How to create a culture of feedback

TL;DR: What do you think of when you hear the words “feedback culture”? Perhaps you think of managers giving feedback to employees, informally or through a performance review. That’s a key part of feedback culture, but there’s another angle, too:  employees giving feedback to your company about what’s working and what isn’t.

Creating a culture of two-way feedback isn’t easy, but the benefits for engagement and performance are too significant to overlook. To strengthen your feedback culture, you’ll need to create a plan, execute on it in all areas of your business (from meetings and performance reviews to employee surveys), and follow up to make sure it sticks.

What is a feedback culture? Why is it important, and how to create a culture of feedback at work?

Do you think your business has a feedback culture? A feedback culture can be defined as a business environment where employees of all levels — from executives to individual contributors — feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback.

Most employees want to receive consistent feedback from their peers and managers. In fact, research from Joblist shows that 33.4% of full-time employees would prefer to receive more feedback from their supervisors. Frequent feedback can help employees understand what they’re doing well and what needs to change, so they can improve their performance.

Besides receiving feedback, staff will appreciate the opportunity to give their own feedback to management. After all, everyone wants to feel their concerns are being heard. In a recent study, 64% of workers said “leaders making decisions without their input” was their biggest problem at work.

Allowing employees to share their thoughts in a psychologically safe environment, without fear of being reprimanded, will help build a culture of trust. It will also allow management and HR to identify business problems and get employee input on how to solve them.

Like most culture initiatives, building a feedback culture can be a challenge. It’s one thing to say you want to create a feedback culture, and another thing to actually establish one. To be truly successful, culture initiatives need to go beyond meetings and flowcharts. You’ll need to get everyone onboard with what you’re doing, and that isn’t always an easy task.

To Annelotte Hofland, part of the Culture team at Bit, giving and receiving feedback, as well as being alert and proactive about it, is fundamental for leaders looking to nurture a team-first mentality, support high employee engagement, and push the status quo. She adds: “We cannot make a major impact and change for our clients if we ourselves aren’t critical of our work. Individually, but also collectively.”

Annelotte has also implemented quarterly conversations for all employees, based on 360° feedback:

“Everyone should help everyone else improve, as we don’t believe in hierarchy but in responsibility. By doing so, we can accurately keep track of performance and growth in order to have constant personal but also organizational development.”

The expert also shared her experience building a culture of trust:

“If there is a problem, improvement or suggestion we notice, we speak up to each other. Stupid questions don’t exist and we dare each other to improve by providing and receiving valuable feedback. It’s through candor and sincerity that our team learns.”

To make a lasting change in your business, you’ll need to overhaul the way feedback is given and received. And you can get there! This guide will help you get started with building a feedback culture that will last.

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Wann Sie dieses Playbook verwenden sollten

When to use
this playbook

Regardless of how you’re currently doing, you can start improving your feedback culture today. Have you heard employees asking for more feedback before, or are you proactively trying to improve your feedback processes? Either way, this playbook can help you get off the ground with your initiatives.

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Was Sie für dieses Playbook benötigen

What you’ll need for
this playbook

Executive buy-in

Managers and executives have a big role to play in building a feedback culture. Leadership can set a good example by giving honest, thoughtful feedback and asking for it themselves. This will set the tone for the rest of the company to follow. For more information on giving feedback to leaders, check out our playbook on how to run a leadership performance review.

Hinweise & Tipps
  • Share feedback continuously and frequently, not just during 1:1s and performance review cycles. You can use Leapsome to share instant feedback and public praise via Slack and Microsoft Teams.
  • Allow for anonymous feedback when appropriate to get the most honest responses (e.g., on employee surveys).
  • Create a culture of trust — employees should feel comfortable giving feedback without fearing consequences.
  • Encourage both positive feedback and constructive critique.
  • If you are in a leadership position, start by asking for feedback yourself, and model the behavior you want to see.
  • Have clear processes in place for giving formal feedback, but encourage frequent informal feedback too. Both types of feedback are helpful.

    Formal feedback helps you keep records of what’s being said, while informal feedback provides guidance and encouragement on a daily basis.

How to run this People Ops Playbook:

Wie Sie dieses People Ops Playbook durchführen:

1. Evaluate your current feedback culture

To strengthen your feedback culture, you’ll first have to gain a better understanding of what’s currently working and what isn’t. The key to this is, unsurprisingly… soliciting feedback. Employee surveys, focus groups, or observations by a task force team can all help you pick up on current challenges and areas for future improvement.

