The merits of having a strong feedback culture have long been documented. The link to business performance has been proven with studies such as Zenger and Folkman.’s. The study proved those who engaged in strong feedback practices saw the top third of companies being double that of the bottom third. This including profit margin, return on investment, return on assets and return on equity. So the business case is there and multiple studies show the beneficial impact on engagement. As well as all the returns that engagement delivers. So if you are convinced by all the rich data that tells us it’s worth doing. How do you go about doing it in an effective way, that sustains long past the novelty value of an initial push?
Every day we get to witness companies building their feedback cultures and embedding these new habits into their organisations. Here are the 5 key differentiators that make the difference between a short-lived novelty approach to feedback to a sustainable ongoing habit that lives on and deepens in value over time.
Here are the 5 Key Steps:
Create a disciplined habit.
This sounds more severe than it is and it can be light, easy, and fun. Simple tactics such as ‘Feedback Fridays’ as promoted by Laura Grealish and Tamra Chandler in their brilliant book, can create consistency. These can also create an ongoing sustainable way of ensuring people build it into their Friday habits. After enough Feedback Friday communications, everyone settles into the new way of working that’s when we share feedback with each other.
Too obvious, I know, but we have data that clearly demonstrates where managers engage in feedback, employees will follow. Not rocket science I hear you, but here’s the good bit. They not only will receive and share on feedback with others. They will engage in greater levels of peer feedback but even more excitedly they are more likely to deliver upward feedback. Yes, that’s employees brave enough to give their managers feedback. Isn’t that the holy grail of feedback! We have a client who got their role modelling so right that 94% of their employees sent upward feedback to their managers in the first month of Tandem usage.
Make feedback easy.
Too often initiatives are focused on how do we get people to give constructive feedback. Here’s the bad news, they won’t, upfront. They will only engage in constructive feedback if they have formerly built a habit of giving feedback. In order to deliver good constructive feedback, you need to have a bedrock of trust underlying that; otherwise, you risk destroying that relationship.
The 5:1 ratio is a well researched one and a good one for us to lean on here. If you give 5 positive feedbacks, it gives you a licence to deliver one constructive one. By the way this one works in relationships too (try it out with a spouse!) This well researched model shows that if we are delivering 5 positive feedbacks we inspire trust. We know that person appreciates and values us. So, when we go to deliver constructive feedback it’s in the context of a trusted relationship and is far more likely to be well received. So how do we make feedback easy? Start easy and positive, with little hints and tips about what great feedback looks like. There are some super new models out there to avail of.
The Art of Receiving Feedback is just as important as Giving.
Sometimes we focus all of our attention on helping people give feedback, but we forget that receiving feedback is just as important. Setting up the right environment to receive feedback is key. If feedback catches you at the wrong time, it can create a fight or flight reaction. Also, different profiles respond differently to feedback; introverts need to digest it before they respond so will often go quiet; extroverts will often have a more immediate reaction but can sometimes jump to a place of defensiveness before digesting it thoroughly.
Think about the setting.
The environment in which they receive feedback matters, catching someone unawares and pouncing feedback on them can backfire. That’s why technology is a good channel, people can leave their feedback privately. This gives the person the time to digest it before they show up for the chat or follow up conversation. That way nobody is caught unawares and they are both prepared to have that follow up at a time that they are both ready and in the right mindset to share and receive the feedback. Other helpful practices are to give training or tips on how to receive feedback graciously. There’s an art to it and we can’t take for granted that everyone instinctively knows that art.
Building a feedback culture isn’t an overnight journey but there are specialised methodologies you can deploy to ensure that habit builds sustainably over time. Nudging people with the right messages can really deliver you the right outcomes but be careful out there. Avoid messages such as ‘challenge yourself to get some feedback’, nobody wants that challenge (trust us we tried it in our early days, it got zero engagement). Replace it with some behavioural science nudges that motivate us to help each other and share feedback generously. There’s lots more to share but for now good luck with your feedback journeys. As the data will show the outcome is so very much worth it!
If you want to find out how Our Tandem can help build and improve your feedback culture, book a chat with a member of our team today!