Nurturing a Culture of Feedback
Rachel Levy
Rachel Levy

Nurturing a Culture of Feedback

Rachel Levy, Talent Program Manager

As we approach performance review season and begin the process of self-assessment and evaluations, there’s an opportunity ahead of us.  

Feedback is a big part of Prolific’s value system, and constructive, consistent communication helps us as we strive toward our goal of making things better. Feedback culture is when people collectively commit to being open and honest about how they’re doing because of a common goal to do better. It’s a culture where we openly strive to be more self-aware so that we can produce higher quality outcomes as a team. Being open to feedback means being open to being better, and any organization can benefit from that.

There are a number of ways to build and encourage feedback culture. There are opportunities in how we hire people, in the way we manage our teams, and in the way we interact with each other every day. Performance reviews are just one piece of the puzzle– championing open communication and honest feedback can pave the way for a greater atmosphere of honest growth.

Knowing the value of feedback

We live in a society where feedback influences so many of our decisions: the restaurants we eat in, the hotels we stay in, and sometimes even where we choose to work. At Prolific, listening to user feedback is central to how we build premium products. Thoughtful, constructive feedback is one of the most powerful tools we can hope for in business, and it presents equally great opportunities for personal growth when we know more about individual performance.

But, the performance review itself isn’t enough. It keeps us on track and tells us how we’re doing as we work toward our goals. It can also be rigid and restrict the process of self-assessment and feedback to specific timelines and a set format. Whether you run them annually, biannually, or more frequently, we rely on other sources for the qualitative feedback we need. Regular one-to-ones with our managers, discussions with our peers or mentors all keep the conversation about performance going.

Yet, there’s definitely more we can do to make the performance review an opportunity to cultivate that feedback culture that can be so beneficial. We know that the power of feedback is in how it’s implemented: how we use it to better understand and leverage our strengths, how we build awareness from it and make improvements. The value of the performance review, then, isn’t in the process of giving feedback, or even in listening to it– like everything, the value lies in what we choose to do with the results.

Take a strategic approach to your development

How you respond to the feedback in your review should take thought and planning. You should reflect on it, and apply some method to how you can enhance or address it. Set some personal development goals. Consider how you as an individual can grow, upskill, build on your knowledge – and of course leverage your strengths to achieve new levels of potential. Putting together a development plan shouldn’t just be in response to perceived underperformance, it’s an exercise in both humility and ambition.

One powerful tool to help you reflect on your performance and development is to conduct a personal SWOT analysis. What do you know about your strengths and weaknesses, and what else is the feedback from your review telling you? Thinking about external threats and the opportunities available to you can be a great exercise when you’re planning a career move, but it can also be used to encourage self-reflection and to build self-awareness. That’s a step to making a positive change.

Once you’ve completed your analysis, it will be easier to identify the steps you need to take to make improvements and to maximize your strengths. Approach the next step the way you would any goal setting activity: have a documented plan in place with milestones and clear success measures. Like many things that are worth the effort, achieving your development goals will be an iterative process. That is as true for long-term career goals as it is for your growth over the course of a year. Having a plan in place for how you will achieve your goals is a way of holding yourself accountable, and it creates more opportunity for self-reflection.

Be open about your progress

Opening up a dialogue about performance – for individuals, teams, or for a business – usually leads to a parallel dialogue about the journey to improvement, and hopefully opportunities to publicly celebrate progress.

If we extend the exchange of feedback beyond just the manager-employee relationship– as we do in 360 feedback– there can be real value in sharing progress more openly too. We share performance goals and celebrate successes within teams and working groups during town halls or in company-wide updates, but we don’t often openly talk about individual growth as it relates to development planning. If the key to a feedback culture is creating an environment of trust, then we should feel comfortable talking about how we’re taking steps better ourselves, as well as celebrating when we get there. Before you run out and publicly post your team’s performance review results, remember that this conversation only works if it’s willingly led by the individual.

When it comes to the performance review, what matters is how we talk and think about it, but maybe most importantly, how we act on it. In a culture that really fosters feedback, you need to trust that by being open and honest you can have a positive impact. There’s no better way to contribute to a culture of feedback than to show just how much you value feedback itself.