Maybe your employees have been expressing concerns — like a desire to give or receive more feedback, discomfort with providing feedback, claims of receiving biased feedback, or dissatisfaction with the performance review process. Perhaps you’ve been having trouble resolving employee performance issues or receiving genuine feedback from employees. Or maybe you’re unsure if your new initiatives are working, and need to better understand what employees are thinking. All these are surefire signs that you must focus on improving your feedback culture.

2. Create a plan to improve your feedback culture

Once you’ve taken the time to evaluate your current feedback culture, it’s time to narrow down the areas you need to improve on the most. What is your company doing well with right now, and what needs to change?

Ask yourself:

  • How does our performance management process work? Are employees receiving consistent feedback?
  • Do we have processes in place to enable manager feedback (e.g., regular 1:1 meetings)?
  • How are we encouraging feedback between peers and across departments?
  • Do our processes encourage a growth mindset?
  • Have we set clear expectations around feedback?
  • Do we listen to feedback we receive?

3. Ask for employee feedback more often

A good place to start when building a feedback culture is to ask your employees for feedback. The easiest and most systematic way to do this is through employee surveys. If you don't already have an employee survey program, consider putting one in place now.

If you already have an employee survey program, perhaps there are ways you could improve it. Ask yourself:

  • What types of surveys are we running? 

You can run employee engagement surveys, pulse surveys, diversity surveys, onboarding surveys, eNPS surveys, and exit surveys, among other survey types.

Make sure your surveys are tailored to the types of feedback that are most important for your business. 

  • Are we sending out surveys frequently enough?
  • Are our surveys collecting the right information?

Check out our list of 72 employee engagement survey questions to find out what you should be asking.

  • How is survey data being used? Could we be getting more out of our survey data with advanced analytics?

Besides using best practices when running your surveys, it’s a good idea to have a single source of truth for your survey data.

If you’re using spreadsheets, online forms, or a mixture of different software packages to run surveys, this can lead to important information getting lost. It may also make it hard to get the insights you need from your data. An HR platform with survey features like Leapsome can help with this.

4. Streamline your performance review process

Another area to focus on when creating a feedback culture is performance reviews. Performance reviews are crucial for development-focused feedback.

If your review process isn’t working, ask yourself:

  • What are the main challenges we’re facing with reviews? What are the results we want to see?

Consider if your performance reviews are: 

  • Helping employees develop their skills.
  • An accurate indicator of employee performance.
  • Being done frequently enough to give us accurate results — we recommend running performance reviews cycles twice a year.

A people enablement platform like Leapsome, uses sophisticated performance review software to deliver efficient and organized feedback, that is objective and inclusive. You can also track performance metrics over time to ensure reviews are working as they should.

For more tips, check out our playbook on how to write a performance review.

5. Create a space for informal feedback through 1:1 meetings

Although performance reviews are very important, they’re not the only time managers should give constructive feedback. In addition to formal feedback through performance reviews, managers should also share informal feedback during 1:1s and team meetings.

Are your managers creating an organized agenda for their meetings, with space for bidirectional feedback? Meetings should encourage an honest exchange between managers and employees.

Sensitive feedback should always be given in private during a 1:1 meeting, while team meetings can be a good time to provide general feedback that applies to everyone.

Follow-up best practices for creating a feedback culture

Measure your progress along the way

Once you’ve put together a plan to improve your feedback culture and begun to execute on it, you’ll need to measure whether your efforts are working.

As you implement new feedback initiatives, remember to regularly measure if these are impacting your main KPIs — for example, is employee engagement up since launching your new survey program? Consider sending out follow-up surveys to gauge staff response. Ideally, these should take place at least once per quarter.

⭐️ Set the example by actively asking your people for feedback! Anonymous surveys are the best way to do it — and here’s how to implement engagement surveys at your company. 😉

Build a feedback culture with Leapsome

Leapsome is the only platform that closes the loop between performance management, employee engagement, and learning. 

Watch this video to learn how you can give quick and valuable feedback to anyone in your company using Leapsome’s Instant Feedback feature.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to promote a feedback culture?

Remember, to promote a feedback culture at your company, make sure you’re offering space and time for feedback, creating a comfortable and safe environment, and modeling the behavior you want to see.

In addition, you may want to consider providing training on how to give effective feedback. Not all types of feedback are equal. The best feedback is clear, honest, specific, and includes a suggestion for the future. Poorly given feedback (i.e., overly harsh criticism, or praise that seems vague or baseless) can be harmful. Giving appropriate feedback is crucial to building a healthy workplace culture.

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