Giving and receiving feedback is critical for business success, but how do you develop a feedback culture at work?

Open and honest communication is the key to good company culture, but it relies on honest feedback. Employees within an organization need to feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts and ideas, as well as voice their opinions on key matters. But, if you haven’t already got a feedback culture in place, how do you activate this behavior change in your people?

There's more to it than simply deciding to make a change. To really see change within your organization, it is important to focus on making feedback a core part of your culture and ensure that employees trust you and feel safe enough to share their thoughts. You'll also need to ensure that feedback becomes a way of working for all staff members at all levels within the organization.

Here are four ways to develop a culture of giving and receiving feedback at work:

1. Incorporate feedback from the start

When it comes to building a feedback culture, you need to start right from the get-go. Getting employees to buy into, and actively participate in, a feedback culture is much easier when it is a part of the company culture from day one.

To achieve this, companies need to clearly illustrate that feedback is important on all levels of the organization. Leaders play a key role here — in creating and maintaining the culture. Managers need to lead by example, setting the standard for what desirable feedback behavior looks like.

When new hires start, managers and/or onboarding buddies could request feedback through a survey or a discussion.  By incorporating feedback into your onboarding process, you're making sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to giving feedback. Once giving feedback becomes a habit, it naturally forms part of the company culture.

Reinforcing the idea that giving, and receiving, feedback is a normal part of how your organization works will help employees come to terms with it, and ultimately, become better for it. If regular feedback sessions haven't been a part of your organization before, you'll need to consistently encourage it to effectively drive change and help people become more feedback-focused.

2. Provide a feedback-safe environment 

Once you have built a culture of feedback, it is vital to nurture it. But how do you do that? Keeping a feedback culture going relies on one important factor: having employees that are
willing to give feedback and to be honest in that feedback.

Companies need to build trusting relationships with employees, and reinforce this when feedback is given. For employees to continue to give honest feedback, they need to feel safe and know that there won't be any negative repercussions for their feedback.

Imagine what might happen if word got around that someone was punished for feedback that they had given. Staff would immediately lose trust in the organization and actively avoid situations where they were asked to share their thoughts.

In creating a feedback-safe space, make it clear that you can handle constructive feedback, and that you actively welcome it.

Trust is critical here; employees need to feel safe in sharing their thoughts. But in order to implement a feedback-focused culture within an organization, staff members already need to trust in your direction and that a shift towards feedback will benefit them, and the company too.

The only way to create a feedback culture is to have people actively taking part in it. So when people give and receive feedback, they are taking positive action towards building that culture. Employees follow-through with building that culture by continuously giving and receiving feedback at work.

3. Give feedback regularly

To really cement this culture, try to incorporate feedback into your daily work routine. The more normalized it is, the more people will be open to it — and want to actively participate.

It's also important to give people the space to reflect on their involvement in sustaining the feedback-focused culture. Are their efforts to consistently give and receive feedback yielding positive results for them? In order to keep this culture alive, employees need to know that they are on the right track by participating in feedback sessions.

When giving feedback, ensure it is communicated in a clear and measured way. Once the person has implemented that feedback into their work or processes, you can give further feedback on their process, acknowledging the efforts they have made to incorporate your suggestions. This enables the person to reflect on their progress, making the change more likely to stick.

Keep in mind that in order to regularly give feedback, you need to create opportunities for this. While more bold staff members may be willing to give feedback on any occasion, others may need a little prompting. Surveys, forums and feedback-focused meetings can give employees a chance to share their thoughts and concerns.

4. Lead by example

When a leader sets a good example, their team is likely to follow their lead. Employees look up to those in leadership positions to see what they are doing, how they behave, and how they respond to situations. In order to build a successful feedback culture at work, leaders need to give and receive feedback too.

It is vital for leaders to consistently ask for feedback, at various levels, and visibly be seen to receive that feedback well. The ability to give and receive constructive feedback is a skill that leadership needs to hone in order to set the tone for employees.

Feedback should also be encourage within (and across) teams. Peer-based learning is a great way to further encourage staff to share their opinions. The more opportunities that staff members have to give and receive feedback, the more likely they are to do it.