How to create an equitable feedback culture
All stories

How to create an equitable feedback culture

How often do you receive, or give, feedback where you work? At many companies, employees only receive performance feedback from managers during annual reviews or the occasional 1:1 meeting. But providing feedback once a year just isn’t enough to help employees grow or make them feel that the company is invested in their professional success.

In fact, 25% of employees are unsatisfied with the frequency of feedback they receive, saying that it’s not enough to help them understand how to improve. This can lead to frustration and job dissatisfaction.

And it’s not just more input from managers that employees crave—almost 30% of employees wish they had more feedback from peers, as well.

Feedback has a strong impact on employee engagement, something companies need to retain employees. Considering that companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable, it’s in your company’s best interest to evaluate the ways they're currently providing feedback and take steps to create an equitable feedback culture.

What is a feedback culture?

Open, unbiased feedback is regularly given and received at a company with an equitable feedback culture. And not just from managers to employees; in a culture of feedback, people feel empowered to share feedback with all colleagues, no matter where they are on the org chart. An equitable feedback culture provides psychological safety for employees, and those receiving feedback trust that it comes from a place of good intent. A culture of feedback makes employees feel supported and as though their opinion matters, which leads to more engaged and productive teams.

Why is feedback important?

Feedback provides employees with crucial information about their performance. Positive feedback helps employees understand where they should keep going and double down. It also makes them feel a sense of belonging and recognition. Constructive feedback provides actionable suggestions for an employee to grow and become more successful. Open feedback is necessary to build trust, foster engagement, improve performance, and retain employees.

Feedback from employees is also necessary to help managers assess employee engagement and culture. Without feedback from employees, leaders won't have data about employee satisfaction and engagement—and employees are 4.6x more likely to want to do their best at work when they feel heard.

Opportunities for sharing feedback

A culture of feedback requires consistency. Here are some opportunities for sharing feedback:

  • One-on-one meetings. This is your best and most frequent opportunity for a candid, two-way conversation about how things are going.
  • Employee engagement surveys. Surveys are a great way to spot trends across the company and individual teams on how employees feel and identify areas where the company should focus its efforts.
  • Mid-year reviews. Use a mid-year review to gauge progress since the last annual review and make a plan for course correction, if necessary.
  • Annual reviews. The annual review should be used to discuss performance against the year's goals. If you’re giving feedback regularly, the annual review shouldn't bring up anything you haven't already discussed. 
  • Peer-to-peer recognition programs. Encouraging employees to praise their teammates publicly is an excellent way to foster team bonding and belonging.
  • Company-wide meetings. Use your all-staff meetings to praise teams for achieving certain goals. This is also a good time to share employee feedback and discuss plans for addressing their concerns.

What is equitable feedback?

Not all feedback is quality feedback. For example, women, employees of color, and those over 40 receive significantly less actionable feedback. That’s why it's important to create not only a feedback culture but an equitable feedback culture. Equitable feedback is when all employees receive the same quality of feedback with actionable suggestions on how they can improve. Equitable feedback is crucial to creating a healthy team culture as quality feedback helps people grow faster, earn more, and open the door for more leadership opportunities.

Learn how to give fair feedback

Complete the Equitable Performance Feedback course

6 ways to create an equitable feedback culture

The process for creating a healthy culture of feedback will depend on company values and current policies. Use the tips below to help you craft a plan for your company.

1. Start at the top

Building a feedback culture can’t happen without leadership modeling the right actions. When leadership demonstrates a commitment to providing and receiving feedback, employees become more comfortable offering feedback.

2. Have a growth mindset

A growth mindset is the belief that abilities can be improved and developed through effort, learning, and input from others. This is in contrast to fixed mindset language, which implies skills are innate—you either have them, or you don’t. A fixed or growth mindset reveals itself by the language we use—for instance, are you using fixed mindset words like “high performer” or “overachiever” or are you using growth mindset language like “dedicated” and “impactful”? An equitable feedback culture uses a growth mindset approach to help employees reach their potential.

3. Set clear expectations

Employees should know why the company wants to create an equitable feedback culture and the plan for doing so. The plan should include clarity on goals and priorities and fair evaluation metrics. This should explain when feedback will be given, the goals feedback will be based on, and the next steps after feedback is provided.

4. Provide tools and training

Some managers won’t be well-versed in feedback bias and inclusive language. Provide them with the guidance and tools needed to help them give equitable feedback. Employees will also need to be taught how to exchange feedback with their peers in an equitable way. Schedule an all-team training to get everyone on the same page. Exchanging feedback is a skill, and skills need to be developed.

5. Make it a routine

Feedback can’t just be an annual event. An equitable feedback culture requires a thoughtful exchange on a consistent basis. Employees will feel more confident giving and receiving feedback the more it occurs, and eventually, the culture of feedback will become more habitual.

6. Lay a foundation of psychological safety

A healthy feedback culture can only be successful if everyone demonstrates the willingness to give and receive feedback in a thoughtful, compassionate way. Employees won’t contribute if they fear retaliation or if their suggestions aren’t taken seriously. This is why it’s important to have a foundation of psychological safety. Psychological safety is the belief that one can share their thoughts without fear of humiliation or punishment and is important for creating healthy team dynamics. Removing the fear of risk can lead to candid conversations and clear the way for bidirectional constructive feedback.

Creating an equitable feedback culture doesn’t happen overnight, but the tips above will help you get there sooner. It may take some work, but it’s worthwhile for any company that wants to create happier, more engaged employees.

All stories
Get stories like these delivered right to your inbox.