Real Research: How Can We Build a “Feedback-Rich” Culture in Our Organisations?


By Gabrielle Lee
Senior OD Catalyst
gabriellelee@pace-od.com

Firstly, what is a "feedback-rich culture”? 

Amongst the many definitions out there, I agree most with these descriptions of a feedback-rich culture: it is “an ongoing commitment to interpersonal feedback”, as well as “an environment where employees are comfortable both with giving and receiving feedback.” 

I think that a feedback-rich culture is essentially about having feedback flow freely — in multiple directions — despite the different hierarchical and work structures that may act as barriers. Leaders should feel comfortable going to any employee and giving him/her feedback, and employees should also be equally comfortable approaching any leader to give him/her feedback. When working as cross-functional teams, members should feel at ease giving timely feedback to anyone in the team despite not having years of teamwork or partnership. 

Although many new feedback tools are now becoming embedded into HR platforms and performance management systems (see Bersin by Deloitte’s research report Predictions for 2017: Everything is Becoming Digital), a feedback-rich culture should not just include task-oriented feedback, but also focus on areas of one’s interpersonal development at the workplace.  

How do we build such a feedback-rich culture?

1. Leaders must role model good feedback-giving and feedback-receiving practices

I believe that all culture-building starts at the top. It is no surprise that leaders have an immense responsibility in helping a feedback-rich culture to take root, and not merely shaping it by articulating what is desired. Employees do what leaders do, and they will learn to reinforce good feedback-giving and feedback-receiving practices when they see them being encouraged and practiced. 

2. Invest time in container-building  

A container is a psychological safe space where people can share freely without the fear of being judged. It is where both content and emotions are held within a shared vacuum of trust, respect, and authenticity. Building a container so that people feel safe about giving and receiving feedback does not only involve comfort or encouragement. People need to be highly attuned to others’ readiness for a challenge, and their emotional state in the feedback process, so that they can respond accordingly. 

Disclosure is another way of building trust, and building a container. The more we disclose, the more others trust us because they can see that there is vulnerability and nothing to hide. Positive feedback is just as important in the trust process, as it strengthens employees’ resilience and determination by recognising their efforts instead of their abilities. 

3. Normalising feedback

For culture to be alive, it must be reinforced in the daily work activities in an organisation. Whenever possible, or as the container allows, provide feedback in public — whether it be praise or constructive feedback for development. Doing so will allow employees to see that it is normal to receive and give feedback, that it is simply a part of regular work and something that people engage in to become more effective. 

On the contrary, feedback that is always given in a one-to-one setting or behind closed doors may give rise to the perception that it is sensitive and delicate, thus reinforcing the idea that the feedback process is a difficult conversation that not everyone can manage. 

Is there a feedback-rich culture in your organisation? Write to us at connect@pace-od.com to explore how we can be a part of building a culture in your organisation that leads to excellence.

Sources

Batista, E. (2017, July 24). Building a Feedback-Rich Culture. Retrieved November 8, 2017, from https://hbr.org/2013/12/building-a-feedback-rich-culture

Creating A Feedback-Rich Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2017, from http://www.leadershipall.com/engagement/creating-a-feedback-rich-culture/

The Essential Elements for a Feedback-Rich Work Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2017, from https://www.chamberplan.ca/business-tips/273-the-essential-elements-for-a-feedback-rich-work-culture