As we swing into the final quarter of 2022, we are looking ahead to 2023 with a discussion of feedback culture and nonprofit organizations. As a quick refresher, feedback culture is a relatively new movement in U.S. corporate management circles in which frequent feedback loops are used to improve not only employee performance, but also all other aspects of the organization (as opposed to the much-less-frequent cycles of the customary once-per-year employee review, for example). In the first part of this three-part article, we examined the beginnings of feedback culture and some of its basic elements, including the strong emphasis on (1) communication, (2) trust, and (3) the safety that arises from the generous application of empathy. It was also shown how these elements, and therefore feedback culture itself, readily blends with the culture of nonprofit organizations.
Here in the second part of this article, we’ll examine the benefits of feedback culture for nonprofit organizations. But first, a note to say that the corporate data-gathering tools and programs provided by Pulse For Good, such as our customizable kiosks hardware and data-management software, are a perfect starting point for incorporating data and feedback collection of all kinds. Get in touch today for ideas and proposals.
Benefits of Feedback Culture vs. Chronic Problems of Nonprofit Organizations
Think for a moment about the issues that chronically plague nonprofit organizations. Ask any nonprofit owner, manager, or even volunteer, and you’ll hear many of the same answers: (1) nonprofits struggle to recruit high-quality workers because of limited funds and benefits; (2) nonprofits struggle to retain high-quality workers because of limited funds and benefits; but also because of employee burn-out; and (3) nonprofits often formulate hazy objectives and plans because of insufficient data, or an inability to effectively use available data. Nonprofits struggle with lots of different issues, but the three mentioned above will frequently top the “list of problems” of any nonprofit organization.
Now, ask the manager, owner, or employee who belongs to a company or organization that has fully implemented feedback culture: what are the benefits and payoffs? Interestingly, many of them align quite closely with the issues that plague nonprofits.
1. Feedback culture may improve recruitment efforts.
In an article published online in 2022 by B2B IT firm SpiceWorks, this assertion is made: employees who feel they are trusted and listened to at work become more excited, engaged, and loyal. Author Claire Schmidt (founder and CEO of AllVoices) states, “Let employees know that you’re listening to them and taking action on the issues and concerns they raise, and encourage them to use their voices to contribute to their workplace culture. This can be done by improving your feedback approach company-wide.” Building a workforce (and volunteer force) with high levels of investment and energy will naturally be more attractive to prospective employees. Schmidt also indicates that harassment, whistle-blowing, and other workplace strife can be alleviated by increasing the frequency and safety of feedback cycles.
2. Feedback culture improves retention
High rates of employee turnover can be a nightmare. It costs time, lots of money (as much as nine months of an exiting employee’s pay), and can affect the morale of employees—no one wants to work for a company where everyone’s looking for a way out. The problem for anyone wanting to hire new employees has been complicated in recent years—during the COVID-19 pandemic, workers of the American workforce quickly learned that they can now work from home, work remotely, and work on a contract basis. How does feedback culture address this problem for nonprofits? Schmidt says: “One way to combat all of these [problems] is by implementing a robust, well-managed employee feedback program that, as previously mentioned, can increase feelings of buy-in, loyalty, and commitment, which can keep employees around.” In other words, one of the main problems that plague workers in many organizations (but particularly nonprofits) is retention, and one of the main things feedback culture does is improve retention. One main goal and objective of feedback is to break down corporate silos, increase information flow in all directions, acknowledge all voices, and make employees feel seen, safe, and appreciated.
3. Feedback culture is great for the nonprofit organization’s dataset
As discussed in the first part of this article, one of the origins of feedback culture was a big change in the way American super-corp G.E. evaluated their employees—they switched from a massive, costly, traumatic “rank-and-yank,” annual system to something more continuous and fluid. The benefits for managers and employees was almost immediate, but the benefits radiated into other aspects of G.E. and the corporations that followed their example. Within feedback culture, the data collected ostensibly to check on employee performance turns out to be useful in project management, company growth, fundraising, and many other aspects of nonprofit organizations. A last wisdom nugget from Schmidt: “Having the ability to see analytics on employee feedback means gaining insights into how you’re tracking and resolving your company’s issues. It also means being able to see patterns in your data, like reports that are all coming from one department that you might miss by manually tracking documents one by one.”
4. Feedback culture can enrich a nonprofit’s employees and develop their careers
In an article published in 2022 by NonprofitHR, feedback culture is not only good for the organizations, it’s good for employees, because effective feedback culture not only includes empathetic check-ins and safe evaluations, it should also include coaching and mentoring, the benefits of which can help the organization but will follow the employee into other jobs and opportunities. The article states, “Incorporating these elements on an ongoing basis emphasizes the importance of having different types of conversations, from daily check-ins to more formal one-on-one meetings, all of which can be more than just performance-related conversations.”
With 2023 on the not-too-distant horizon, it’s a good time to consider the workplace culture at your nonprofit organization. Have you effectively implemented feedback culture? Are you planning to? Have you considered the benefits it might have? In the final part of this three-part article, we’ll develop a picture of what exactly feedback culture looks like when it’s set up and running in a nonprofit organization.