How to Implement a Feedback Culture in Your Company
The way you handle feedback tells a lot about your character and being able to learn from both positive and negative feedback is crucial for success. As well as being an important part of personal development, a strong feedback culture can also help companies and organisations to grow.
But a great feedback culture doesn’t just happen – it must be implemented and fostered. It can be a bit tricky to get it right and you won’t be able to change the organisation’s feedback culture overnight. But once you get started, the benefits are going to be evident immediately.
Here is a look at the benefits a strong feedback culture can provide for your business and the steps you need to take to create it. You’ll also learn the key characteristics of a great feedback culture to guarantee your organisation makes the most of its employees.
In this article, we will explore 1) why a great feedback culture is important to a business, 2) the steps to take to encourage feedback and create feedback culture in company, and 3) some final thoughts.
WHY A GREAT FEEDBACK CULTURE IS IMPORTANT TO A BUSINESS
It is easy to wonder whether a strong feedback culture is important to determine how your business operates. If the overall job satisfaction is above average, why should managers care about implementing a feedback culture?
The truth is there are plenty of benefits for having a strong feedback culture. If both employees and the employer are able to provide constructive feedback on what is going on, the organisation and the employee will feel more rewarded.
A recent infographic by the Officevibe found that employee dissatisfaction rate has increased in recent years. In fact, nearly 40% of employees feel they aren’t appreciated at the workplace. This leads to active disengagement from the job. Four out of ten employees admit they aren’t engaged actively at work if they don’t receive any feedback. Without a good feedback structure, people tend to start self-regulating and often end up being much more critical towards the work they do. By providing feedback, you are essentially providing more guidance for the person.
According to the evidence, as soon as you implement a feedback culture that works, employee satisfaction goes up. By focusing more on the strengths of the specific individual, managers can improve employee engagement by nearly 30 times. Well over 40% of employees who obtain regular feedback say they are highly engaged with work.
This is mainly to do with helping to clarify the person’s position in the business. With regular feedback, it is much easier to clarify the person’s role in the organisation and to ensure they are aware of the tasks and responsibilities of the job. It can also help clarify how the employee’s input is affecting other people.
Acknowledgement of employees’ hard work and input will help them stay on the right track and it gives them that extra bit of motivation. 78% of employees in the survey felt they are more motivated when recognised by managers.
Feedback isn’t just a managers’ way of telling off workers – employees themselves want to be told how they can improve. 65% of the survey’s respondents said they want more feedback, although only 58% of managers felt they provide enough feedback.
Furthermore, a strong feedback environment also helps to improve and develop the company. Your employees often have the best insight into how your company operates and a strong feedback culture can make it easier to pinpoint areas that require development. In fact, companies with strong feedback culture tend to have a better financial performance.
Finally, one of feedback culture’s strengths is the ability to solve problems. If you have a big project coming up, it is better to continuously evaluate the effort and see what works and what doesn’t, rather than to go through the project first and then analyse what worked. Small problems and issues in employee satisfaction could quickly turn into a bigger problem. As the old saying goes, “it is better to fix the roof while the sun is shining”.
THE STEPS TO TAKE TO ENCOURAGE FEEDBACK CULTURE IN COMPANY
Feedback has plenty of benefits for any business, but it won’t come about without effort. You cannot suddenly add more feedback to your organisational structure, as you need to create the right environment for feedback to flourish.
So how to go about implementing a stronger feedback culture? Here are the key steps you should take in order to encourage feedback.
Step 1. Creating a regular system for feedback
The first thing to do is make sure you have a regular system in place for feedback. You don’t want feedback to be a side thought or something that only happens when you happen to think about it. Feedback must become an integral part of how your business operates.
The most successful feedback cultures are the ones where feedback is part of the organisational structure. You might have times when there isn’t much feedback to give, but you still want to have a system in place. As mentioned above, feedback can help you solve issues before they turn into problems.
