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The Importance of Feedback Culture

August 10, 2022, 5-min. read

Enterprise success is often predicated on company and workforce agility: how quickly and adeptly a company can pivot to new models of productivity and workforce management techniques to improve services and, crucially, learn from past mistakes.

Feedback - between staff, managers, stakeholders, board and customer - sits central to this improvement and growth. But holding more productive meetings isn’t enough. For companies to be truly effective at improving services they have to build entire cultures of feedback within their workforce.

What’s the definition of a culture of feedback?

A culture of feedback within a workplace is the building and maintenance of a system of communication where every team member, regardless of rank or position, feels confident, safe and protected in sharing feedback with other team members.

Good feedback cultures take stock of both the communicative nature of modern working teams, the processes and methods in which they communicate, and how to act on that feedback.

Feedback is more than simply sitting in a room and telling another person about their work. It’s also about setting measurable, long-term goals and targets as a result of feedback to either improve performance, celebrate success, or create positive development around workplace demands.

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Who determines where, when and how feedback occurs?

Historically, feedback within workplaces has been mostly a one-way feature of hierarchical systems. Bosses impart feedback to staff members, who take that feedback and improve their work. This sort of linear system of top-down feedback has, quite rightly, been proven insufficient.

Modern, more conducive feedback systems incorporate two important elements: continuous feedback cultures, and de-stratified feedback cultures.

Continuous feedback culture

  • Continuous feedback is exactly what it says it is: a culture of communication between peers, staff and leadership that is continuously delivered.

  •  It means feedback is delivered more consistently, in a much more personal and regular manner between peers and seniorities as opposed to the more standoffish roundtable dominated by leadership-only figures, or, in its purest form, the annual review.
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De-stratified feedback culture

  • This means staff feel empowered to feedback to their bosses about their leadership and systems of management that do and don’t work.
  • This emboldening of staff to communicate with seniors about their performance is a game-changing trust-builder. Teams feel more heard, more empathized with, more engaged and more connected to their management. It also removes the ego from top-down leadership systems and creates a more meaningful workplace based on communal need and compromise.

Are there any examples of bad feedback cultures?

Sadly, yes there are.

A fairly universal term for poor enterprise cultures is “toxic workplace”. Toxic workplaces are companies with unclear goals, ambiguous leadership strategies, cross-departmental conflict avoidance, and poorly communicated company purpose.

Regarding feedback cultures, we feel the following 4 elements create poor feedback systems:

  • A prohibition from sharing feedback - staff and management are told not to provide feedback, or ignored when it’s given.
  • Negative feedback when it’s given - feedback is unstructured and focused on negatives.
  • Solution-less management culture - there are no end goals or solutions as a result of feedback.
  • Too many “Yes” people - dishonesty reigns, and no one speaks the truth.

Here are our top tips for leaders looking to create a more positive feedback culture within their workplace:

How to improve communication and collaboration in your company

Empathic foundations

As we mention in many other blogs, the foundation of any organization-wide communication system is empathy. Business leaders and team seniors need to make sure their teams can be heard fairly, and that their feelings and behaviors are taken into account. After all, disengaged and forgotten staff members create dysfunction and poor performance. The clearest way to maintain open forums of comms is to be empathetic in word and deed.

Active listening 

If you’re not listening, you’re just waiting to talk. Leaders cannot impact meaningful change if they cannot truly listen to their staff. If your teams perceive feedback meetings with you to be nothing more than waiting for a chance to be the Boss in a more 1-2-1 setting you’ll lose all leadership credibility.

Establish growth mindsets at work

People with a growth mindset believe their abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. They view their innate abilities as a starting point and have a love for learning.

Feedback serves a goal - the improvement of performance, the highlighting of good work done, and the setting of continual goals. The person receiving that feedback - be the employer or employee - must accept that feedback from a place of positivity. Growth mindsets are the key to ensuring that.

Be solutions-oriented

Following neatly on from growth mindsets is being solutions focused. This is especially important if feedback is designed to help staff members improve performance, hit targets, or complete a project. Achievable goal setting is only as effective as the solutions posited to reach those goals.

Your teams need to see you, the leader, focus on solutions to snags or issues to help staff meet those goals. Feedback needs to be full of solutions to problems.

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