The rise of the feedback culture

Performance reviews are dreaded by employees and managers alike, so it’s not surprising to see more companies moving away from this traditional corporate practice and embracing a culture of consistent feedback.

By Sarah K. White
Dec. 20, 2016

Performance reviews can be uncomfortable if a manager brings up a persistent issue, and it ends up being news to that employee. If they weren't aware of any issues throughout the year, it's likely that they will feel attacked and go on the defense. Grenny says this is especially true if the employee isn't used to receiving consistent feedback. "If you create a feedback-rich culture -- one where real time 'audibles' happen all the time -- defenses drop," he says.

Behera says a culture of feedback can be as simple as conducting weekly one-on-one meetings between managers and employees. That way, even if companies decide to hang onto the yearly performance review, there won't be any surprises and everyone will know where they stand. This also makes it easier for employees to assess their own performance, since they've been given consistent feedback throughout the year.

"While there will always be trouble employees, the majority of employees really want to do a good job. Putting the onus on managers to provide regular feedback helps employees across the board. If an employee is bringing down morale, it's important to address this immediately to find out why this is happening. This level of transparency helps everyone involved," says Behera.

It's a two-way street

A feedback culture doesn't just involve managers giving feedback to employees. Employees also want their voice to be heard in the company, says Behera. Creating this type of environment depends on consistent, regular communication that starts at the top down. Leaders need to set the example, demonstrating their own commitment to creating a new corporate culture and opening the lines of communication.

"The primary activity that qualifies you to call yourself a leader is that you are engaged in systematic efforts to influence other people -- especially your employees. In order to create a culture of constant peer accountability, leaders up and down the chain of command must develop the competence to exercise this kind of systematic and consistent influence," says Grenny.

Companies stand a lot to gain from a culture that focuses on regular feedback, including improved employee performance and happiness, says Behera. Building a culture that employees enjoy working in will only make them happier at work, and will likely encourage them to stay with the company longer.

"Since feedback culture is really about helping everyone get better, it focuses managers on being coaches versus compliance officers, and makes the company feel more like a team working together to accomplish goals than a hierarchal organization with limited transparency and infrequent feedback," he says.

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