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Steps You Need to Take Now to Build a Feedback Culture

Thursday, May 18, 2017
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Steps to a Feedback Culture
A dramatic shift in the job market has led many companies to turn to feedback to improve employee retention rates. Unlike in the past, employees are feeling less tied to company loyalty and freer to take on new opportunities. Millennials in particular are notorious for their job-hopping tendencies, with most being expected to stick with each job for less than three years. Employee turnover can result in major costs for your company, and significantly affect company morale. Think about how much time you’re already spending recruiting new people to replace those who have left. 

Attracting top talent will also become more challenging as potential hires are looking at not only salaries, but also the quality of the work environment. Ratings-based reviews on websites like Glassdoor are helping hires become more selective and raising concern among companies over the potential for disgruntled employees to scare off new talent. As companies focus more on trying to reverse this trend, feedback has emerged as a way to better engage employees. 

To some, giving candid feedback more often may seem counterproductive, but a 2009 Gallup study shows that 98 percent of employees fail to be engaged when managers give little or no feedback. As a result, companies are investing more in new feedback technology to encourage the exchange of feedback between managers and employees. Faced with the challenge of satisfying a more demanding employee population, managers will be responsible for using this technology to infuse the workplace with a greater feedback culture. 

Why Is Feedback Important for Me as a Manager? 

While the entrance of Millennials into the workplace will present new opportunities, it will also require adjustments to your management style. The top two most commonly cited reasons for employee turnover are problems with management and a lack of opportunities for professional development. In fact, a 2014 study by Deloitte University revealed that two-thirds of Millennials believe managers are responsible for providing them with further development opportunities. In other words, managers must become more open and engaged in their employees’ career growth to meet their expectations. 

When given effectively, providing your employees with more feedback is one of the best ways to demonstrate your involvement in their professional development. Giving your employees’ advice on how to enhance their skills and helping them develop career goals is a powerful way to motivate your team. Even if you don’t have any constructive feedback to give, giving positive feedback is a great way to acknowledge employees’ work and make them feel valued within the team. In the long term, feedback can significantly boost team spirit and productivity

Feedback not only is helpful for improving your employees’ performance, but also allows you to pinpoint adjustments that need to be made to your management style. Employees might be reluctant to voice concerns about your performance as a manager until it’s too late. Creating an open environment in which employees are encouraged to give you feedback in return will foster greater trust between you and your team, and alert you to potential conflicts before they heat up. 

Changing Your Mindset 

To realize the benefits of a feedback culture, you and your employees will need to overcome common misconceptions about feedback. As a manager, you may be hesitant to give constructive feedback to your employees and risk hurting or offending them. When it comes to your top performers, you may stick to showering them exclusively with praise as a way to demonstrate how satisfied you are with their work. When it comes to receiving feedback from your reports, you may feel uncomfortable or even defensive when given constructive criticism. You may question whether opening yourself up to feedback will undermine your position as a manager. 

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If this sounds familiar, you may have what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck terms a “fixed mindset” toward feedback. People with a fixed mindset see their intelligence and personality as static features. Constructive feedback is therefore taken personally and can elicit a more emotional response. People with a “growth mindset,” on the other hand, see their abilities as learned traits that must be exercised and enhanced to develop over time. People with growth-centered mindsets will view feedback as a way to reassess and hone their skills. 

Remember that employees with fixed and growth mindsets may react differently to your feedback. If some employees become defensive or emotional when you review their performance, this may be a sign that they have a fixed mindset. To create a positive feedback culture, it’s essential that you coach your employees on how to open themselves up to and benefit from feedback. 

How to Create a Feedback Culture in the Workplace 

Become a role model for open communication by asking for more feedback. Creating an open environment in which employees feel comfortable reviewing your performance will help you to improve your management skills and encourage them to see feedback from a different perspective. It is likely that some of your reports will be hesitant at first to give you honest feedback. Here are some ways you can break down these barriers. 

Encourage Employees to Come to You for Feedback 

Be sure to make yourself available when employees seek feedback and follow up with them after giving it. Giving your employees feedback more often will motivate them to come back to you for advice when they need it. The most important part is to learn how to give a mix of positive and constructive feedback and work on delivery. Communicating feedback in a clear and constructive way will ensure that it’s received well and taken into consideration. 

Promote Peer-to-Peer Feedback 

Getting used to giving and receiving feedback from one another will help employees improve their interpersonal communication skills and build a greater sense of team spirit. There may be some employees who continually take on an informal mentorship role. Help them develop their potential leadership skills by providing extra training on how to give effective positive and constructive feedback. See our series of feedback guides for employees to get some inspiration. 

Identify and Coach Employees With Fixed Mindsets 

Employees with fixed mindsets will need extra coaching to overcome their defensive tendencies. Consider holding one-on-one sessions where you can discuss their reactions to feedback, and come up with a plan to overcome their inhibitions. 

When given and received effectively, feedback can be a powerful tool to not only improve professional skills, but also motivate, increase productivity, and raise the profile of your company’s work culture. However, as a manager you will need to adjust not only your mindset toward giving and receiving feedback, but also your employees’.

About the Author
Steffen Maier is co-founder of Impraise, a web-based and mobile solution for actionable, timely feedback at work. Based in New York and Amsterdam, Impraise turns tedious annual performance reviews into an easy process by enabling users to give and receive valuable feedback in real time and when it’s most helpful. The tool includes an extensive analytics platform to analyze key strengths and predict talent gaps and coaching needs.
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