What is feedback culture, and how to build it?

April 24, 2023

When we talk about feedback culture, we refer to an environment where we promote continuous feedback. Members of an organization should also positively value it. This includes positive and negative feedback with a constructive orientation to improve each employee and the organization constantly.

If we want feedback to be part of the company's cultural foundation, we must encourage feedback at all levels of the organization. Another fundamental element for generating this culture is for leaders to promote an open and transparent communication style based on respect and professionalism.

We will establish appropriate communication channels, processes, and tools to ensure employees can provide and receive feedback effectively and support a feedback culture.

Remember that culture, in the corporate environment, is those values, ways of doing things, norms, behaviours, the way we communicate, and beliefs that all members of the company share and that even project outwardly, influencing even a customer's decision to hire the services of said company. They affect how we make decisions (both strategic and small day-to-day operational decisions).

Advantages of a feedback culture for a company

There are numerous advantages to promoting a feedback culture within a company, including:

  1. Accelerates learning.
  2. Promotes the stimulation of new ideas (innovation and creativity).
  3. It allows for understanding how individuals perform their work and identifying their strengths and areas for improvement, improving overall performance.
  4. It helps detect deviations in the effort early on and focus on them.
  5. Employees gain greater clarity on what they can expect from their work and responsibilities.
  6. It helps prevent emotional disconnection and burnout.
  7. Promotes a healthier work environment.
  8. It helps individuals within the organization have more excellent emotional stability.
  9. Maintains a balance between corporate and individual interests.
  10. Allows for the detection and development of each employee's potential.
  11. It helps determine where to invest company resources, such as training, compensation plans, etc.
  12. Generates a trustworthy environment.
  13. Stimulates motivation and engagement.

How can We Promote a Feedback Culture?

promote feedback culture

To create a feedback culture within a company, the Human Resources department can follow these steps:

Determine what objective or objectives we are pursuing

Are we looking to promote a specific feedback action for a particular group or to have a long-term impact on the company culture? Again, defining the vision is the starting point: why a feedback culture is essential and what specific results we expect to achieve.

For this, these objectives must align with the corporate strategic goals (where we want to go, how we plan to get there, and how feedback initiatives support us in achieving them).

For example, if a company is considering expanding to English-speaking countries, it would have a high impact on the strategy to identify which individuals have a high level of English, as this would allow us to know if we can tackle this Plan with current resources. To do this, an assessment of potential or a skills update survey that includes language information would let us know our starting point in real-time. In addition, we may directly learn which individuals will be motivated to participate in these new projects, essential for promoting a stimulating long-term career plan.

Design a Feedback Plan! 

In Youbelee, we call it the Manager Page. It consists of establishing the critical moments in an employee's life cycle (Employee Journey) in which it is vital to stimulate feedback. A Feedback Plan can incorporate various initiatives related to performance evaluation, climate and culture measurements, opinion surveys, manager-employee meetings, team-building initiatives, and anything else that may stimulate active employee participation in the company.

Additionally, a Feedback Plan should incorporate approximate dates to launch these initiatives. The tone, rhythm, and frequency with which we promote each action will also impact the culture we encourage. 

Communicate the vision and objectives to the entire company! We must ensure that all employees understand the importance of feedback and how it relates to both the company's success and their own individual success (both personally and professionally). For example, if you launch a professional performance evaluation process, you should share with all participants (whether managers or employees) your goal. Do you need objective productivity data for variable pay? Are you looking for the Management to know each person's strengths to design an internal promotion plan? Or are you looking to understand better areas for improvement to develop the next internal training plan? How about promoting a time of the conversation between manager and employee so they can better align with each other's vision? Whatever the motivation for action, share it beforehand so that everyone knows how to manage the expectation!

Encourage feedback at all levels

We must promote open communication both from top to bottom and from bottom to top, even horizontally, and we must ensure that all levels of the organization are involved. We will no longer promote cultural change if we exclude some employees from these initiatives. As in any social interaction, if you leave a group on the sidelines, they will create their own underground culture, and when you need to involve them, it may be too late because they will not identify with what you propose.

