Creating a feedback culture

Feedback: Whether it comes as a gut-punch or a standing ovation, it’s one of the best ways for us to know if we’re doing something right or wrong. Every business has rules, whether written or unwritten, about how feedback is handled. A strong feedback culture welcomes feedback and uses it to foster the growth of individuals, teams, and the organisation.

A feedback culture is one where employee voices are valued. Instead of being an exploiter of talent, organisations with feedback cultures are investors in talent.

How a Feedback Culture Benefits a Business

How a company incorporates feedback into culture has a great impact on employee engagement. A recent infographic 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.

Organisations 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:

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. They 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 organisation:

Make it part of your hiring process: Is the candidate is a lifelong learner? Does the candidate independently pursue growth? How does the candidate talk about and respond to failure?

Financially invest in growth: Offer an annual professional development allowance, provide access to internal or external learning opportunities, offer tuition reimbursement, cover professional license or certificate costs, etc.

Recognise growing and getting better: Outputs aren’t the only thing worthy of recognition. Regularly recognise 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 organisation and leadership can improve.

2. Provide Feedback Training

Both giving and receiving feedback are skills. What’s more, their skills that are rarely developed. To support a feedback culture, provide training and resources to your employees.

Share how to’s 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 them on asking questions, seeking examples, and clarifying meaning Develop manager skills in setting development goals for employees and helping them achieve those goals.

3. Set the Tone From the Top

Like any element that you want to make part of your organisational culture, it starts at the top. Receiving and giving feedback well must be modelled. Your leaders must hone these skills and set the example. They must ask for feedback (up and down the hierarchy and sideways) and visibly show that they receive feedback well. And they must do it again and again.

4. Create a Feedback-Safe Environment

Getting 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

If giving and receiving feedback well is an important aspect of your culture, it must be made clear. Communicate and communicate again. Set organisational expectations around what feedback looks like in your organisation:

Who gives it?
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, or at least it makes better. When feedback happens routinely, it becomes expected; it integrates into everyday operations; and we get better at it.

Culture is made up of shared traditions, habits, artefacts, and language. Look for opportunities to create these shared experiences around giving and receiving feedback.

7. Use a Few Feedback Channels

A feedback culture doesn’t only have one way to give or receive feedback. Different people prefer different feedback channels. 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.

A mixture of attributed and anonymous feedback, one-on-one and 360 feedback, individual and group feedback, and face-to-face and written feedback can help ensure that you’re providing the right platform to receive different types of feedback.

8. Nurture Positive and Corrective Feedback

Sure everyone loves positive feedback. But if you only focus on positive feedback, 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

It’s simple. 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 by 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. Whoever you choose to work with, allow them to 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.