Why You Should be Cultivating the Culture of Feedback (Part 1)
Feedback culture is a phenomenon and why your organization should embrace it.
Yearly performance evaluations, annual reports, and after-action reviews: all of these are relics of the period before the advent of “feedback culture.”
In this article, which is the first in a series of three, we’ll examine and discuss the phenomenon of feedback culture and why your organization should embrace it.
What is feedback culture? Simply put, feedback culture is the philosophy (along with its supporting policies and procedures) that organizational feedback should be systematically provided, collected, and processed continuously, in real-time (rather than on an arbitrarily periodic schedule). This includes virtually all feedback regarding employees, services, products, and the organization itself.
What does it mean to put feedback culture into practice? It’s not terribly complex. It simply means that instead of waiting for distantly spaced discrete feedback events (such as an annual employee review or a post-project assessment) an organization should have tools and policies in place so that feedback is generated and processed when it is needed, moment-by-moment. It also means that the feedback is being analyzed and used as it is collected.
Ask yourself: if a company’s employee reviews are held annually every January, but in February a manager thinks of some important feedback for one of her workers, should she wait 11 months to deliver it? As another example, if a team member notices a problem with workflow at the very beginning of a six-month project, should he wait until the project is complete before pointing it out?
The answer to both questions is, obviously, “no.”
Instead, organizations, managers, and workers should be equipped with tools and trained with policies that require a more-constant flow of systematic and meaningful feedback, evaluation, and data collection. Why not keep a finger on the organization’s pulse at all times, rather than checking in at lengthy intervals?
This philosophy is at the center of Pulse For Good’s identity and mission–our tools allow you to constantly know the pulse of your data targets, rather than relying on outdated, less-frequent, and more-opaque snapshots furnished by pre-feedback-culture methods and procedures.
Here are four reasons to adopt a feedback culture at your organization.
- Feedback culture is good for employees at all levels.
Continuously open lines of frank feedback can eliminate the problems of outdated communication policies, which often place tremendous burdens on supervisors and leave employees feeling ambushed. For example, managers with more than a handful of employees to evaluate may spend weeks on that task without being productive in other areas. From the worker's perspective, waiting months to learn about a point of negative employee feedback can feel punitive. Similarly, deferring praise for a job well-done can dilute the motivational impact of positive feedback. A constant and open circuit of feedback and responses allows improvement, innovation, and evolution to happen more often and more organically.
- Feedback culture fosters teamwork.
With communication lines open and accessible, a team will not only perform more like a team, it will feel more like one. When communication is infrequent, or if information flows only in certain directions, some team members will inevitably feel like they’re left in the dark while others feel like they’re expected to run the whole show. Constant systematic feedback allows rapid identification of overtaxed workers and resources, and it can help in the delegation process.
- Feedback culture provides more information about your organization.
Why would any company want a single, annual data point for an employee or project when monthly or even weekly data could be available? That would be like driving a car with only a fuel tank gauge rather than one with a speedometer, tachometer, temperature gauge, and so on. The same can be said for products, services, and overall organizational feedback–systematic, rigorous, and real-time data collection and analysis will inevitably do a better job at revealing trends, problem areas, hidden successes, and ways to improve everything from employee performance to organizational public image.
- Feedback culture is more efficient.
If you think about feedback culture and compare it to the older ways of feedback collection and processing, it becomes apparent that the shift in policies and procedures is not a dramatic one. The main change is that feedback is generated, collected, and stored in real-time throughout the year, rather than compiled, and shared all at one time on an arbitrary timeline. Consider again the annual employee review. Instead of a manager pausing once per year to recollect all of her employees’ successes and shortcomings over the past twelve months, then compiling those recollections into a report or list of rankings for each employee (which could amount to hundreds of hours of effort), the reporting and ranks are generated throughout the year, when they are fresh, relevant, and clear in the manager’s mind. These points of data could certainly be examined once per year, but they can also be reviewed at any other time to help employees improve and evolve and earn promotions.
It may seem intuitive that organizations should collect more information and feedback rather than less, but there is one big catch–feedback must be meaningful in order to be useful, rich, and effective. So, what makes feedback meaningful? That is the question we will address in the next installment of this three-part series.