Woman with megaphone explaining what feedback culture is

February 21, 2023

Rocío ValenzuelaRocío Valenzuela
Hrider Product Manager

What is feedback culture and how to build it

Table of Contents

1. What is feedback culture?

When we talk about a feedback culture, we are referring to an environment in which continuous feedback is promoted and positively valued among the members of an organization. This includes both positive and negative feedback, always with a constructive orientation and oriented towards continuous improvement, both for each employee and for the organization as a whole.

If what we are looking for is that feedback forms part of the company's cultural base, we must encourage feedback at all levels of the organization. Another fundamental element to generate this culture is that leaders also foster an open and transparent communication style based on respect and focused on the professional.

In order for the feedback culture to be supported by appropriate communication channels, processes and tools must be established so that employees can provide and receive feedback effectively.

Let us remember that culture, in the corporate environment, are those values, ways of doing things, norms, behaviors, the way of communicating, beliefs, that are shared by all members of the company and that are even projected outward, influencing even in the decision of a client to contract the services of said company. They influence how we make decisions (strategic ones and small day-to-day operational decisions).

2. Advantages of the feedback culture for a company

There are numerous advantages of promoting a culture of feedback for a company, among others, we find:

  • Speed up learning.
  • Promotes the stimulation of new ideas (innovation and creativity).
  • It allows knowing how people carry out their work and understanding their strengths and areas for improvement, improving performance.
  • It helps to detect deviations in effort early and focus.
  • It provides the employee with greater clarity about what is expected of her job and her responsibilities.
  • Helps to avoid emotional disconnection and burn-out.
  • Promotes a healthier work environment.
  • It helps people in the organization have greater emotional stability.
  • Maintains the balance between corporate and individual interests.
  • It allows detecting the potential of each employee and allowing them to develop it.
  • It allows knowing where to invest the company's resources: training, compensation plans and others.
  • Creates trustworthy environments.
  • Stimulates motivation and engagement.

3. How can you promote a culture of feedback? Examples

To generate a culture of feedback in a company, the Human Resources department can follow the following steps:

3.1. Determine what is the objective or objectives that we pursue

Is it about promoting a specific feedback action for a specific group or do we really want to impact culture in the medium-long term? Defining the vision is the starting point: why a feedback culture is important and what concrete results we hope to achieve.

For this, it is essential that these objectives are aligned with the corporate strategic objectives (where we want to go, how we are going to do it and how feedback initiatives support to achieve it).

💡 For example: if a company is thinking of internationalizing in English-speaking countries, detecting which people have a high level of English would have a high impact on the strategy, as it would allow us to know if with current resources we will be able to address this plan. To do this, carrying out a potential evaluation or a skills update survey that includes information on languages would allow us to know our starting point in real time. We will even be able to know directly which people will feel motivated to participate in these new projects, which is important when promoting a stimulating long-term Career Plan.

3.2. Design a Feedback Plan

At Hrider we call it: Employee Feedback Journey and it consists of establishing which are the key moments of an employee's life cycle (Employee Journey) where it is important to encourage feedback.

💡 For example: a Feedback Plan can incorporate various initiatives related to: performance evaluation, climate and culture measurements, opinion surveys, manager-employee meetings, team building initiatives and everything that may be related to the encouragement of active participation of employees in the company.

In addition, a Feedback Plan must incorporate approximate dates on which to launch these initiatives. The tone, pace and recurrence with which we promote each action will also have an impact on the culture we promote.
Download an example of an Employee Feedback Journey below!

3.3. Communicate the vision and goals throughout the company

Make sure all employees understand the importance of feedback and how it relates to the success of the company, as well as their own individual success (both personally and professionally).

💡 For example: if you are going to launch a professional performance evaluation process, you must share with all the participants (whether Managers or employees) what objective you are pursuing. Do you need objective productivity data for the payment of a variable remuneration? Or do you want the Management to know the strengths of each person to design an internal Promotion Plan? Or, are you looking to better understand the areas for improvement to prepare the next internal Training Plan? Or, is it about promoting a conversation time between Manager and Employee so that they can better understand the vision of the other to be better aligned?

Whatever the motivation behind an action, share it beforehand so that everyone knows how to manage the expectation!

3.4. Encourage feedback at all levels

You have to promote open communication both from the top down and from the bottom up, even across the board, and you have to make sure that all levels of the organization are involved.

If we allow a part of the employees to be left out of these initiatives, we will no longer be promoting a cultural change.

As in all social interaction, if you leave a group on the sidelines, they will create their own underground culture and when you need to involve them, it may be too late because they will not identify with what you propose.

💡 For example: you launch a 360º Feedback process but only for Managers and Managers. How would you feel if on Christmas morning only a few receive gifts and the rest can only watch them enjoy them?
A 360 Feedback exercise, especially if you incorporate a Johari Window, is a true gift of professional development. What message do you give if you only offer it to some and leave others aside?

3.5. Provide tools and resources

For these initiatives to go from good intentions written in a Power Point to day-to-day reality, you can't trust Excel. It is essential to have specialized tools such as Hrider and resources (for example: internal communication plans, specific related training) so that employees can provide and receive feedback in a constructive and, therefore, effective manner.

