All companies have a unique workplace culture that defines how things get done, how employees interact with one another, and how people behave. This culture combines the values, beliefs, vision, systems, and habits that an organization and its members share. But, how do you ensure that culture is positive and authentic?
Building a positive company culture requires trust, transparency, and active listening. Here's how employee feedback promotes employee engagement and how designing constructive feedback practices, implementing effective employee feedback loops, and adding feedback follow-ups can build trust that there is an established positive feedback culture.
Employee Feedback and Culture
Before we dive into the benefits of employee feedback, let’s look at how it impacts company culture.
Workplace culture develops over time, but to make sure it’s changing in the right ways, you’ll need to provide thoughtful messaging and examples of what you want it to mean. Taking a proactive approach to developing a positive atmosphere where employees can thrive helps attract new talent and retain team members.
As Robert E. Quinn and Anjan V. Thakor explain in their recent Harvard Business Review article:
“...you do not invent a higher purpose; it already exists. You can discover it through empathy — by feeling and understanding the deepest common needs of your workforce. That involves asking provocative questions, listening, and reflecting.”
Through employee feedback tools and employee performance reviews, you can collect information that helps you create a positive culture that authentically reflects your collective values.
8 Ways to Encourage Employee Feedback
Let’s cover some key ways you can encourage employees to be comfortable contributing their opinions and ideas.
1. Establish a positive work environment
From onboarding new hires to meetings with seasoned team members, many different factors affect employee experience.
Employee experience can significantly impact your direct reports’ performance and productivity as well as your company culture. If you want to encourage a culture of employees contributing more feedback, it’s important to consider how you can adjust your workspace environment accordingly.
Whether you use office space, have a remote team, or work in a hybrid environment, the workplace should reflect your organization’s values and personality. For example, Apple values innovation, creativity, and collaboration. Its $5 billion office space, Apple Park, was designed to encourage collaboration between different departments, share ideas with coworkers, and build an open workspace.
Employees should have a say in how their environment looks, feels, and operates. Involving your team in these decisions and encouraging feedback conversations will strengthen employee engagement and build excitement about coming to work. There are many types of employee feedback to collect:
- Consider your core values and ask your employees what would help them live out these values in the workplace. If you’re redesigning the office, survey your team to gather feedback about the new designs. Open-ended questions give them the ability to provide more context for why these new designs would help them.
- If you value creativity, ask what elements of the office will help each team member thrive in that regard. Relaxation pods or mindfulness booths might foster calm and creativity, whereas standing desks or exercise balls can promote health and employee wellbeing.
- Provide survey questions that ask them about how to improve their at-home offices and the company’s shared digital spaces. Even if you don’t have a central, physical location, it’s still key to understand which elements of your team’s experience you’re empowered to improve.
Your employees’ ideas are priceless. Plus, they will appreciate that you’ve extended a sense of ownership by involving them in the decision-making process.
2. Develop authentic policies and procedures
Although some policies and procedures are non-negotiable, others can be added or improved to further define your culture. And, who could better provide constructive criticism and thoughtful input on those policies than your employees?
It’s good practice to establish continuous feedback for procedure improvements. You might be pleasantly surprised by your employees’ fresh perspectives and insights about how these policies and procedures impact their day-to-day experience.
Case study: Pet-friendly offices
More businesses now recognize how animals can boost morale and productivity. Pets are proven to promote a positive mood, relieve stress, and even improve our physical health. Some of the world’s most well-known companies allow employees to bring their dogs to work.
When implementing a policy like a pet-friendly workspace, it's imperative to gather feedback from each employee. Any positive feedback or negative feedback can help you understand if the policy will work or if you’ll need to take corrective action. For example, you might find out through a survey that someone is allergic to dogs. Then, you can adapt your policy to make sure all teammates are safe and comfortable.
Feedback loops are one of the best ways to evaluate a pet-friendly policy’s ongoing success. If you use Microsoft Teams or Slack as the primary means of communication within your organization, you can facilitate real-time feedback collection by using a tool like Polly.
3. Inspire Candid Dialogue
Candid conversations are one of the best ways to address any underlying culture-damaging issues and resolve them quickly. Unfortunately, open dialogue isn’t common in many organizations. A study of over 1,400 corporate executives, employees, and educators found that:
“90 percent of respondents believed that decision makers should seek out other opinions before making a final decision; approximately 40 percent felt that leaders and decision makers consistently failed to do so.”
Employees may not feel comfortable sharing negative feedback at first. They may be concerned about company politics and job security.