As you’ll find out later on, you want to make sure the feedback system is part of your business operations. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have a regular daily feedback session, but you do need feedback to be part of your operations – whether as weekly meetings or even daily conversations.
Step 2. Making it secure and safe
Once you have a regular feedback routine in place, you need to focus on efforts that make the system feel safe and secure. You don’t want the feedback moments feel forced and your employees should never feel like they are harassed into giving feedback.
Furthermore, it is crucial employees feel safe to give honest feedback. There is no point in having a feedback system in place if employees are only telling you what you want to hear. They need to feel secure enough to outline even the most critical viewpoints.
One way of adding more feeling of security is by creating a work environment where everyone knows each other. You want to ensure colleagues at every level of the organisation know each other. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone must disclose every imaginable personal detail or reveal things that they don’t want to. It is just about being aware of the person as an individual and being interested in knowing about their lives.
It is also crucial to have an atmosphere where talking about emotions comes naturally. You could even organise fun group activities that teach employees to be more in tune with their emotions.
Create a flexible feedback culture. You want the employees to feel free to postpone the feedback conversation to a later date. In fact, you don’t want to ever force them into having the conversation, especially if they feel they aren’t emotionally able to handle a conversation at that moment. Only organise the feedback sessions when everyone present at the meeting is willingly there.
Step 3. Establish a balance
You need to strike a balance with feedback in your workplace – every work environment is different, so what works in one company might not work in your company.
The most important thing is to start small. If you’ve not had any type of feedback culture at your company previously, you can’t suddenly have weekly meetings where people are expected to share their thoughts.
Furthermore, don’t instantly change everything your employees might suggest you to change. You don’t want to make major changes right from the get-go, but implement them slowly and start with little tweaks. If you focus on small tweaks first, you can also establish better trust between the managers and the employees.
Make sure you don’t focus just on rewarding positive feedback. The key is to strike a balance with valuing the feedback on its own and then rewarding people for good feedback. It is crucial to understand that different people have different ways of communicating. Therefore, you need to value every effort of giving feedback, whether or not the actual feedback itself proves to be valuable or useful.
Step 4. Implement the feedback culture as a Normal case
As mentioned above in the first step, you want the feedback culture to become a regular part of your routine. The best feedback systems are the ones where feedback culture operates as ‘Normal case’.
According to Harvard Business review, you need to avoid having the feedback sessions laid out like a special occasion. You don’t want to make it cumbersome and time-consuming. You want the feedback sessions to be a normal part of the workday and something that won’t take longer than a few moments.
Normality also equals to transparency. You don’t want the feedback structure to be implemented in secret. It might be a good idea to start it slowly and simply letting your employees know you are looking to implement a new system, you can help instil a feeling of normalcy about the process.
Step 5. Have a number of feedback channels
Finally, you should make sure the feedback environment doesn’t focus solely on one channel. Depending on employee personalities different feedback structures might suit their style better than others. That is why you need to make sure you have different channels to support different styles of engagement.
You should not only focus on having individual feedback sessions, both face-to-face as well as written forms. You can also have a mixture of anonymous feedback together with personal feedback. This can help build more trust and create a more open environment.
Furthermore, it is a good idea to have a mixture of individual sessions combined with group feedback opportunities. A proper feedback outing with the whole team can be a good idea and group conversations can help bring out aspects that might not arise in individual sessions.
The key is to ensure the feedback system in place is transparent and public, even if all of it doesn’t take place out in the open. You don’t want certain employees to have private meetings without others knowing about them. So, whether you are mixing up anonymous, group or one-on-one sessions, ensure everyone in the organisation knows about the structure.
Step 6. The right environment to flourish feedback culture
Overall, the above steps will help you implement a strong feedback culture in the workplace. If you want it to flourish and remain successful, then you need to make sure you have the right environment to support your employees, managers and the whole business.
The following are the key themes to focus on in order to ensure the environment is supportive of feedback.
