In most companies, feedback is a classic top-down one-way street, from the supervisor to the employee. Used purely as a management tool, however, feedback instils a passive attitude in employees, prevents self-organisation and can destroy intrinsic motivation. Furthermore, this one-sided method is in direct contradiction to the actual purpose of feedback. For feedback is essentially about self-reflection. Feedback is what gives us the opportunity to develop and optimise our own procedures in subsequent processes over the long term. So it’s high time for a change in feedback culture.
In today’s workplace, feedback and performance are closely linked. Feedback is almost always tied to a corresponding bonus system as part of performance management. This is not the way forward, as performance management is also currently being redefined. The new workplace culture no longer matches the performance systems. Where effectiveness and quantitative success were once the focus of performance assessments, speed and innovation are what count today when evaluating employee performance.
After all, major innovations and business ideas are often associated with initial failure. There can be no progress without mistakes. Falling down, getting up and trying again – in the workplace, this feels wrong or unproductive to most people. This is because society has taught us that flawlessness is rewarded. This type of thinking sets in at school, at the latest, and not only shapes how we think about mistakes but also informs our feedback culture.
This necessitates a fundamental rethinking of feedback culture: companies must separate feedback from performance. They must move away from the classic top-down performance assessment based on rigid quantitative criteria towards constructive feedback across all levels of hierarchy.
In order to rethink feedback and adapt it to the digital workplace, however, it is not only necessary to separate it from performance, but also to break down the feedback structure that currently prevails in most companies. At present, feedback is mainly provided in the context of annual performance reviews. The process is always the same: at the beginning of the fiscal year, the supervisor invites the employee to an interview, goals are agreed upon and at the end of the fiscal year, management assesses whether these have been achieved and to what extent the employee has contributed to this. These assessments are carried out once a year by the supervisor or as part of the more advanced 360-degree feedback from clients or colleagues.
In many places, however, this classic annual review is reaching its limits. The immense amount of administration required is only one of the areas that need improvement. In today’s agile working world, employees rarely work on a single project all year round, not to mention a project that involves his or her direct supervisor, allowing them to then assess the respective employee. Employees’ positions, responsibilities for tasks and roles are also increasingly subject to change over the course of a year. Appraisals are increasingly losing sight of their real purpose, namely providing feedback as a framework for the individual employee’s long term development.
Generally speaking, feedback is most effective when the recipient has requested it. A shared basis of trust, which is necessary for feedback to have a constructive effect, can only be created if the feedback is desired by the recipient. Rethinking feedback in a corporate context therefore means shifting the responsibility from the provider to the requester. To create an employee-centred feedback culture, employees must be drawn out of their comfort zones and take responsibility for actively requesting feedback. And managers must be prepared to break down the institutional framework and engage with new, more agile feedback tools.
Feedback systems embrace a rapid, immediate form of feedback. While these systems may not be able to entirely replace direct communication, they still correspond to the triad of organisation, employees and technology, and thus support companies who are aware of the cycle of feedback, innovation and change. This new constructive and open feedback culture must be firmly established as an integral part of every company.
We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.
Therefore Haufe has developed the Solution Package Feedback Culture. Using the instant-feedback-app, everyone in the company can request feedback on their own activities or behaviour, or deliver feedback on another person, a meeting or a survey with just a few clicks. Delivering feedback is as simple and uncomplicated as posting on social media. This not only makes development potential and progress transparent, but also promotes cooperation within the company.
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WHYral is the most effective tool for change management in an agile world, because WHYral combines needed changes in an organisation with the personal changes each individual employee undergoes. Feedback, mentoring and personal development are elementary components of this process.
Employees receive 360-degree feedback directly from the colleagues they work with and are asked to evaluate others. This provides all employees with valuable information for their personal development.
The instant feedback app provides employees with valuable feedback on their work on an ongoing basis, and they can also provide their own feedback to help their colleagues continue to improve. It’s simple – and even fun.
Every employee defines his or her personal strengths and weaknesses, e.g. time management or public speaking, and then receives direct feedback on these points. This allows every employee to see exactly where there is still room for improvement, but also in the areas where improvements have already been made.
Based on the differences between self-assessment and feedback, the system suggests suitable mentors; these can be colleagues from the same field of work, but also experts or other employees who have gone through a similar development.