If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If something happens in the workplace and nobody is around to notice and provide feedback, did it really occur? If you’re in the workforce, you’re likely familiar with the prevalence of feedback. Policy change and employee performance typically hinge on feedback sessions, ranging from email surveys to annual reviews and everything in between.
Building feedback loops into workflows is one way companies can refine their practices on the fly, rather than waiting for formal annual reviews—or something to go overtly haywire. As one contributor to Forbes writes, “Feedback loops are simple to understand: you produce something, measure information on the production, and use that information to improve production.” These loops are applicable for employee performance, internal processes (like HR policies and company culture) and revenue-driving processes (like marketing campaigns). After all, the only way to assess whether or not something is working is to look at the evidence.
At its core, feedback drives growth. The only way to enact change in the workplace is by acknowledging what needs to change. Running a business on the principles of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” is actually risky. Being proactive can help entrepreneurs identify what could be better before something totally falls apart. Staying competitive means tweaking key procedures and practices as you go.
For example, let’s say your company is seeing a higher-than-average turnover rate but you can’t quite put your finger on why. While there’s nothing glaringly wrong with your company, numbers don’t lie—and employee turnover ends up costing organizations a lot of money, time and effort. In order to figure out what your business could be doing better, you need to solicit quality feedback, both in exit interviews and from current employees.
However, one of the primary challenges of getting genuine feedback in a work setting is that people are afraid to be honest for fear of retribution and backlash. This phenomenon can prompt employees to keep their true opinions bottled up, only to whisper about them over the water cooler or stay mum on the subject. This phenomenon is healthy for nobody; employees end up suffering from lower job satisfaction and your company must continually hire and train replacements.
Using an anonymous feedback tool helps companies collect honest feedback in real-time while protecting the identities of those responding. Employees typically feel more comfortable sharing their true insights when they can do so from the privacy of their own mobile device or laptop. The end result is an actionable batch of electronic data leadership teams can use to refine operations. Company leaders can also host anonymous Q&A sessions to allow staff members to ask candid questions without their names attached. Anonymity helps get the conversation started without intimidating anyone into fibbing or staying silent for the sake of upholding harmony.
Not all feedback is created equally, as it turns out. Now let’s say a manager is conducting an annual review with a first-year employee. How their boss delivers these insights will have a huge effect on how the worker feels about their job, and how they implement any suggestions (or don’t). Think about the difference between these statements:
- “Your performance could be better, that’s why I have rated you an 8 out of 10.”
- “Turning in the deliverables for Project X late did influence this 8 out of 10 rating.”
- “First of all, I was really impressed with your handling of Project Y this year. We can use that as a framework for speeding up the deliverables on Project X. This 8 out of 10 rating shows you’re performing well, but that there are a few areas we can work on together in the coming year.”
Remember, feedback should be: positive, specific, timely and tough. It should never be mean-spirited or completely discouraging. Feedback should always be a tool for improvement—not a way to nitpick individual or systematic flaws.
Quality feedback in the workplace makes development, growth, change and breakthroughs possible. Make sure you’re providing and collecting it in the best way possible to get truly valuable results.