Five ways to close the feedback gap

While the vast majority of employees in U.S. organizations crave feedback on their job performance, most organizations fall short of providing the requisite environment, systems, and trainings needed to foster an effective feedback culture, according to a new national survey conducted by Eagle Hill Consulting.

The findings and corresponding recommendations are detailed in a new whitepaper, Feedback on Feedback, Five Ways to Create a Constructive Feedback Culture. The survey of 1,700 professionals across a range of industries and career levels was undertaken to gain a deeper understanding of how employees view feedback in relation to their performance and professional development.

Download the research here.

The survey data reveal that 87% of respondents believe that feedback is important to career development, and 85% indicate that they feel valued when someone takes the time to provide feedback on their work. Yet despite the high value many employees place on feedback, only 60% of respondents reported that their work environment supports a culture of feedback. Only 44% said that they receive regular feedback on their work.

According to Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, "Providing employees with real-time, actionable, and constructive feedback can be one of the most effective ways to improve an organization's overall performance. Waiting until the annual performance review to have conversations about strengths and areas for improvement just doesn't cut it any longer in the fast-paced, competitive environment organizations face today."

Feedback on Feedback proposes five steps that organizations can take to improve the practice of employees and supervisors giving, receiving, and soliciting feedback:

  1. Provide frequent feedback. Organizations should create formal and informal channels that facilitate frequent peer and supervisorial feedback instead of relying exclusively on annual or semi-annual performance appraisal cycles. Nearly 60% of survey respondents reported that they would like feedback on a daily or weekly basis: a number that increased to 72% for employees under age 30.
  2. Deliver feedback in person. The majority of employees, 78%, preferred to receive feedback in person. Emailing feedback or discussing it over the phone may be the only option in a time-crunch or with a geographically dispersed staff, but these should not be the go-to methods of communication.
  3. Recognize when changes are made as a result of feedback. It takes practice to develop a comfort level with constructively soliciting and receiving feedback. A key way to support feedback is to recognize when employees make improvements as a result of it. Of respondents who indicated that their company had a "comfortable feedback environment," 83% said they are recognized when they make changes based on feedback.
  4. Encourage peer and "360 degree" feedback. More than 85% of survey respondents stated that they receive feedback primarily from their supervisors and more than 75% believe that feedback is valuable. About 45% of respondents also value feedback from their peers and clients or customers, yet less than 30% said they receive it. Organizations can address this gap by fostering a supportive, comfortable workplace with appropriate systems in place that enable employees to receive additional feedback from their peers or clients.
  5. Offer feedback training for both supervisors and employees. Company-wide trainings help set expectations, promote and reinforce best practices, share helpful resources, and rally a workforce to take steps to change together. However, the survey showed that only about a quarter of organizations provide any feedback-related training for employees or supervisors, and less than 10% offered trainings on how to receive and solicit feedback. Organizations can start small with an introductory training session.

"It's important to make a clear distinction between feedback and reviews," said Jezior. "Feedback is about large-scale information sharing, which encompasses, but is not limited to, reviews. When information is given honestly, constructively, and on a continuous basis, it results in competent and confident employees that drive organizational success."