How to Create a Culture of Feedback

When’s the last time someone praised your work? Or shared an idea that helped you crack a problem you’d been chewing over?

Written by Alastair Roy
Published 06 August 2021
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How to Create a Culture of Feedback

Feedback is a powerful tool. It recognizes strengths, addresses skill gaps and helps people grow. It also gives organizations more opportunities to spot issues and innovate. 

But to be effective, feedback must be part of your working culture. Here’s how to make it happen. 

1. Explain to people why feedback is important 

Why do you want your employees to give and receive feedback? Is it to recognize achievements? To show people how their work impacts others and your organization? Or identify areas for individuals and teams to develop?  

Communicate openly with everyone in your business – explaining why you want people to solicit feedback. Do that and they’ll give more accurate, honest and helpful responses. 

2. Give people a steer 

It can be tough to know where to start when giving feedback. To help, you can share learning resources that detail the type of information you want people to collect. In Job Feedback, Manuel London highlights three areas to consider: 

  • Task performance – how well a person does their job, and how their skills help produce your company’s goods or services. 

  • Contextual performance – characteristics such as loyalty, helpfulness and interpersonal skills. 

  • Adaptive performance – how well an employee can learn, adapt to changing situations, and handle the unexpected. [1]  

Knowing the types of things to look for will help people structure the feedback they give and better understand the points they receive. 

3. Get diverse perspectives 

Encourage employees to cast their feedback net wide. People from different teams – and from different backgrounds – bring fresh perspectives. Clients, for example, can help you assess your customer service skills. You can try: 

  • 180-and 360-degree feedback to offer a rounded picture of an employee’s performance.  

  • Upward feedback to increase self-awareness and help develop managers.  

  • Anonymous feedback to help people be honest without fear of hurting relationships or suffering reprisals.  

  • Self-assessments to help employees think about their own performance and areas to improve. 

These tools help form the process of feedback, allow you to track progress, and show that real change comes from it.  

But results should be delivered in a meaningful way. If you provide performance ratings, for example, give context by showing the highest, lowest and average scores for each area, plus figures for peers in similar positions. And alongside ratings, open comments can help employees better identify areas for learning and development. 

4. Lead by example  

Research shows that employees are more sensitive than leaders to gaps between proposed values and actual work practices. [2] So, encourage leaders to set an example and seek out feedback from their managers, co-workers and direct reports.  

As Carole Burman, managing director at MAD-HR says, “leaders must hone their ability to give and receive feedback and set the example. They must consistently ask for feedback, at all levels, and visibly show that they receive feedback well.” [3] 

Showing you’ve taken feedback on board also builds personal accountability. Leaders can hold their hands up for the actions they take, acknowledge any mistakes made, or admit when initiatives fall short. This inspires others to be accountable and continue to take risks.  

5. Make feedback a habit  

To bake in feedback, it must happen outside of quarterly reviews or just when something goes wrong. As Forbes writer Heidi Lynne Kurter, says, “When something such as feedback becomes a habit, it naturally becomes a part of the company culture.” So, consider: 

  • Making feedback training part of your on-boarding program.  

  • Running workshops – safe spaces for all employees to practice giving and receiving feedback. These can be face-to-face or online.  

  • Encouraging regular one-on-ones between employees and managers. 

6. Be positive  

Ever fret over your choice of words when giving someone praise? HBR suggests we fear positivity will come across as insincere, be a sign of weakness, or be seen as “sucking up.” [4] And when we are brave enough to offer feedback, it can be the critical kind. 

To help, Ed Batista, an Instructor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, suggests you offer positive feedback in the moment. Don’t wait to use it as a buffer to deliver criticism. It can be something small that means a big deal for the recipient.  

Also, he advises to “praise effort, not ability”. Research shows that praising efforts, even when they fail, builds resilience. But just praising ability leads to fear of failure and taking fewer risks. [5]  

It’s why Silicon Valley firms celebrate failures to show that it’s okay to take the risks that will eventually lead to breakthroughs.  

Follow our tips to make feedback part of your organization’s culture. It may take time to see the benefits, but you can send that email or fist-bump emoji in a direct message to praise someone right now.  
 

Sources

[1] Manuel London, Job Feedback (Psychology Press, 2010) p67. 

[2] [4] [5] Ed Batista, (2013). Building a Feedback-Rich Culture [online]. Available here. [Accessed August 5, 2021.] 

[3] Heidi Lynne Kurter, (2020). 6 Ways To Build A Feedback Driven Culture That Inspires Healthy Communication [online[. Available here. [Accessed August 5, 2021.] 

About the author

Alastair Roy

Alastair Roy

Content Editor/Writer
Alastair brings 15 years' experience writing, editing and prodding at content. During that time, he’s picked up copywriting, content marketing and video editing skills. Along with two shirts and about a stone in weight. At Emerald Works, he enjoys creating resources that help people better themselves.
 

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