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How a continuous feedback culture can help your team thrive

Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

May 18, 2022

We all know how amazing it feels to receive a pat on the back — and how devastating criticism can be. But whether it’s good or bad, critical feedback is a vital part of growing professionally and as a person.

Giving feedback is cheap and easy, and yet, nearly 65% of employees want more feedback than they’re currently getting. So, it’s clear that there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

The trick to getting it right is making feedback kind, collaborative, constructive — and regular. To help you get off on the right foot, here are some tips for building a continuous feedback culture in your workplace.

What is feedback?

Feedback is the act of giving and receiving information to improve performance. You can give feedback verbally or in writing; you can direct it to an individual or a group. And while it’s often associated with criticism, feedback can also be positive.

The key to making feedback work is in its delivery. If done well, it can help people understand their strengths and weaknesses and identify areas for growth. However, when done poorly, feedback is confusing, overwhelming, and even intimidating.

Feedback should always be:

Kind: remember, you’re trying to help someone here, not make them feel bad.
Collaborative: make it a two-way street. Encourage the person receiving the feedback to contribute their thoughts and ideas.
Constructive: focus on what the person can do to improve rather than on what they did wrong.

What is peer-to-peer feedback?

Peer-to-peer feedback is simply feedback between two or more people on the same level. In other words, it’s not a boss giving feedback to an employee. It’s two or more colleagues sharing thoughts and opinions on how they can each improve.

What are the advantages of peer-to-peer feedback?

Peer-to-peer feedback is hugely beneficial in the workplace. It allows people to give and receive feedback in a safe, comfortable environment. Moreover, because everyone is on the same level, there’s no hierarchy to worry about — which means people are more likely to speak up without fear.

Another benefit of peer communication is that it allows each team member to receive continuous feedback without putting the responsibility solely on managers. Think about it: every team member deals with different aspects of projects and business operations.

As a result, peers may have insights the manager hasn’t been in a position to consider. Encouraging peer exchanges increases feedback frequency, so employees can make adjustments and keep improving.

Forbes graph on benefits of continuous feedback
Image Source

Peer-to-peer feedback can also help to improve interpersonal communication. By encouraging colleagues to give each other their thoughts and opinions, you’re helping to create an open, honest environment where people feel comfortable talking to one another. This, in turn, leads to better collaboration and a more positive work experience overall.

How to create a continuous feedback culture in your workplace

So, how can you encourage continuous feedback in your workplace? Here are some tips:

1. Make it part of the company culture

If you want peer-to-peer feedback to become the norm, you need to integrate it into the company culture. Openly talk about the benefits, and encourage people to give and receive feedback regularly. You could even set up company-wide initiatives, like scheduled feedback sessions or an anonymous feedback box/survey.

2. Train your employees

Giving and receiving feedback can be a bit of a minefield, making it essential to train your employees to do it properly. Explain what continuous feedback is, why it’s important, and how to give it effectively. To get things started, provide some real-life examples for guidance.

3. Encourage employees to give continuous feedback

It’s one thing to tell your employees they should give feedback, but it’s another to get them to do it. To encourage them, you could offer incentives, like a bonus or extra holiday days. Also, consider creating a points system where employees get rewards for giving thoughtful feedback.

4. Make it easy for employees to give feedback

If you want employees to provide feedback, you need to make it easy for them to do so. In other words, aim to create a simple, straightforward system that doesn’t take up too much of their time. Online forms, scheduling tools, and communication channels are all good options.

5. Encourage employees to give feedback regularly

Giving feedback should be a regular occurrence, not a one-time event. To make sure it happens, you could encourage employees to give feedback at least once a month or even once a day. An even better method is to set up an automated reminder system, such as a weekly email or in-app notification.

6. Make it a priority

Make peer-to-peer feedback a priority if you want it to be successful. Instead of expecting employees to take all the initiative, put time and resources into building continuous feedback into the culture. No matter which method you choose, give it the attention it deserves. You could even create a dedicated team to manage feedback channels or appoint a company-wide feedback champion.

7. Be open to feedback yourself

If you want your employees to be open to feedback, you must set an example. That means being willing to receive feedback and being open to hearing what others say. You should also be prepared to act on the feedback you receive — even if it isn’t something you want to hear.

8. Ask, don’t assume

Rather than jump to conclusions about why something did or didn’t happen, take the time to ask your employees for their thoughts and opinions. Not only will this ensure you get accurate information, but it’ll also show your employees that you value their input. Making accusations puts the team on the defensive, which is never great for productive conversation.

9. Seek feedback from multiple sources

Don’t make the mistake of building bias into your feedback system. If you’re looking for answers, don’t just go to one person. Seek feedback from multiple sources to get a more accurate picture. You don’t want to rely on one person’s opinion or form an unfair judgment quickly without considering other sides of an issue. Depending on the issue, you could ask for feedback from employees, customers, stakeholders, or other businesses.

10. Be specific

Whether good or bad, feedback is more effective when it’s specific. Rather than making general comments, it’s crucial to identify the specific behavior or issue. For example, instead of saying, “you’re doing a great job,” try, “I really appreciate how you handled that customer complaint.” Clarity helps others understand which behaviors or processes add value or cause problems.

11. Be timely

Feedback is most valuable when given in a timely manner — as soon as possible after the event. If you wait too long, the details will fade, and your employees will be less likely to remember what happened. Moreover, when the feedback is critical, waiting longer to share it can come across as a timed attack rather than an observation in the moment.

12. Make it a two-way conversation

Feedback should never be a one-way street, so make it a two-way conversation. Listen to what your employees say, and take their feedback on board. This also means being open to making changes based on the feedback you receive.

13. Prepare before the session

The only thing worse than receiving bad feedback is receiving bad feedback that doesn’t feel thoughtful. Even good feedback can be demotivating if it feels too general and poorly thought-out.

Take some time to prepare before giving feedback. Think about what you want to say and how you will say it. You also want a clear plan for what you want to achieve from the conversation. The goal is for the recipient to leave the session feeling that you’ve genuinely taken the time to think about them, their situation, and their growth.

14. Ensure a balance of good and bad points

No one likes to hear a long list of everything they’re doing wrong or that they’re amazing with no room for growth. Try to strike a balance between good and bad feedback. If you’re only giving criticism, employees may quickly tune out or walk away feeling resentful instead of empowered.

Acknowledge the employee’s strengths, but give them something useful to consider after the session. For example, try to suggest a potential solution for every problem you identify. And for every positive, add a way for employees to continue building on their strengths.

Difficult conversations are never easy — especially at work. But if you assess situations fairly and balance every bad point with a good one, you should be able to keep conflict to a minimum.

15. Think long-term

When giving feedback, it’s wise to think about the long-term. Avoid the temptation to focus on short-term gains, and instead, think about what will help your employees grow and develop in their careers.

Feedback is an investment in employees, not a quick fix or an opportunity to nag them about something minor. Every suggestion you make should help to set them up for success.

16. Use the right tech

In today’s world, there’s no excuse for not using technology to help you give feedback. Observation without data to back it up is no more than opinion. So, if you want to make an unequivocal point, make sure you have the figures to support what you’re saying.

Many great tools are available to help you keep track of employee progress. Chat apps can be a great way to give (and receive) casual daily feedback. For more serious one-on-one sessions with remote workers, video is the way to go.

Building a continuous feedback culture takes time and effort, but it’s well worth it. By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating a workplace where employees value feedback and feel supported in their growth and development.



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