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Why a Feedback Culture Matters and How to Create a Feedback Culture in Your Organization

Culture of feedback has been a buzz phrase in the HR and business world for several years. A feedback culture is a culture where every employee feels that they can share feedback with another person in the organization – regardless of role.

There are many benefits to having a culture of feedback in your organization.

Benefits of a culture of feedback

1) Saves time, money, and resources

It’s estimated that a company of 10,000 employees spends a staggering $35 million a year to conduct performance appraisals. And yet, 9 in 10 managers are dissatisfied with how their companies conduct annual performance reviews, and almost 9 in 10 HR leaders say the process doesn’t yield accurate information. Moreover, the average manager spends about 210 hours a year on activities related to reviews – that’s around 25 days! That’s a lot of time, money, and resources.

Supplementing your annual performance review with continuous & real-time feedback can help ease the pressure on the annual review. When you think about performance reviews, it’s really just an aggregation of all the feedback data an employee should have received throughout the year. Having all feedback in one place can help speed up the performance review.

2) Generates lots of data

At the end of the day, feedback is data. If a manager is sharing feedback with an employee twice a month, that is up to 24 data points that can be analyzed at the end of the year. With that being said, the feedback should be more substantial than “good job” or “high five” – make sure the feedback is effective.

Effective feedback is:

  • Constructive – feedback should be focused on behaviors and forward-looking, not traits or backward-looking.

  • Objective – it’s often impossible to get to the “truth”, but make unconscious bias training mandatory and enable 360 feedback.

  • Continuous – feedback should be shared frequently to reduce recency bias.

  • Relevant – feedback should be specifically related to the receivers’ goals, objectives, and career path.

  • Direct & kind – feedback should be sugar-coated; feedback must be direct & kind.

Providing context around the feedback is also critical. It makes the feedback more relevant and tangible to the employee (compare the two examples below).

Example 1: 
"Great job on your presentation"

Example 2: 
“You did a good job in our client meeting this morning – you explained the algorithm with analogies that helped communicate the technical information to the non-tech executives. I can tell that you truly understand and are passionate about this topic. However, sometimes when you get excited, you speak too fast. You also didn’t pause for questioning before moving on to the next topic. Next time, try and speak slower and remember to ask if anyone has questions before moving on to the next topic.”

3) Creates a growth mindset and increases performance

When employees enjoy their work, understand their goals, and know the values and competencies of the job, performance increases. The link between effective feedback and productivity has been well established. One study found that 69% of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized. Continuous feedback helps align goals, clarifies expectations, and motivates employees. It also creates a positive workplace. A workplace that is dedicated on encouraging people to be better will improve the level of performance and employee engagement.

4) Enables better work relationships

Engaging in open dialogues with colleagues, recognizing efforts after a job well done, and helping employees meet their goals will help create meaningful workplace relationships. Fostering these types of relationships among employees is a huge driver of retention. Once the foundation of feedback has been set, sustaining it will become easier with each feedback conversation.

How to build a culture of feedback

The benefits of giving and receiving feedback on a regular basis have been well documented, and many organizations acknowledge these benefits. However, they often find themselves at a roadblock when it comes to implementing this feedback culture in their workplace.

1) Start at the top

Leaders and managers need to be the champions of feedback. They need to understand the importance and the benefits of feedback. Getting these senior leaders on board are table-stakes. If you cannot get leaders to share or request feedback, employees won’t either. Employees that observe their managers model strong feedback principles are more likely to do the same. This is how you create sustainable change in your organization.

2) Provide the feedback tools

If you are trying to enable the culture of feedback in your organization, make sure to provide the right technological tools. Giving and requesting feedback should be integrated with your day-to-day operations (i.e. it should be easy for your employees to request and receive feedback). Moreover, having feedback documented in one place where managers and direct reports can see past feedback will help motivate the direct reports and help streamline feedback conversations and performance reviews between employees.

If you are part of an early-stage company, Google Sheets can be sufficient to document feedback conversations. If you are a mature company, you may want to consider investing in a feedback tool. However, don’t expect that a feedback tool will magically create a feedback culture in your workplace. You’ll need to provide proper training and make feedback routine to create that feedback culture shift.

3) Provide feedback training

Giving and receiving feedback are skills – they must be developed and practiced. To support a culture of feedback, provide the feedback training and resources to your employees and managers. For example, annual workshops on how to share and receive feedback can help ensure that employees are all ‘rowing in the same direction’ when it comes to giving feedback (iota consultants provide effective feedback workshops - feel free to ask us about it)!

If you are a start-up, try and establish continuous feedback early on. If you are in a more mature company, don’t expect that culture shift to happen overnight. It will take time for people to unlearn old habits and learn new behaviors. While it will take time, it will be worth the investment.

4) Make it routine by holding employees accountable

When feedback happens routinely, it becomes expected. Hold employees accountable by incorporating the number of feedback shared and requested into your manager’s KPIs. Ensure that managers are having regular feedback conversations and check-ins with their direct reports.

Moreover, encourage employees to ask and share feedback whenever and wherever. Feedback doesn’t have to come at the end of the month – if you see a behaviour that should be repeated, corrected, or changed, let the employee know in real-time! We would recommend having more formal check-ins (quarterly or bi-annually) in addition to having those more regularly formal reviews. (If you are curious about 360 feedback/reviews, check out our article on 360 feedback and reviews).

Having a great feedback culture is essential in the future of work

Many companies have started to implement more continuous check-ins. In fact, since 2020, 36% of managers are scheduling more frequent 1-on-1 check-ins. HR professionals expect the frequency of these feedback conversations to increase in the next 3-5 years. Moreover, many believe that these conversations will extend beyond performance, and there will be a focus on employee well-being. Creating a great feedback culture where employees feel safe to give and share feedback on their perspectives on their (and others’) performance, their workloads, and their well-being will differentiate great companies from their competitors.


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