For example, you launch a 360-degree feedback process only for managers and executives. How would you feel if only a few people receive gifts on Christmas morning, and the rest can only watch them enjoy them? A 360-degree feedback exercise, especially if it incorporates a Johari Window, is a natural gift of professional development. What message do you send if you only offer it to some and leave others out?

Provide tools and resources

tools and recourses feedback culture

You can't rely on Excel for these initiatives to move from good intentions written in a PowerPoint to day-to-day reality. Therefore, it is essential to have specialized tools that Youbelee has to offer and resources so that employees can provide and receive feedback constructively and effectively. 

For example, we involve the entire company in one of these participatory 360-degree feedback processes and never underestimate the complexity. The hardest part is designing the questionnaire that collects all the competencies, knowledge, behaviours, questions, etc... But oh, surprise! Launching an evaluation of this type has an exponential complexity order (n^2, where n is the number of people involved). In other words, for two people, we will need, among other things, four surveys (two peer surveys and two self-assessments). For three, we will need nine; for four, 16, etc. 

And that's not counting that a performance or feedback process generates considerable data! With a tool that analyzes that data, providing intelligence to the process, we get all tthat machines can tell us.

Establish processes and procedures

It is not enough to want it. Any cultural change (in a society or a company) requires a structured process for feedback. Ideally, plan specific initiatives in an annual Feedback Plan such as Professional Performance Evaluation, 360º Feedback processes, Climate & Engagement Evaluation, Satisfaction surveys, Potential Evaluation, Onboarding & Offboarding surveys, etc. It will be a plus if these procedures include how feedback is provided, received, and acted upon.

For example, if you leave it up to each manager to do it whenever they feel like it, you could end up with only a few employees receiving feedback on their work. In contrast, others may be less lucky because they have busy managers or those who find this communication more difficult and choose not to do it at all. So don't hesitate: if someone has to lead these processes, it's HR. But, of course, with the support of Management and all those involved, the results will genuinely be transformative.

Establish a monitoring and follow-up process

feedback culture monitoring

Company leaders and managers must model behaviour to serve this new cultural approach. What leaders do and feel will likely be promoted among the rest of the teams. At this point, the example is critical to generating this culture. Managers must value feedback and be available to provide and receive feedback effectively.

Could we evaluate aspects such as giving continuous feedback, motivating employee development, promoting honest and transparent communication, and giving recognition to Manager profiles in Performance Evaluation processes? In this way, we would convince them that these are some of their essential functions, and they would focus more on doing them well.

Training and development

Providing training and pushing development to improve the feedback skills of all employees. No one is born knowing the most effective techniques, how to shape messages based on the interlocutor, or having enough emotional intelligence to master these conversations and make them constructive for everyone involved.

For example: if you launch a Performance Evaluation whose last phase will consist of a one on 1 Meeting, you can't expect all these Supervisors to have the innate gift of giving the best feedback: constructive, respectful, enriching, and motivating. The most realistic thing is that the majority feel certain insecurities, even discomfort, to discuss the less favourable points and need us to teach them techniques to address these critical meetings. This is where training (not only for Managers but especially for them) is a differentiating point to achieving good results with the process.

Giving feedback is learned through practice and specialized training.

In conclusion

feedback culture in conclusion

It's important to remember that creating a feedback culture is not a one-time process but a continuous one, which is why we love the concept of the Employee Feedback Journey. However, we must be open to this being a living thing. Therefore, in continuous evolution to have constant improvements to achieve an environment where feedback is an integral part of everyday life in the company.

And if you thought that the feedback culture is positive only by an act of faith, we're in luck. We already have studies showing that organizations that promote these principles perform better than those that don't! (and nobody wants to be in the second group).

Harvard University study concluded that companies that provide regular feedback have a significantly lower employee turnover rate than those that don't.

Along the same line, another study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that companies with a feedback culture have a significantly lower absenteeism rate than those without.

The University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) has also been interested in the correlation between feedback culture and productivity. A study found that companies that provide regular employee feedback have a significantly higher growth rate than those that don't.

This evidence (and common sense!) demonstrate that promoting a feedback culture positively impacts individual performance, employee retention, and the company's bottom line.

On a related note, check out our article on quiet hiring.

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