However, the benefits of being candid can outweigh the challenges. The better you get at building open, constructive employee feedback loops that focus on improving processes, policies, and working relationships, the easier it will be to develop initiatives that deliver positive results for all stakeholders.
4. Strengthen trust and communication through transparency
Every lasting professional relationship relies on transparency. Within an organization, transparency builds the trust necessary for an engaging employee experience. As a result, you can gain productivity, enhance morale, and show employees that you value them enough to keep them in the loop.
In a transparent company, communication is clear and consistent. Employees know what’s happening around them, and they feel more involved in decisions and actions. Transparency must be pervasive, enabling employees to voice their opinion to management, and believe that those opinions will be shared and valued.
Yet, many organizations fail to build a culture that employees view as transparent. A study by the American Psychological Association found that "nearly 1 in 4 workers say they don’t trust their employer and only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them."
One way to embrace transparency in a feedback culture is to use suggestion channels. Doing so allows employees to share their thoughts about current projects, provide input on corporate decisions, and make suggestions during performance reviews about what could help them achieve specific goals.
5. Foster an environment of continual development
Not only does ongoing learning help employees continuously improve and provide information that they can share with the rest of the organization, but it also creates a culture of learning, according to the Society for Human Resources Management.
As employees find better ways to work, the company can develop systems and processes that improve operational efficiency and effectiveness. This can help raise employee satisfaction levels as they achieve more of their own personal and professional development objectives.
Workplace learning culture starts with leadership. Formal training initiatives should be reinforced with development plans and regular feedback conversations. This ensures that the training is relevant to the current challenges and opportunities that exist both inside and outside of the organization.
Solicit feedback with survey questions about training effectiveness and open-ended questions that allow employees to share their opinions and ideas for improvement. Shift and adapt according to the feedback you get to ensure everyone in your organization benefits from your continual development program.
6. Promote a sense of ownership
When you own even a small part of something, you have a stake in it. This can help employees move from process 'doers' to process owners who feel accountable to improving the workplace.
Structuring your organizational culture in a way that fosters a sense of ownership goes beyond simply giving employees a say in how, when, why, where, and what gets done.
To establish a sense of individual and shared ownership, add feedback loops around processes. This includes gathering information and insights from the people closest to the work. Then, and most importantly, take action and make improvements based on their input.
7. Recognize and celebrate contributions
Employees contribute to your organization all day, every day. The problem is that those contributions are not always visible to the people who are in a position to recognize them. And, the people most qualified to recognize meaningful contributions are seldom empowered, encouraged, or reminded to celebrate those contributions.
This provides you with an opportunity to implement open, transparent employee feedback processes. For example, distribute regular surveys that ask employees to name colleagues who deserve recognition and why. You might be surprised to learn which unrecognized or unrewarded contributions have made a significant positive impact on the team.
Take time to recognize, reward, and celebrate those employee contributions that help your organization reach performance targets, achieve strategic objectives, and discover new ways of working.
8. Resolve issues fast
Gathering and analyzing employee feedback can help to surface and resolve issues before they become bigger problems. With multiple feedback loops in place, it’s much easier to make early course corrections. Modern feedback tools can highlight issues that might need your attention, send them to the appropriate stakeholders, or provide a guide for the steps necessary to resolve issues.
For example, integrating real-time feedback mechanisms through everyday tools like Slack gets critical information to people who can quickly act on it before it involves more of the team than necessary. This will reduce or even stop negativity and conflict before it spreads.
Being proactive also means that you can use these feedback mechanisms to conduct regular polls that gauge the overall mood of your team, which may uncover a situation that you can address sooner than later.
Developing a positive company culture
A company’s culture is not formed overnight. However, by harnessing employee feedback through many different channels on a regular basis, you can define and shape your company’s culture over time.
By using feedback tools, your culture will become one that promotes ownership, recognizes and celebrates individual and team contributions, and supports proactive improvement. Employees will experience the transparency and trust that frames a feedback culture. As a result, they will feel more inclined to have candid conversations and share insights that can guide changes to policies, procedures, and processes.
Across all aspects of your organization, encouraging employee feedback supports a positive culture, illustrating how your company values and respects employee opinions, perspectives, and input.
If you’re looking for fun and easy ways to amp up your company culture, check out these features from Polly designed to engage your team. When you're ready to get started and need a flexible tool that can reach your team where they work with ease, try Polly for free anytime!
Written by Nhi Nguyen
Professional Netflix binge-watcher. Wants to see all of the world.