Building a Feedback-Rich Environment

What is a Feedback-Rich Environment?

A feedback-rich environment is one where employees of an organisation receive regular and consistent feedback from managers and peers. Creating this kind of culture is essential for fostering better retention rates and a high-performing workforce.

But establishing a feedback-rich work environment doesn’t happen overnight. There are some regular practices and expectations that need to be set for a feedback-rich culture to be cultivated and work effectively.

Everyone Has to be Committed from the Start

If you’re trying to establish a feedback-rich culture for your workforce, you have to make it clear that development is one of the core values of your organisation. Everyone needs to understand the importance of both giving and receiving feedback, so they are empowered to not only achieve their individual goals, but help their colleagues and peers do the same. The aftermath of a feedback-based conversation should leave the recipient with action items that they can take to improve their work. The goal is to have the mindset of your workforce be universal, with everyone asking themselves how they can grow as a person and a leader, create opportunities for others and ultimately help the company become better.

The Expectation of Giving Feedback Must be Set

Since creating a feedback-rich work environment is a top-down initiative, it is the responsibility of leadership to set the expectation of giving and receiving regular feedback.

It’s important to define, from a company standpoint, how to give feedback at different levels (i.e., feedback that is specific to the individual or feedback that can be applied to your whole team) so there’s no opportunity for misinterpretation or any unnecessary disruptions to the work.

While the precedent of giving feedback must be set by company leadership, a true feedback-rich work environment encourages every individual, regardless of their position, to do the same.

Constructive or Positive, Feedback Must be Delivered With Care

For the message to be received as intended, feedback must be delivered in a caring spirit. Even when the feedback is constructive, it’s important to not let negative emotions rule that interaction.

If you feel compelled to give feedback in the moment, and it’s not necessarily positive, it’s most likely a good idea that you step away from the situation and ensure you’re not being ruled by your emotions and are able to deliver this message in a way that is both caring and effective. If you assess the environment and find it not conducive to delivering feedback, such as a public setting surrounded by colleagues, it may be in your best interest to hold off. Once you’ve stepped away, a good technique is to write down what you want to say and be very specific with your language and what you’re trying to get across. You can also run the message by a trusted colleague, and even role play or practice how the feedback session may go. When you feel prepared, finding a private setting and an appropriate time for feedback can help ensure that it will be well-received.

Trust is essential on any team so the way you deliver feedback can’t be based on temporary negative emotions, or it could put those relationships at risk.

Use Specific Language When Delivering Feedback

Intentionality is key to any feedback-based conversation. It is up to leaders in the company to be specific with both positive and constructive feedback — as well as making clear who it’s for — so there’s no chance anything could be misinterpreted or misconstrued. Vagueness can leave room for uncertainty and if that goes unchecked, it could foster an unhealthy work environment.

When sharing one-on-one feedback with an employee on your team, setting up routine touchpoints and making it clear that they will be used to provide feedback in their specific performance areas can help minimise ambiguity. Speak to their strengths, and to areas of opportunity, citing specific examples so they know exactly what steps they can take to improve. Make sure the lines of communication go both ways, and that your employee knows they can voice any concerns or questions with you during this time as well.

Coach Your People on How to Give Feedback

Having a work environment that prioritises giving feedback is not something every employee is used to. It’s vital for company leaders to further the professional development of their people by teaching them how to provide feedback to peers, partners and leadership, across all company settings. Emphasise the importance of finding a dedicated time and space to deliver feedback and that they come prepared with specific examples and points to get across. Leaders need to ensure their workforce knows how to deliver and receive effective feedback, and also provide them with platforms to share the feedback with each other.

Leaders Should be Giving Feedback Across Different Mediums

As leaders of an organisation, you should consider what format for providing feedback would be best for different scenarios. For example, high-ranking leadership will not likely have the time to meet with every employee individually to address companywide concerns. That is where a survey is an effective method of gathering feedback. However, for instances that are more specific to an individual, it makes sense for someone closer to the situation — like a manager — to schedule a touchpoint to address that circumstance.

Surveys do present an opportunity to be very general, so it’s vital to know what information you are looking to get and ask specific questions that will give everyone a chance to use their voice. It’s important to have a variety of platforms for giving and providing feedback, but it’s equally important to know what you want each of the platforms to be used for.

Intentionally Seek Feedback While Remote

A remote workforce can make providing and being able to receive feedback more of a challenge. You see your colleagues less, so the opportunity to provide feedback is naturally diminished. That is why it’s extra important for remote leadership to ask their workforce questions to get a sense of how they can help develop them.

Feedback Betters Your Workforce

A feedback-rich environment is essential for a thriving workforce. Without it, you hold employees back from becoming the best version of themselves. If you don’t give feedback that relates to their job performance in some aspect, they won’t know how to improve themselves in that area.

Additionally, when employees really shine in a particular area, it’s important to give feedback that speaks specifically to that. Otherwise, they might think they didn’t show up well and try to work out a different way to do things on their own.

An organisation that lacks in giving feedback is also at risk of becoming a toxic and unhealthy environment. If you aren’t holding one another accountable to give feedback, then areas of concern in the workplace will go unspoken about, and resentments, misconstructions and assumptions may be made.

Feedback-rich environments greatly benefit workers. They help to validate what their strengths are and helps them find areas of opportunity to further their career development. It also helps them understand their performance and improve their communication styles. For leaders, it helps them retain their workforce, and foster healthy relationships and higher performance overall.