Here are eight feedback culture best practices you can leverage for organizational success.
Foster a Growth Mindset
A leader with a growth mindset develops a passion for learning and is open to change. They understand that although the employees are skilled, there is always room for improvement.
When you tell someone that they can do better at their job, it can easily be misinterpreted as an attack.
Consequently, feedback often gets buried under the rug to avoid these sensitive conversations, and everyone carries on with what they're doing.
Employees may become defensive and continue to work like normal. They don't see anything wrong with their performance or feel the need to improve.
Tip: Avoid being the bad guy by offering training programs and courses for everyone, leaders included.
To avoid some misunderstandings, follow these tips:
- Encourage workers to offer and obtain feedback. Share how-tos on giving and receiving employee feedback.
- Give some examples of how to ask questions for clarity in receiving feedback.
- Stimulate curiosity and challenge them to think outside the box.
- Teach determination. Let employees know how to persevere when faced with complex tasks and challenges.
- Personalize the training with different learning paths and styles to match everyone's needs.
Start From the Top
Only 14.5% of managers give effective feedback, while the rest falls into two groups (Leanne Renninger, Founder of LifeLabs Learning).
One group consists of indirect and soft managers, and the other group describes the opposite.
Maintaining the balance can be tricky, especially if you've never had experience or received training in doing it.
On that note, you must practice what you preach.
Tip: Look in the mirror. If you're doing things contrary to the growth mindset you've built as a leader, halt them and begin setting boundaries.
From the top of the hierarchy to the bottom, everyone should understand the value of the feedback culture. Become a role model in giving feedback with the following steps:
- Attend Management training programs. Learn how to provide feedback at every stage of the employee experience, from onboarding to separation.
- Source for development tools together with employees.
- Take competency assessment tests.
- Spend 1-on-1 time with employees.
Create a Feedback Guideline
A guideline will help define the outline, structure, and best strategies to let the recipients know their performance results.
The guideline should answer these four questions:
- Why: The objectives and goals of giving the feedback
- Who: The people that should deliver and receive it
- How: the process and channels they should use
- When: The frequency of the input–how often it should occur
Support the guideline with materials or videos on good and bad feedback interactions. Then, you can take it to the next level by performing a live demonstration with an employee. They can practice the act of peer-reviewing and show that feedback shouldn't always come from the top to the bottom of the hierarchy.
Practice an Open-door Policy
Encouraging employees to come to you for assistance builds trust and improves communication. You can discover pain points you didn't even know existed by addressing their concerns, questions, or suggestions outside the regular chain of command.
While an open-door policy sounds nice, it's crucial to set the tone. It is intended so that employees don't misuse the opportunity given to them–for example, turning performance evaluation into a gossip session.
For an open door policy to work, practice the following steps:
- Set up the recommended approach. Be clear about welcome conversations and those that aren't.
- Involve the manager in a three-person discussion, if necessary.
- Set up a meeting and limit it to a short duration so that your time is well-spent.
- Suggest a follow-up meeting if the time isn't enough and the issue isn't fully addressed.
Create a Routine
Make feedback a systematic process. Don't postpone it to the end of the year. Employees will most likely forget everything they've experienced and resume with their work style.
For individual projects, 1-on-1 interaction is the best strategy. Spend some time to discuss the hurdles and find solutions together.
For feedback on group projects, set up a cohort meeting. Create a group-based meeting agenda where everyone can contribute. Encourage the team to share the challenges and winnings from working on the project. This way, you avoid the meetings to go off-track and increase team collaboration.
Though feedback doesn't have to happen every day, you can incorporate it into your daily communication. For example, you can ask short and quick questions like, "Sarah, how's the social media campaign coming along?" or "Are you having any challenges with the project?".
Other ways you can give subtle feedback include the following:
- Morning meetings. Recognize employees' performance via daily check-ups. Encourage them to provide updates and share the latest developments since the last feedback.
- Send group emails of encouragement.
- Organize lunch dates where employees can communicate freely and share positive feedback.
- Create a reward system and award points to motivate hard work.
- Hold employees accountable. Use check-in features within your feedback platform to track individual progress.
Improve the Emotional Intelligence (EI)
Stop being a robotic boss and be aware of the emotions of the people around you. Put yourself in their shoes and display genuine empathy towards their performance. This point is vital to avoid any unwanted side-effects from exchanging feedback.
Therefore, balancing empathy with constructive criticisms is essential for giving effective feedback. You can detect how to provide feedback and what approach fits that person or situation. Developing your emotional intelligence begins with the following step:
- Observe your reaction to people and your environment. Gauge how quickly you become angry and judgmental.
- Before taking any action, calculate how it will affect the people around you.
- Be the bigger person. If you've made mistakes, apologize and try to make things right.
Use Various Feedback Channels
Some employees may respond to feedback better in one-on-one meetings, while others prefer to do it anonymously. That is why we suggest having a flexible feedback system.
