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How to build a feedback culture

Many organisations would like to build a feedback culture, believing it to be a key element in engaging employees and enhancing performance. There is no doubt that more open communications improve working relationships, as well as employees’ commitment to their colleagues and employer.

Team giving each other feedback

“An organization with a positive feedback culture is an organization that has the opportunity to continually grow.”*

So what does a feedback culture look like, and how do you build it?

To build a feedback culture you need to embed it into how things are done. At its heart, two-way feedback is about open communication. So a feedback culture is really about mindset.

In an organisation with a feedback culture, people ask their colleagues for feedback. When they get feedback, they respond positively to that feedback, even if it’s not as good as they expected.

In this type of organisation:

  • People give feedback willingly and constructively. They recognise the importance of feedback to the person who’s asked for it. They are able to give feedback in a way that’s helpful and respectful.
  • Giving feedback is an intentional thing – it doesn’t happen accidentally. Feedback is requested and given as part of a wider set of formal and informal discussions.
  • The feedback mindset is demonstrated by the leaders at all levels, including team leaders.
  • Feedback is recognised as a desirable skill, and people who contribute to a feedback culture are praised and recognised.

So how can you start to build a culture of feedback in your organisation?

Like any habit, it takes a while to develop. So as a start, put in place regular feedback interactions, like:

  • Weekly 1-on-1s for team leaders and their individual reports (they can be short and sweet, 10 minutes).
  • Three-week feedback sessions for longer discussions.
  • 360 Degree Feedback after a project or a learning activity has taken place.

It’s a good idea to track the feedback sessions for frequency, and importantly, for quality. You can do this by checking both frequency of meetings, and quality of the meetings. This can be done through quick pulse surveys and short interviews.

Give people the skills for a feedback culture

To get good at feedback takes some skills building. If you really want to embed a feedback culture, it helps to provide training for all employees, but especially team leaders, on:

  • Feedback and coaching as performance and engagement tools.
  • How and when to ask for feedback, not just from the boss, but from colleagues and direct reports too.
  • How to ask for, and receive feedback with gratitude. Marshall Goldsmith talks about saying ‘thanks for your feedback’ and then shutting up. No excuses, no mitigations.
  • How to give constructive feedback in a positive and respectful way.
  • Using 360 degree feedback on a regular basis as a benchmark for the organisation’s values and behaviours.
  • Using 360 feedback as a personal and team development tool.

“It seems intuitive that employees who are comfortable giving and receiving feedback are more likely to be happy in their work and therefore be more productive.”**

*Three steps for creating a feedback culture – Forbes

** Definition of culture (CIPD, 28 Oct 2020 Organisational culture and cultural change)

 

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