Step 7. Foster both negative and positive feedback
The right environment for negative and positive feedback is a lot about creating a safe and secure environment for feedback. On top of this, you need to ensure you don’t just reward positive feedback. Whether or not you receive negative or positive feedback, employees need the feel their input is welcomed.
Naturally, we tend to prefer positive feedback, but you should be especially focused on channelling an environment where employees aren’t afraid to voice the negative opinions. It isn’t that positive feedback would be bad for your company, but more about negative feedback often being a better way to grow, develop and improve your business. In fact, negative feedback shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing. A 2009 poll found that employees who receive negative feedback are over 20 times more likely to be engaged with their work compared to employees who didn’t receive feedback!
If negative feedback is presented carefully and contains constructive criticism, it can be essential to employees’ professional development.
It’s a good idea to consider when and how negative feedback is given and received. As mentioned earlier, it is important everyone feels free to speak their minds at feedback sessions and you need to give people the room to move the feedback session to a different time if they aren’t ready. If you know you are going to focus on tough areas where negative feedback is likely to arise, think carefully what situation is the best for the conversation.
As a general rule, it is better that employees and managers focus on negative feedback in one-to-one sessions or smaller groups rather than out in the public.
Step 8. Explain measures behind decisions regarding feedback
The feedback you receive will naturally often result in actions. You might change the workflow or introduce a new bonus structure for your business due to employee feedback. Whatever the actions are, you need to make sure you explain the changes to your employees.
This must be done in a way that doesn’t pinpoint any individual – they need to be guaranteed feedback remains between them and the company, even when not anonymous. You also want to ensure you are positive about the changes.
As well as explaining when changes do occur, you do need to make sure you also make employees understand inaction. If your employees feel the management structure isn’t appropriate, for instance, you should be able to explain to them why the structure remains as it is.
Your employees cannot know your thought process and if you don’t explain your decision making to them, they can be left second-guessing your motivations. This could make them feel less willing to share ideas in the future, as they can feel you aren’t open to new ideas.
As mentioned above, don’t start mixing and changing everything straight away. If you feel a certain change might not work, you could run a trial period. This shows your employees that you value their input, but also guarantees you don’t undergo a costly change in business operations only to change it back a few weeks later.
Step 9. Accountability
Finally, there has to be a strong accountability culture to support a successful feedback culture. You don’t want your feedback structures to be clouded in mystery or people to feel there isn’t anyone responsible for the changes you might be implementing.
The first thing to do is to focus on transparency. Everyone from the managers to employees needs to be aware of how the feedback system works and what the purpose of it is. It might be a good idea to let the employees know about the benefits of feedback and what your business hopes to achieve from the new system. You also want to outline the benefits for the employees.
It is important that everyone gets the same information – whether you are providing feedback guidelines for colleagues or superiors, the information must be the same.
Furthermore, feedback culture is always about an equal communication between the business and the employees. You need to setup an environment where your company is responsible for its part of the deal and the employee is accountable for his or her actions. Your feedback should never be one-sided and your employees must be accountable for the changes you implement as well. Creating an environment of mutual respect, trust and accountability is the key to feedback success.
A strong feedback culture will provide benefits to organisations of all types. Whether you are a small business or an established institution, the benefits of feedback can boost employee motivation and streamline business operations.
The above steps will be useful in creating a strong feedback culture. It is important that you start small and focus on making feedback a regular and normal part of your everyday operations. Make sure every member of your team understands the benefits and goals of your system.
Be upfront about what you hope to achieve from the feedback system and the way your actions are impacted by the feedback you receive. Explaining and justifying your actions regarding the feedback is as important as taking in the feedback.
Finally, a great way to boost your feedback culture is by openly asking your employees to help you in the implementation process. You can’t just expect the culture to kick in overnight – you need to ask each member of the team to support you as you implement the above steps in your organisation.
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