💡 For example (and we know about this for a while!): you involve the whole company in one of those participatory 360º Feedback processes and you underestimate the complexity. Do you think that the most difficult thing is to design the questionnaire that collects all those skills, knowledge, behaviors, questions... that you need to collect. But oh surprise! Launching an evaluation of this type has a complexity of exponential order ( n^2 , where n is the number of people involved). In other words, for two people we will need, among other things, 4 surveys (2 peer-to-peer surveys and 2 self-assessment), for three we will need 9, for four 16, etc... This process is not feasible to do manually or with Excel in time. and adequate quality, even limiting the maximum number of surveys to be carried out.
And that's not to mention that a performance or feedback process generates a huge amount of data! Without a tool that analyzes that data, providing intelligence to the process, we miss out on what the machines are capable of doing better, and that will allow us to make better decisions later. In addition, for the feedback to be effective, you need to be able to give the Results Report in real time to each participant and not wait several months (which would take if you had to do it with Excels and Forms) when people no longer remember the process.

💡 Tip: have a specialized tool. Do not choose a payroll or document management software for these processes that additionally includes a basic performance module. This is often a poor choice as it does not have enough depth, which causes friction in the process that ends in a mediocre result that can even be counterproductive.

If you are lucky enough to have resources, don't forget to use them well to get the best result!

3.6. Establish processes and procedures

It is not enough to wish for it, any cultural change (in a society or in a company) requires that it be promoted through a clear structured process for feedback. The ideal is to have an annual Feedback Plan in which the specific initiatives we are going to promote are planned: Professional Performance Evaluation, 360º Feedback processes, Climate & Engagement Evaluation, Satisfaction surveys, Potential Evaluation, Onboarding & Surveys. Offboarding, etc.
It will be a plus if these procedures include aspects of how feedback is given, how it is received, and how it is acted upon.

💡 For example: if you allow each Manager free will to give feedback when they feel like it, you could cause only a few employees to have feedback about their work and that there are others who do not have the same luck because they have very busy Managers, or those that cost you the most this type of communication. With what we will not be really stimulating a global cultural principle. Do not hesitate: if someone has to lead these processes it is HR. Of course, with the support of Management and all those involved so that the result is truly transformative

3.7. Establish a monitoring and follow-up process

In order to streamline these processes, there must be a way to monitor and follow the progress of the feedback culture. At this point, it is extremely helpful to have a tool (like the one we offer at Hrider!) that allows you to know how the initiative is progressing, who is participating, send reminders to whoever needs it, extend deadlines, even make changes of participants that may arise.

💡 For example: keep in mind that, although we promote feedback, people are not solely focused on it: employees have as a priority to complete their day-to-day tasks and are not pending at all times to stop their activities to see how to stimulate feedback. It is necessary for HR to streamline these processes, to structure them well over time and to make it very, very easy for everyone with agile and friendly tools, if we really hope to achieve high participation rates.

This also includes that, after each process, we make sure that the necessary adjustments are being made to improve: the Action Plans that follow any climate & culture or performance measurement initiative.

3.8. Leadership

The leaders and managers of the company must model their behavior to put it at the service of this new cultural approach. What the leaders do and feel will be what is likely to be promoted among the rest of the work teams. At this point, example is key to generating this culture. Managers must value feedback, and must be available to provide and receive feedback effectively.

💡 For example: What if aspects such as: giving continuous feedback, motivating employee development, promoting honest and transparent communication, giving recognition, were indicators that Manager profiles could be assessed in the processes of Performance evaluation? Surely in this way, we would be convincing them that these are some of their key functions and they would put more focus on doing it well.

But we must help them with specific training on How to give Feedback effectively! (as we will see in the last point).

3.9. Training and development

Provide training and push development to improve the feedback skills of all employees. No one is born knowing what the most appropriate techniques are, or how to model the messages according to the interlocutor, or have enough emotional intelligence to master these conversations and that they are always constructive for all involved

💡 For example: if you launch a Performance Evaluation whose last phase will consist of a 1 on 1 Meeting (review of results and action plan between Manager and employee) you cannot expect all these Supervisors to have the innate gift of give the best feedback: constructive, respectful, enriching and motivating. The most realistic thing is that the majority feel certain insecurities, even discomfort to talk about the less favorable points and that they need us to teach them techniques to approach these key meetings. This is where training (not only for Managers, but especially for them) is a differentiating point to achieve good results with the process.

You learn to give feedback with practice and specialized training.

4. Conclusion

It's important to remember that building a culture of feedback is not a one-time process but an ongoing one, which is why we love the Employee Feedback Journey concept (don't forget to download your template below!). Although we must be open to the fact that this Plan is alive, in continuous evolution so that it has constant improvements to achieve an environment in which feedback is an integral part of the day to day in the company.

And if you thought that the feedback culture is positive just by a leap of faith, we are in luck. We already have studies showing that organizations that promote these principles outperform those that don't! (and no one wants to be in the second group).

A study from Harvard University found that companies that provide regular feedback have a higher rate of significantly lower employee turnover compared to those that do not.

In the same vein, another study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that companies with a feedback culture have significantly lower absenteeism rates compared to those without.

The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) has also taken an interest in the correlation culture of feedback-productivity in a study found that companies that provide regular feedback to their employees have a significantly higher growth rate compared to those that do not.

This evidence (and common sense!) shows that promoting a culture of feedback has a positive impact on individual performance and employee retention, and consequently on the company's bottom line.

Download our Employee Feedback Journey template.

Download our Employee Feedback Journey template