Creating a Feedback Culture

Workplace engagement and performance depend on it

Creating a Feedback Culture

U.S. workers are quitting their jobs at some of the highest rates in years. According to recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an incredible 4 million Americans quit their jobs in April – the highest number since records began more than 20 years ago.

It’s now more important than ever for companies to make efforts to lower their staff turnover and create ways of ensuring employees remain engaged and happy in their work. One such way is to ensure your organization has an effective feedback culture to gauge workers sentiment and realize ways to address problems.

In fact, according to research from Officevibe, four out of 10 workers are actively disengaged when they get little or no feedback. This is particularly relevant in the sales and marketing sector.

In some countries, it is not seen as polite to contradict or challenge authority or leadership, and even many organizations in the U.S. still operate an old-style hierarchy model that doesn’t encourage being outspoken or giving personal opinion.

Water Cooler Time

With a major transition to remote and hybrid work modes, providing feedback in the right way has become crucial as less in-person meetings take place and employees are not getting the chance to enjoy those so-called water cooler moments.

However, one thing to remember is that it’s not just the HR department that is responsible for implementing this type of open office philosophy, all employees must collectively build a two-way channel of communication and shape the environment they work in.

Interestingly, the Officevibe survey also showed that 82% of employees appreciate negative and positive feedback. And the effect of receiving advice either way has an encouraging outcome – 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week as opposed to 18% of low engagement employees. Based on my experience, feedback helps to achieve five essential things no matter what the size of the company:

  • Building engagement within teams
  • Creating a better place to work, with a sense of personal accomplishment
  • Empowering everyone to help each other be more successful
  • Building trust
  • Celebrating success

The Gift of Giving

It’s often said that feedback is a gift, but sometimes it is difficult to see it that way. Nearly everyone struggles with hearing any type of criticism, constructive or not, so it is important to give and receive feedback respectfully.

The weight of feedback is always greater on the person who is giving it, so before providing it, ask yourself whether it needs to be given. Are you saying it to help the other person improve or to get something off your chest? Think about the goal and the impact before moving forward with your opinion. Bear in mind the famous quote from bestselling American author Napoleon Hill: “It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.”

The recipient of your feedback is free to decide what to do with it. Whether they choose to disagree or ask for your help in addressing it – it’s their choice. Respect it. Don’t always expect agreement with your views – that’s why it’s a two-way street (unless, of course, it’s a crucial business imperative)

And don’t forget, a compliment is feedback too. Give compliments more often! We all deserve a pat on the back, and it can go a long way.

According to Harvard Business Review, neuroscientists show the brain responds in the same way to praise as a financial reward.  Simply expressing gratitude can increase morale, make people feel valued and lead to improvements in employee performance.

Establish a Recognition Tradition

Several months ago, we at ABBYY started the #fridayrecognition tradition. At the end of the week anyone can thank any colleague for a recent collaboration experience, whether it is a finished joint project or help with a work task. We are already seeing the impact with more positive communication and people being uplifted from the kudos.

We prefer not to call feedback negative – like many companies we prefer to use the word constructive. Both types are equally important though, and we are encouraging delivering and asking for any kind of feedback. Whatever someone’s role, they are urged to ask how things went, if expectations were met, if there was room for improvement.

Positive or constructive feedback is not just for your immediate boss, it can be a direct report, stakeholder, peer or even a non-boss senior. We use the situation-behavior-impact technique so the person receiving feedback is clear on their actions and the impact of their behavior on others. We can often forget to say exactly why a certain behavior or decision wasn’t helpful or what positive actions the person took, that they may want to do more of – feedback that calls out, not just the behavior, but also the impact it had, is much more powerful.

There are several recommendations to follow on how constructive feedback can become helpful for both sides involved in the communication.

First, when giving feedback, try to come from the position of a positive intent: “I want to see my peer/my manager/my report succeeding, and my feedback is supposed to help them.”

Another important thing is to concentrate on the future and improvements to be made instead of reiterating something that has already been done or didn’t go well.

Finally, it is very important for a person delivering feedback to concentrate on their own personal feelings and observations and operate with “I” statements. After all, it’s your own thoughts and opinions so don’t be afraid to share your views.

Feedback Should Flow Both Ways

Asking for feedback is as important as providing it. First explain where you believe you need/want to improve. After this, confirm your evaluation on the comments/advice received and ask for any additional feedback if needed. The next step is asking for specific tips for improvement, asking for opportunities to practice these, and finally confirming your next feedback check-in. As soon as the next session is scheduled, recap goals from a previous feedback meeting, explain your progress and use specific examples.

Real-time feedback is powerful and recommended. If you can’t deliver it in the moment, ensure you deliver it soon after so that it is timely and still relevant. The longer it’s left the more likelihood of differing opinions. As previously mentioned, it can be a good idea to schedule regular feedback meetings to get in the habit of practicing open communication. Use a safe and private place for doing this, either in person or virtually.

One thing to remember is that many great achievements and new ideas can come from both constructive and positive feedback, giving employees new perspectives that can help them grow and ultimately impact your bottom line.

All in all, shaping the environment in which each employee can comfortably express any kind of feedback to any other colleague is critical for an ever-growing organization. Don’t let your open-door policy become an afraid-to-knock situation.


  • Weronika Niemczyk is the Chief People Officer (CPO) of ABBYY, a digital intelligence company. Niemczyk leads all aspects of improving the employee experience for ABBYY’s 1,400 global team members distributed across 14 countries and five continents. She previously led human resources (HR) at global companies Expedia, Google, and Ascential and has a passion for talent development, culture, diversity, and inclusion.

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