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8 Min Read

How to Foster a Continuous Feedback Culture

HR tech writer Amanda Cross
Amanda Cross

Feedback shouldn’t be just a once-a-year activity. The most engaged companies make feedback a continuous endeavor, from monthly surveys to biweekly one-on-ones. However, giving feedback is much easier said than done.

Chances are, you’ve probably committed at least one feedback faux pas. Some employers talk about how they would’ve done things better. Others only highlight what a team member does wrong while skimping on recognition. In the end, these feedback tactics create antagonism rather than inspire change. 

By establishing a feedback culture where everyone in your workplace feels comfortable giving and receiving feedback regularly, addressing problems becomes a collaborative effort.

What is continuous feedback?

Continuous feedback is the act of giving and receiving feedback regularly. 

Many companies make feedback a low priority and only provide it during the annual performance review. In a recent 15Five report, we noted that for 35% of individual contributors, the only time they get valuable feedback is during the annual review.

Companies who believe in continuous feedback deploy various tools to ensure employees get timely, accurate, and relevant feedback.

What is a continuous feedback culture?

Feedback culture is a fluid, two-way exchange between employees as well as employees and management. The end goal is a safe space where employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns and suggestions, and employers can express feedback constructively. 

A healthy feedback culture is one where feedback is the norm rather than a signal that something is wrong. When improvements are needed, asking for change won’t appear awkward or out of the blue for staff or employers. Instead, you’ll be able to enhance business processes while empowering employees to excel in their roles.

Below are four ways to create a continuous feedback culture in your workplace, remote or in-person.

1. Create an onboarding feedback framework

A strong feedback culture starts from day one. Your new employee’s first six months are the best time to build healthy habits and set the standard for continuous feedback. This also means breaking any bad feedback habits your new hire may have picked up in the past. 

To kick things off, send an onboarding pulse survey to your new hire in the first 90 days when they’re most engaged. Pulse surveys are quick, short, and focused surveys centered around a single question. They’re great for checking in with your new hire without added pressure.

Ask straightforward, simple questions like:

  • Do you have all the tools and resources to perform your job well?
  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the onboarding process?

Next, sit down with your new hire to discuss results from previous employee surveys. Take the opportunity to share how your team has acted on the feedback that was given. This demonstrates to the employee that feedback is welcomed and valued at your workplace.

2. Offer multiple ways to share feedback

A crucial part of fostering a workplace feedback culture is having multiple feedback channels available to your employees. There are many different types of channels to help facilitate feedback in your organization. Below are a few options to consider:

  • Internal newsletter surveys are a simple and seamless feedback mechanism. They allow employees to provide feedback quickly, which increases their chances of sharing. Employees can also add anonymous comments.
  • Virtual town halls can be an excellent place for management to set the tone for giving and requesting feedback. Announcements on company updates and goals also flow well with a call for feedback. 
  • Performance-management platforms provide metrics that back your feedback and have built-in surveys that streamline the feedback process. 
  • One-on-ones are great for tackling more in-depth context-specific feedback or feedback that may involve personal matters. 

3. Let your leaders set the standard

When it comes to building a feedback culture, your leadership team has to walk the walk before they can talk the talk. Managers should ask for feedback as much as they dish it out and promote it across their teams.

This is especially significant considering that just 29% of employees believe their leader’s vision for the company aligns with that of the rest of their organization. When leaders ask for feedback, it not only underscores that management acknowledges their vulnerability and shows a desire to align with their employees but also promotes a growth mindset. It also normalizes feedback from the top onward. 

4. Support feedback with employee recognition

Recognizing your employees is at the heart of great workplace feedback culture. However, employee recognition doesn’t necessarily need to be ceremonious; it can be as simple as sending out a company-wide ‘Congratulations!’ email when one of your employees makes a sale—big or small—or even when they reach a personal milestone of theirs. 

Recognition should also be a part of your day-to-day interactions. When an employee succeeds, you should have them hear about it. Whether it’s an idea they brought up during your weekly standup or how they supported another colleague, recognizing achievements builds trust and authenticity across your team. These, in turn, become the building blocks of a workplace feedback culture. 

When giving recognition, ensure you’re also specific in highlighting what skills, achievements, or outcomes are recognized. Once a team member knows what strengths they are being recognized for, they can better tap into them for the future.

Why is continuous feedback important?

When you consider a continuous feedback culture, you might wonder why it’s vital for your company in the first place. Continuous feedback provides many helpful benefits that will improve retention and employee engagement.

Continuous feedback:

  1. Helps your team members grow into better employees.
  2. Encourages workers to meet and exceed company goals and KPIs.
  3. Improves employee retention through consistent feedback and building team trust.
  4. Builds stronger relationships between team members and managers/executives.
  5. Provides real-time insights that you won’t get access to if you only give feedback annually.
  6. Promotes psychological safety as you emphasize the importance of trust at work.

How to pick employee feedback software?

As you consider improving employee feedback and engagement, you must consider how to operationalize this experience. Automation is key to getting feedback consistently. Many employee feedback software options are available, and picking one can be overwhelming. Here are a few things to consider when choosing software for your organization:

Consider who will be using the tool

When purchasing feedback tools for managers, you have to think of them as target users. Will your managers understand how to work the system and make the most of its data? How can you train your managers to pick up the new feedback plan? Are there any reasons a manager might not want to use the system, and what will you do if that happens? If managers don’t utilize the results to create a better team, the employee feedback tool won’t work.

Pick a tool your team will enjoy using

Next, think about the system’s front end. How easy will it be for employees to log on and share their feedback? Will they need to jump through long forms or complicated questions? Always ask to look at the software from the employee’s perspective because this will help you decide which software is right for your company.

Find a tool with anonymous or confidential feedback options

It’s not always in your employees’ best interest to disclose their feedback. Often, manager feedback isn’t anonymous, but peer feedback and employee-to-manager feedback can be (especially for annual reviews.) While anonymous feedback may be a cause for concern, it’s a necessary option for employees if you want software participation.

Remember that anonymity doesn’t always mean protection for employees. For example, if they are sharing anonymously with a manager who only has one direct report, it won’t be anonymous. Consider the potential pool of respondents and how easy it may be to identify anyone who answers.

One critical component is the human element–anonymous feedback shouldn’t replace the all-important in-person conversations between people at your company, especially between managers and employees.

Your guide to encouraging feedback from employees

Last, it’s important to cover how you can encourage feedback from employees. Creating a continuous feedback culture doesn’t work if no one takes the time to provide their thoughts. Companies must carefully approach employee feedback because employees may fear negative consequences like retaliation.

Here are a few strategies you can use to encourage employee feedback

  • Utilize employee feedback software to build a structure around your continuous feedback program.
  • Create and share policies around workplace retaliation.
  • Investigate and follow policies if an employee is found guilty of retaliation, even if they’ve been with the company or hold a high rank.
  • Get involved in the feedback process by encouraging managers and executives to give feedback to direct reports and higher-level team members.
  • Recognize employees who go above and beyond to give feedback to other employees.

Key takeaway

Continuous feedback is the backbone of your business. When done right, it can propel your teams to approach tasks from a different perspective and find new solutions to your company’s biggest challenges. But like most good things, feedback doesn’t work as a one-off. Embedding a continuous feedback culture into your workplace through healthy habits is the best way to ensure that feedback is always the norm in your workplace.