Feedback at work: how and why to create a feedback culture in the workplace
Creating a positive workplace culture is a hot topic currently. With tools like Glassdoor empowering employees to give their opinions about their job and company, it's no surprise that organisations are concentrating on this, wanting to make their company someone where people want to work. A vital part of this is creating a feedback culture where people feel comfortable with giving and receiving feedback on their performance.
A survey by Globoforce found 89% of HR leaders believe ongoing peer feedback and check-ins positively impact an organisation. This positive impact can be seen in several different ways. For example, companies that encourage regular feedback have 15% lower staff turnover rates.
So, what makes up a feedback culture? Why is it important? And how can you create one in your organisation?
What is a feedback culture?
A feedback culture is a habit fostered in the workplace that encourages employees to share feedback. It enables people to speak up to their line managers and colleagues, identifying positive results and also highlighting when things could be improved. Concerns are heard and discussed among colleagues, managers and direct reports constructively.
In a feedback culture, employees are trained to give feedback in a constructive and helpful way. They know how to be clear about what they're trying to say and why they think it's important to say it. They also understand the differences between giving negative but constructive feedback (which can be tricky) and giving positive feedback.
By encouraging your team members to give and receive feedback, you promote an environment where everyone feels heard and valued — leading to better communication across the board.
Why is a feedback culture important in the workplace?
Very few people work in isolation. Whatever their role or position in an organisation, their work will impact, either directly or indirectly, other people in the business. Without feedback, employees work in a bubble, isolated from their colleagues, unaware if they are on track to complete their own goals or contribute effectively to the business’s overall objectives.
Employees are more likely to be productive when they know what to do to improve their performance. This is particularly true when employees have access to continuous feedback from their managers and colleagues, as it provides timely, relevant direction. Feedback makes a difference — 69% of employees say they would work harder if their efforts were recognised.
A feedback culture encourages open communication and collaboration between team members. This means that when conflicts arise, they are more likely to be discussed and resolved quickly and effectively. Employees are more open to reaching out for support when they are struggling or share new ideas.
Team members support one another
A feedback culture encourages better teamwork as employees collaborate, sharing their knowledge and insights freely. This helps build strong relationships among team members, resulting in better communication, cooperation and harmony within teams.
Improves quality of work
A feedback culture provides opportunities for employees to identify areas where they can improve their work practices or skill sets and address them quickly rather than waiting for a review which could be months away. It also shows them when they are doing something right, so it reinforces the behaviours that the organisation wants to encourage.
An excellent feedback culture can lead to identifying new learning opportunities for employees, like courses or additional training. This is great for employees' personal development as they feel they are gaining something for themselves.
Ultimately, a feedback culture creates a happy, harmonious work environment focused on growth for individuals, teams and the organisation.
How do employees feel about feedback?
We've surveyed 2,000 employees to understand what they think of the feedback they receive and how it can be improved.
How to create a feedback culture in the workplace
Feedback is a great way to help your organisation grow. It allows you to understand what is working well and what needs improvement. But how do you get started?
Here are a few steps required to start the journey:
- Find a model that works for your organisation. It should fit in with the needs and culture of the organisation and have buy-in from senior management.
- Find a performance management platform that supports your feedback model. Continuous feedback mechanisms allow employees to give each other relevant, timely feedback on their work performance. It can also help HR teams set up processes for feedback reviews, personal development plans and professional goal setting to help employees understand what they need to improve on to succeed at work.
- Adopt a continuous feedback process so constructive feedback becomes part of everyday work. While this might start more formally, in check-ins or 1-2-1s and 360 reviews, it can infuse into regular practices like giving opinions in stand-ups and meetings.
- Ensure that feedback isn't one-way. Even two-way feedback is becoming outdated. Your continuous feedback process should be up, down, and sideways. There's no reason an employee shouldn't give and receive feedback from their direct reports, colleagues, line managers and others they work with in the business. This transparent and open culture will encourage discussion, learning and growth. Good ideas can come from anywhere in the company.
Make these processes continuous so that they become part of everyday work. The more you can work them into your organisational habits, the quicker and easier they will feel to staff, and they will start to produce effective business outcomes.
Creating an effective 360 feedback process
What is 360 feedback?
A 360 review assesses an individual's performance and considers multiple perspectives, including those of the individual being evaluated, their peers and managers. It's an increasingly common practice in organisations and can be a valuable tool for helping employees understand how others perceive them. This allows them to identify areas where they need to improve and develop more practical skills.
Why is it important?
This process can help reduce bias and make sure people are treated fairly. By gathering a range of opinions, a more complete picture of an employee’s performance can be creating and identifying areas where they are performing well and where improvement is required. It also gives individuals a chance to see themselves through different eyes, which can help them identify areas where they may have blind spots in their development.
The benefits of 360 feedback
- It provides a richer picture of performance than traditional performance reviews alone — assessing how team members view each other, and their direct supervisor helps employees understand their impact on others.
- It allows you to compare results across departments — sharing feedback across teams enables you to identify areas where employees perform differently depending on their role or level within the organisation. Managers can then make informed decisions about resource allocation and development plans accordingly.
- It creates a culture of accountability among team members — when everyone knows their colleagues will review them regularly, it makes them more conscious of how they interact with others.
How to run a successful 360 feedback process
In any performance management process, it's important to set an example from the top downwards. Senior leaders need to be actively involved in the process, and open to the same kind of candid feedback as the rest of the organisation.
A phased approach allows employees not to feel overwhelmed by the number of reviews they need to complete.
A 360 review should be short and easy to complete. Employees must know what is expected of them in the process and feel comfortable about sharing an honest opinion backed up with practical examples if possible.
How to ensure your feedback culture is positive
Feedback is an excellent tool for helping you improve your employee performance, but it can only be effective if done correctly. If not supported and communicated in the right way, it can produce a toxic environment. Here are some tips to make sure your feedback culture is as positive as possible:
Promote your feedback model
Ensure everyone in the organisation understands how it works and its value. Consider having an open discussion about your company's current feedback culture, what you'd like to see change, and what you've done to make that change happen.
Understand the importance of receiving feedback
The organisation itself has to be open to feedback — managers should role model receiving feedback and give it positively. You should also train employees on how to give and receive feedback and the processes around this. Giving and receiving feedback is a skill, and like a muscle, it develops with practice.
Start feedback conversations
You should give feedback first-hand, not second-hand (such as through email), so leaves no room for misinterpretation. The tone is lost when something is written down, making misunderstandings much more likely. Hearing the feedback shouldn't be the end of the process. Feedback should be thoroughly discussed by the individual giving and the individual receiving. This ensures that both parties have a chance to feel heard and understand each other's perspective on an issue, and a set of positive next steps are agreed upon.
Ensure feedback is reviewed
In the case of peer-to-peer 360 feedback, ensure there are mechanisms to have senior team members review it in case of any ill-worded feedback. This also highlights where a team member may benefit from coaching on how to give feedback effectively.
How feedback works in practice
It's important to remember that feedback is not a one-time thing — it's an ongoing process. While continuous feedback might seem like an extra burden, it makes the work environment more productive and healthy by encouraging open and honest dialogue, and helping to build trust.
Give people help and support to do it better. Formal training is one option, but a simple how-to guide or short video clips can be more effective and timely. People may not want to wait two months for a training course to do it better; they may want a bit of help now to get it right.
For more tips on creating a feedback culture, read our report, How am I doing? Getting the most out of performance feedback.
To see how effective feedback can benefit a business, read our case study with The Stage Media Company.
Read more of our success stories and discover more about how Appraisd can improve your performance management system.