How do you introduce a feedback culture that works?

06 February 2019

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More and more companies are introducing a culture of continuous/360° feedback. That’s an evolution we strongly encourage. By doing so, you empower your employees and put them in the driver seat of their own career. However, introducing feedback can be more challenging than you’d expect. To truly reap the benefits, you need to start small. Learn how to give effective feedback and how to translate that feedback into action and improvement. In this way feedback can truly support the growth of both your employees and your organisation.

Where to start?

Feedback is a powerful tool. But if you don’t ‘use’ it the right way, it can have the opposite effect of what you were aiming for. If you want to introduce a successful feedback culture, it’s better to start with installing small habits instead of big bangs.

The first step is what we like to call ‘lead by example’:

  • Actively ask for feedback from others when the opportunity arises
  • Encourage others to also point out where you can improve upon
  • Praise others when they achieve their goal
  • Install a habit: pick a moment every week to request or give feedback
  • Stimulate others to make use of feedback opportunities and let the process grow

When it comes to giving and receiving feedback there’s no single source of truth. We love to share some tips & tricks to help you getting started.

How to give effective feedback?

1. Reflect on your purpose

When giving feedback, you need to make sure you’re doing it with the right intentions. Therefore, ask yourself the following questions:
– What’s the goal/intent of your message?
– What message do you want to get across?
– Which action/response do you want to achieve?

2. Act immediately

Feedback should be provided as soon as possible. Therefore, the best moment to provide feedback is right after the action took place. The closer to the actual situation, the more powerful & relevant your feedback will be.

3. Keeping the balance

As the word implies, you balance out the ‘good’ with the ‘need for improvement’. When giving balanced feedback you praise and encourage actions and skills that deserve recognition and provide insight in where a person can improve and grow.

Some key characteristics of good feedback:
– Future focused
– Descriptive, positive, non-judgemental
– Apply a calm instead of an authoritarian tone
– Focus on the behaviour (not the person)
– Make suggestions for improvement, no blaming or demanding your colleague to change
– Make sure your message is motivating & encouraging

4. Did your message land?

It’s important to make sure that your colleague heard, and understood, the message you were conveying. Ask for example: “Just so I know we’re on the same page, can you tell me which parts you agree/disagree on?”

Receiving feedback: how do you (re)act?

1. Request feedback on a regular basis

The best strategy to get meaningful feedback, is to ask the people closest to you. Requesting feedback from colleagues you’re working with on a daily basis creates a certain level of trust. Overtime, when feedback finds its entrance within your organisation, everyone will feel more confident to give feedback.

But how can you request feedback? A few sample questions:
• If you had to give me 2 suggestions for improvement, what would they be?
• Can you tell me at least 1 thing I need to keep doing and 1 thing you would have done differently during our last project?
• …

2. Practice active listening

Focus on understanding, not responding. If you are already thinking about an answer, you are no longer listening to the message. (TIP: if you have your answer ready before the other person has finished his sentence, you weren’t listing to understand but to respond 😊).

By actively asking questions to gain insight in what the other person is trying to tell you, you encourage the speaker to express all his or her thoughts. People speak more freely when they aren’t interrupted and when they feel the listener is engaged and paying attention.

3. Be receptive and take your time

When receiving feedback, it might be tempting to become defensive or “explain away”. Instead, let the other person finish completely and reflect on what you’ve heard. Give yourself time to consider, reflect and react on the given feedback. If you feel you’re taking it personally or are too emotionally charged in the moment, delaying your response is fine. Just be honest about it because this indicates you are taking it seriously.

4. Agree or disagree?

If you agree with the feedback that was given, plan to act. Most feedback however valuable it was, doesn’t translate into actual change. The day to day work comes first and the intentions to act fade. That’s why if you get meaningful feedback, you need to take action immediately. Make sure you use the momentum to make improvements for yourself.

Remember you have the right to disagree. If you have taken the time to consider the feedback and truly disagree, that’s okay. I would however reconsider your stance if the same feedback keeps coming your way 😉…

Do you want to introduce a feedback culture in your organization? We’re here to help, get in touch.


Author: Lena Dirks, HR Business Consultant

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