Lack of feedback could be holding your organisation back
Feedback is an important part of personal and professional development but it can be often overlooked in business operations and human resources outside of annual reviews. Read about some approaches you can take with your teams to improve feedback and get better results.
Published 29 Jan 2017
There are many things that we can do to grow personally and professionally but one that is often overlooked is feedback. Some people actively seek and desire feedback, while others actively avoid it and many more simply do not understand or give enough thought and appreciation to the importance of feedback.
Feedback can come in many forms; the outcomes of our actions are the most obvious if we are open and take the time to reflect and learn from them; verbal feedback through compliments and criticisms, and written feedback, to name a handful.
Within the context of an organisation professional feedback is most commonly delivered through the performance management, but is that really enough anymore? Many organisations have recognised that annual or even six-monthly performance reviews are less effective than other feedback approaches.
I remember one of my first annual performance reviews, that left me frustrated and making a commitment to seek feedback more regularly even if it be informal. It was a standard process; I filled in a self-evaluation on a series of “metrics” or attributes, some of which I didn’t know that I would be measured on, and then attended a performance review with my manager. He proceeded to call out my weaknesses, citing examples of things I should be doing better. I sat in this session feeling that this was an odd experience and after his evaluation, most of which was positive but did contain many areas I needed to improve, he asked if I had any questions or responses. I said, “thank you for the feedback, but some of these issues I could have addressed months ago, why are you only now raising them with me?”. There was a very awkward silence at this point and I expressed that in the future I would like immediate feedback on areas I can improve. The truth is, on reflection, this was a manager who struggled to provide feedback at all, and I left that review feeling that this was more about the link between this review and my upcoming increment.
There have been some great changes in the way the organisations seek and deliver feedback, with more and more encouraging organisation wide feedback. These types of organisational feedback models are especially true of organisations that are located in different offices or countries like offshored teams.
This article is going to outline some approaches for enabling meaningful constant feedback throughout your organisation.
Stand Ups or Scrums
Often associated with Agile Scrum projects, stand ups or scrums can be adopted by any team with the same objectives. Discussing your work and giving each team member an opportunity to discuss and seek guidance or any challenges they are facing to complete their work. The standard three questions can be adopted;
- What did I do yesterday?
- What am I doing today?
- Are there any challenges preventing me from succeeding?
These sessions should be short and sweet (usually scrum talks about them running for fifteen minutes)
Weekly Feedback Methods
There are several systems I have used in the past and continue to use, the simplest is a standard questionnaire that staff fill in at the beginning or the end of the week. Questions should not only be inwardly focused but should also encourage sharing any concerns or challenges that the team member is having with their leader or manager. There are also two cloud solutions I have used that have the goal of increasing feedback across the team;
A very useful tool that asks consistent questions to your team and allows comments and feedback to be provided quickly to team members, their team and their leadership. The product supports custom questions and the ability to ask questions, weekly, fortnightly, monthly etc. This allows you to add some variety to your feedback and hopefully keep people invested. You can setup your organisational structure and have reports open or limited in regards to who can view them. Further, you can send private comments that only your lead can see. They recently added goals and objectives but I have not used that feature so cannot comment on that, but in principle sounds great.
Office Vibe has similar objectives as 15 Five however their approach is different, they ask random questions on random days. The results are anonymous and so it encourages honesty across your business. Further, it integrates brilliantly with slack to remind people to respond and even respond from without slack itself. The reports that Office Vibe produces are insightful and meaningful to any manager worth his weight.
A popular approach for formally gathering performance information regularly from multiple sources is 360 feedback which aims to collect multiple sources of performance information from self, peers, managers and direct reports, to allow comparison and insights that may otherwise be missed during the review process.
There are many cloud solutions out there (do a google search) but I found the pricing models to be inhibitive for small business. I have in the past built a system with PHP & MySQL but this is probably overkill for most organisations, alternatively, I have created a Google Form for capturing 360-degree feedback data. You can have a play here: https://goo.gl/forms/1PEE2LyHfQu69cAh1 to see the types of questions I’m asking through the 360-degree feedback process. If you would like to get more of your team to complete the form and view the data that can be generated, then please contact me and I’ll provide you will instructions and a company code to use.
One of the most effective and yet commonly neglected feedback mechanisms is the informal discussion. This is something I try to do regularly over coffee (not because I love coffee, I promise!). I have also found that with offshore teams, this can be a significant point of differentiation between yourself and other organisations.
I always find that my teams are much more likely to discuss genuine concerns or even personal factors that are affecting their job satisfaction or performance when they are out of the office. This type of relationship obviously takes time and energy to build but it is absolutely worthwhile and I can attest to the fact that when I’ve been too busy to do these things, I’ve seen increases in dysfunctional turnover.
You need to build feedback into your organisational culture and values, everybody in the organisation should both seek and desire feedback, but they should feel comfortable and empowered to also provide constructive feedback to their peers and leadership. Nobody is above learning and developing (and if you feel you are, you are dreaming) and feedback is a critical aspect of personal and professional growth.
I'm really interested in understanding how you seek and provide feedback within your organisations so please leave a reply or contact me or inbox me on LinkedIn.
Have a great week!