Making continuous feedback a core aspect of an organization’s culture can set it apart in its industry. A culture that prioritizes continuous feedback attracts and retains talent, enhances employee engagement, and promotes collaboration. A feedback culture also benefits both employees and organizations by improving goal planning, promoting employee development, and inspiring discretionary effort.
Erin Miller, vice president of people and culture at Barefoot, says, “When managers take time to establish a regular cadence of intentionally connecting with their employees with an employee-centric agenda, it lays the foundation to build a level of comfort, familiarity, and trust with the employee.” She goes on to explain that with increased trust, employees are more likely to feel supported and be more engaged at work.
In order to maximize the benefits of a continuous feedback culture, leaders must approach it as a collaboration tool rather than a means for micromanagement. By balancing feedback and autonomy, managers can provide constructive feedback in a timely manner while giving employees the freedom to perform their jobs effectively. This collaborative approach promotes a healthy feedback culture that will ultimately drive growth and development for the entire organization.
Here are practical ways to cultivate a culture of healthy feedback within an organization:
1. Give real-time feedback.
Although there should be boundaries for when and how feedback is given, developing a cadence is key. Waiting for formal performance reviews to provide feedback can be limiting and may not address issues in real time. Instead, create informal opportunities for feedback by encouraging open dialogue and communication between employees and their managers. Regularly scheduled feedback sessions allow employees to adapt and grow continuously, make feedback feel less intimidating, and foster a more supportive environment.
Miller says that Barefoot uses “life cycle” and “pulse” surveys to encourage continuous feedback. The life cycle survey allows for feedback on new hire onboarding, benefits, open enrollment, and various other processes. The pulse surveys are customized engagement points that are administered to a group of employees to gauge how they feel about work.
“Both of these tools allow us to connect with our employee population on a continual basis to obtain their feedback and put together meaningful action strategies based on what they share with us,” says Miller.
2. Get detailed with feedback.
Vague or general feedback doesn’t provide the necessary guidance for employees to improve. Encourage specific feedback that focuses on concrete examples and addresses behaviors that can be changed.
For example, try incorporating the Situation-Behavior-Impact model, which entails describing the situation, explaining the observed behavior, and discussing the impact of that behavior on the team or project. This approach enables employees to understand exactly what needs to change and why it is important. It empowers them to act on the feedback they receive.
3. Equip employees with the resources and support necessary for change.
Effective feedback must be accompanied by clearly defined next steps and specific, helpful tools. Managers should prepare to offer guidance, resources, or coaching to support employees in applying feedback to their work. This can include sharing best practices, offering relevant training, or connecting employees with mentors who can provide additional insights. Organizations that provide adequate support can foster a feedback culture that enables employees to learn, grow, and develop their skills.
Investing time and resources into developing a healthy feedback culture will pay off with higher employee retention, increased collaboration, and, ultimately, more organizational success. By embracing a continuous feedback culture that focuses on collaboration and communication, leaders can unlock the full potential of their employees and fuel growth and development across the board.