Daniel Pink, expert on motivation theory and author of Drive, notes that the emerging post-Baby Boomer workforce has grown up in a world where feedback is the norm, and this expectation carries through into the workplace. But currently, he notes that “the workplace is one of the most feedback-deprived places in modern life”.
In this article we explore how an organisational culture of sharing and receiving feedback can impact on business success and share some tips for creating effective mechanisms to cultivate and action feedback.
Giving and receiving feedback is often a challenging area for organisations. The frequency, level of formality and power implications stemming from who, what, how, how much and why feedback initiatives are implemented can create uncertainty, doubt and anxiety - among employees and top management teams alike.
However, research suggests that feedback is psychologically important, as it links to feeling empowered which in turn boosts productivity and commitment.
Good feedback practices contribute to organisational culture. Beyond contributing to employee wellbeing, there are financial benefits too. Research by Huang et al. (2015) analysed more than 100,000 Glassdoor surveys, and showed that positive ratings of corporate culture predict subsequent firm performance, as measured by Tobin’s q and return on assets (ROA). For each 1-star increase in a company’s overall rating, they found a 7.9 percent average jump in the market value of a company — a powerful financial impact. But why is feedback in particular key?
Creating a culture of feedback is a cost-efficient way of increasing employee power, and thereby improving employee satisfaction and engagement.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted research with 600 employees to assess 43 aspects of employee job satisfaction and 37 aspects of employee engagement. The results showed that 70% of employees rank being empowered to take action at work when a problem or opportunity arises as having a critical impact on their engagement. They note that critical actions to promote empowerment include showing appreciation for employees’ time and efforts, and for their ideas.
SHRM advise that:
“One way to foster this appreciation is through constant feedback and communication that emphasizes respect and collaboration with employees at all levels of the organisation.”
Sage People, part of the enterprise resource planning software group Sage, recommends the following to help with the operational side of addressing feedback:
Ask the right questions and promote a listening culture
Make time for data analysis to detect patterns and priorities
Communicate results regularly and with transparency
Create a plan of action and regularly update on progress
In our work to evolve our service offerings, project outcomes and optimise our employee and client experiences across teams, we have found a number of initiatives that contribute to a culture of sharing and getting value from feedback:
self-aware leaders show that they are vulnerable, by asking for feedback head on. They demonstrate that embracing uncertainty is important for growth. Managers or leaders can also demonstrate that they don’t own the truth; while they may have authority, an impression or perspective is still personal. Create a two-way dialogue to help agree areas for action by asking questions such as “What do you think?” and “Does what I’m saying make sense?”
we have found a mix of individual and team quarterly reviews, weekly temperature checks and frequent evaluation of activities (e.g. following a sprint, workshop, or even conversation) all help to provide constant signals for what is working well or could be improved on.
For project teams, SCRUM style retrospectives at the end of each cycle or demo allow quick reflection (see Atlassian’s playbook for examples). For individual situations that arise, an effective tool for giving feedback that focuses on behaviours and prompts a discussion is the Situation-Behaviour-Feedback model from the Center for Creative Leadership.
If you’re constantly on video calls, try switching to phone calls for quick check-ins with team members. If you’re conducting weekly surveys, try creating a dedicated ‘all hands’ session with breakout rooms in order to leverage the different formations of team members and come up with novel solutions.
These are just a few examples of ways to adopt a more feedback-oriented culture. Ultimately, if organisations can learn to harness feedback, the results can be a happier, more productive and idea-rich environment, which can create more valuable business outcomes.
To discuss how team productivity can be improved to increase delivery output, speak to Jamie Heuze, Etch Products.
To discuss how to drive the most value from your innovation efforts, speak to Seth Campbell, Etch Horizon.