Things for organizations to try: Improving Feedback

Feedback is critical to happiness at work, but the way it’s given and received has a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves, each other and the organization we work for.


1. Audit your feedback

Know the different types of feedback and the psychological needs they serve. And then audit the feedback your organization uses.

How to do it:

  1. Appreciation - we need this type of feedback to feel recognized and valued. It supports our sense of belonging.
  2. Coaching - we need feedback for personal growth. It helps us feel we are growing more competent in what we contribute.
  3. Evaluation - we need this kind of feedback for job security. When we know how we're performing against a set of expectations we can take personal responsibility for our progression.
  • Review your HR feedback processes and practices with a sample group. (Note: if you have teams scoring above and below the average score for Feedback, then try to include individuals from low, average and high scoring teams in your sample).
  • Ask your sample group these questions:
  1. What types of feedback do we use in our organization?
  2. What can we learn from the teams with high feedback scores?
  3. Is there an aspect of feedback we are missing from our processes?
  • Make the audit quick and not too resource intensive and then test the results with leaders, teams and other colleagues in HR.

2. Train leaders in the importance of positive feedback

Teach leaders how to praise what they want to see more of, and refrain from course correction.

How to do it:

  • Familiarize yourselves with Brené Brown's work on Leadership; it’s helpful in guiding how to cultivate a strengths-based feedback culture.
  • Ask leaders to invest in knowing people's challenges and aspirations, so that they can make feedback specific and timely.
  • Train leaders using practical examples and role-play and reflection on how different sorts of feedback feels.
  • An example to consider: explore the difference in emotional weight and meaning between saying “good job yesterday” and “the way you managed time in the client meeting yesterday was really helpful for getting next steps agreed.” You’ll notice that the first doesn’t give us anything to learn and build from, while the second highlights where value has been added and gives clues about what to do to feel appreciated in the future.
  • Encourage leaders to reflect on how they distribute feedback; experiencing differential treatment can drive teams apart.

Case study

Some Friday Pulse clients - like ProSearch and Millstream - used the COVID-19 pandemic to introduce more regular 1:1 conversations and fluid team conversations about how people were feeling week-to-week. Leaders found it was easier to express appreciation when they understood how people were doing and what their goals were. Positive feedback flowed more authentically from knowing colleagues better.

3. Design feedback to be psychologically safe

Feedback is hard to get right because, although it is a psychological need, we also can perceive it as a threat. It triggers a strong emotional response and in turn a physiological response which can result in us focusing on the negative. To make feedback something we move towards, give individuals control over the feedback they get.

How to do it:

  • Invert the way you do feedback, so it begins with the individual.
  • Ask the individual to identify 1-3 areas of work where they see growth or development opportunities, and ask who they'd value feedback on these from.
  • Create a simple form that allows you to collect feedback from these people, anonymize it and present it back to the colleague via a one to one with the manager.
  • Include a way to allow people to include positive feedback in any work area.