All employees are not the same, so you should tailor feedback to suit everyone's comfort level. It also saves time in a fast-paced and dynamic environment where employee roles are constantly changing.
We collected some feedback channels you should leverage in your organization to ensure fairness in communicating feedback:
- Written feedback: letters, memos, manuals, and notices
- Online surveys: Google Forms, Typeform, or SurveyMonkey
- Mobile communication: short messages, reminders, emoji reactions
- Productivity applications: Slack and Asana
- Anonymous feedback: suggestion boxes
- Face-to-face interactions: group and 360-feedback
- Virtual feedback: video calls via Zoom, Google Meet, and Google Duo
Automate Feedback with Tools
Replace paper surveys and complement face-to-face interactions with feedback software. Compose dynamic and unique surveys to draw effective responses, and then use feedback software to analyze the data automatically. This will reduce human error rates from manual processes and help you make informed decisions.
In addition, some tools are open-source and can be tweaked to accommodate your organization's size and feedback system.
Consider the factors below before choosing a feedback software:
- Multi-channel support: the software can analyze responses from quantifiable and qualitative channels, e.g., typed comments and ratings from online surveys.
- API integration: connects with productivity tools like Slack, Trello, and Dropbox.
- User-friendliness: offers a simple dashboard for beginners and experts alike.
- Feedback volume: estimate how much feedback you expect and if the tool can handle it.
- Pricing: Check for a free trial before deciding on payment. Some SaaS offers demos to test whether their product matches what you're looking for.
🌈 Tips for Giving and Receiving Feedback
Avoid sandwiching feedback - Kickstart the conversation with a positive statement. Compliment the receiver on something they've accomplished recently. Then give constructive criticism. Go into details on where they excelled and where they need to improve.
Stay objective - Don't bring personal beef into the conversation. Feedback is not about your differences but facts. Most importantly, go straight to the point so you don't confuse them.
Brainstorm actionable solutions together - End the conversation with realistic solutions on how your listener can improve. Don't tell them what to do. Instead, suggest options. When possible, mention case studies of how those suggestions have worked before.
Follow-up - Make plans to have another meeting. Decide on a convenient date for both parties. Follow-up meetings should focus on comparing your progress since the last session. Set SMART goals you can both accomplish before every meeting.
Don't interrupt - Listen to the speaker until they're done talking. Even if the feedback isn't on-target, be patient. Take notes while you listen and discuss the missed information the speaker may have.
Be receptive - Your speaker will most likely offer suggestions during feedback. Don't be defensive. Instead, welcome their ideas and ask questions to help you understand their point of view better. Maintain welcoming body language and make eye contact. Don't lean away from the speaker or roll your eyes when they say something you disagree with.
Reflect - Use a maximum of five minutes to revise the discussion and ensure that both parties are on the same page. If there's any detail you missed, use this time to touch them. Then ask yourself internally: What have I learned from this? Are the suggestions feasible or not?
Get a second opinion - If necessary, ask another person to give feedback on the same matter. After all, the input is one opinion in a sea of many. You can then start making plans to adjust your behavior based on the multiple evaluations.
👍 Feedback culture examples from winning companies
Trading Kudos cards, giving frequent performance reviews and fostering a collaborative environment make Henkel, Zoom, and Google stand out from the competition. You can use their work culture examples to inspire your feedback strategy.
Taktile is a B2B saas company that grew extremely fast.
Depending on their starting date, employees automatically get assigned to feedback along certain milestones (during onboarding, every 6 months after that).
This way, feedback is a natural part of everyone's journey from the very start.
➡️ Read the full case study here.
Henkel's new feedback culture has shifted from conventional methods. The company created a system that horizontally distributes feedback rather than the top-to-down approach. With a large team of 53,000 employees, this strategy guaranteed visibility for everyone.
Managers are no longer the only source of feedback. Employees can receive Kudos cards and reviews from peers. Henkel strengthens this system by incentivizing high-performing employees with rewards.
Zoom was listed among the Glassdoor Employees Choice Awards winners in 2021. Employee reviews on Comparably.com reveal that Zoom employees receive constructive feedback every week. At the same time, an all-hands-on-deck meeting is set up every quarter.
New team members are assigned to coaches or mentors who initiate them into the culture and teach them the company's ropes. In addition, a Happy Crew is formed to create experiences to help employees stay productive and boost morale to complement this culture.
Google operates a flat organizational structure, which allows for a collaborative environment. Low-level employees can trade opinions and express concerns directly with the CEO, and peer review is treated with great importance.
The company also hosts pep talk sessions where employees are encouraged with incentives to share their innovative ideas. They are also provided with the necessary resources to turn those ideas into realities.
Giving feedback can be as uncomfortable as having "the talk" with teenagers. But by not talking about the strengths and weaknesses, you miss the opportunity to make incremental improvements for your team. It presents immense benefits to organizations, such as employee retention, morale, and productivity-booster.
But feedback is only one part of the people development puzzle.
With Zavvy, you can effectively combine them all - for more effective, structured feedback than ever.