The effectiveness of any piece of feedback depends on two factors: a person's feedback orientation and the strength of their organisation's feedback culture. These factors interact over time and may influence each other in the long term. The good news is that well-designed and executed continuous feedback processes can help to improve how feedback is used at an individual and organisational level.
Feedback Orientation of the Individual
An individual's feedback orientation includes personal characteristics that affect how they perceive, process and use this type of information. There are differences in how much individuals enjoy receiving feedback, how sensitive people are to others' opinions of them and how accountable they feel to act on the information they receive.
Different mindsets can affect how well people process feedback; a focus on mastery (doing the task well) frames feedback as a chance to improve, while a performance mindset (doing the task better than others) means feedback can be seen as threatening as it points out a lack of skill. A need to protect the personal ego can also reduce receptiveness to feedback if it is negative.
Belief in the value of feedback is also part of a person's feedback orientation. This can be increased over the long term through an effective feedback culture.
Feedback Culture of the Business
A strong feedback culture is one where individuals seek out, receive and use feedback to improve their job performance. It is supported by effective policies for performance management, encouraging continuous learning and career development.
Building a Feedback Culture in your Business
Creating a feedback culture relies on three key elements: emphasising the importance of feedback, ensuring employees are skilled at providing quality feedback and supporting people as they make use of the feedback.
1. Make feedback important
Feedback must be viewed as important across the business. Modelling the way from the top down and ensuring everyone receives feedback sends the message that it's normal (and not voluntary). Informal, 'as it happens' feedback is also valuable and should be encouraged. Lastly, improvements in behaviour stemming from feedback should be recognised and rewarded to reinforce the value of the process.
How intelliHR can help: Using an automated system to gather continuous feedback makes it easier for the process to be followed consistently by everyone. Having it all recorded in one place and the power of intelliHR analytics means leaders can quickly spot issues and act on information received.
2. Make sure the feedback is good
To enhance the quality of feedback, train supervisors on how to give useful feedback and set clear standards for behaviours that are relevant to business goals. Have clear performance measurements and link performance to the bottom line metrics of the company.
How intelliHR can help: The questions in check ins are designed to elicit the kind of information managers need to help their people and act as a guide if they’re not sure what to talk about during meetings. Businesses can also customise the questions to align with the organisation’s strategy to keep these front of mind for all employees.
3. Help your people use feedback to improve
Give people the freedom to decide how they will act on the feedback they receive and encourage them to discuss feedback with others. It can also be helpful to have 'interpreters' who can help employees understand feedback they've received. Lastly, reward supervisors for coaching, not just leading their people.
How intelliHR can help: by receiving written notes from managers, employees can review the feedback and compare it with their own responses, at their own pace. They can return to access it as needed. Managers can also use the accumulated feedback over time to better coach their people.
Interaction between individual orientation and business culture
Developing a feedback culture relies on an organisational approach, but individual execution. Individuals are the ones that give, receive, process and use feedback. As individuals have more effective feedback experiences, they increasingly value and use the feedback to improve personal performance. The more often this happens, the stronger the feedback culture of the organisation becomes.
Note: Much of the theory behind this resource came from this journal article: London, M., & Smither, J. W. (2002). Feedback orientation, feedback culture, and the longitudinal performance management process. Human Resource Management Review, 12(1), 81-100.
(It's worth a read if you want to go deeper into feedback theory, or just have a chat to the CS team!)