Why You Should be Cultivating the Culture of Feedback (Part 2)

Why You Should be Cultivating the Culture of Feedback (Part 2)

Four ways to make your feedback meaningful

Amanda Luzzader
Amanda Luzzader
Content Writer
Why You Should be Cultivating the Culture of Feedback (Part 2)

What is “Meaningful” Feedback?

In part 1 of this three-part series, we took a look at feedback culture, which is (simply put) an emerging organizational and corporate philosophy in which the collection and implementation of feedback is more or less ongoing and is utilized in real-time.

Organizational and corporate feedback is nothing new, of course. A common analogy for this kind of continuous organizational data collection is the various monitors we are immediately attached to whenever we are admitted to a hospital. Blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and even blood-oxygen level are routinely measured in real-time, rather than checked throughout the day. Patients are also equipped with a button to call for assistance if they feel that something’s wrong. If any of these aspects of patient health or comfort become unsatisfactory, the appropriate person is notified and corrective action is taken.

Full integration of feedback culture in a corporation is similar–keeping a finger on the pulse of an organization all the time and making changes when needed, rather than checking at dispersed, arbitrary intervals. In feedback culture, for example, the annual employee evaluation is replaced with something more fluid and frequent, an open circuit of communication between a manager and the workers she supervises.

In part 1 of this series, we also discussed why feedback culture is good for organizations, but there is a caveat: the feedback in feedback culture must be meaningful. And so now we turn to the question, what makes feedback meaningful?

Let’s be clear from the beginning: feedback can be good and useful, but feedback can also be less than useful and, worst of all, it can become a burden and a waste of time. When feedback is meaningful, however, it can be a powerful tool for managing and improving employees, managers, and organizations overall.

So, let’s have a look at four ways to make your feedback meaningful.

  1. Make your feedback action-based.

Buying your team members pizza and telling them they’ve done a great job might have some short-term positive effects on morale and motivation, but it’s too vague and unstructured to yield long-term organizational benefits. And it’s definitely not data. Instead of using pizza as feedback, structure your feedback to consider specific actions. This is also known by the older and somewhat-vague term “constructive criticism.” Action-based feedback includes both successes and failures, but is always intended to be specific and to encourage, not to discourage or punish.

Here are two examples: “Your response-time to this week’s task orders was excellent. Would you care to remark about how you achieved it?” Or, “Your response time was slower than I was hoping for. What can I do to help you improve this?”

  1. Make your feedback quantitative.

“Good job! Here’s pizza!” is fun, but constructing a quantitative system of metrics and rankings will enable workers to establish baselines, formulate goals, and improve performance in a measurable way. This of course implies that this data is curated, easily accessed, and perpetually available. From the manager’s or owner’s perspective, a set of this kind of data can be very useful, especially as it is accumulated over time, across many employees, and through many project cycles.

  1. Make your feedback qualitative.

Once you’ve set up quantitative feedback, such as ranking an employee’s communication skills with a scale from 1 to 10, it’s easy to also make that feedback qualitative by providing pathways for open-ended and free-form feedback, such as comments, questions, and feelings. For example, if the employee’s communications skill is ranked at 9, an additional comment field can allow the manager to add notes about precisely why her communication skills are so highly thought of. If an employee’s ranking is low, the comment form might include specific and positive suggestions for how to improve.

  1. Make your feedback safe.

This final recommendation is very important. Feedback should not be used to punish or discipline employees, and employees should have no fear of the feedback issued to them. It should be explicitly understood that even negative feedback has a positive intent. Everyone involved in the feedback of feedback culture should be permitted to respond to feedback, open dialogues, and address issues–all when appropriate.

In the next and final part of this three-part article, we’ll continue our discussion of feedback culture and list more ways to make feedback meaningful.