Best Practices for Internal Corporate Feedback

Feedback is the return of information covering the internal activity and processes of an organization. By all means, it is vital for any business. A culture of open communication leads to a better work environment, encourages innovation, and even increases productivity; for managers, feedback can be the primary source of information for administrative decisions. However, accustomed as we are to these viewpoints, the topic of managing corporate feedback is still a question of great debate. Is it just the employee who needs to receive feedback or is it a two-sided process? And which are the best means of gathering it?

The two major ways feedback travels across an organization are upward (employees giving appraisals toward management efficiency) and downward (from organizational leaders to staff members). In order to obtain a relevant picture of how the organization is running, we need a view of both as a whole.

Upward feedback

Leadership is a matter of perception and interaction. Studies have revealed that managers who don't have signals on how they are perceived by subordinates tend to have a lower performance. Modern leaders do their best to prevent "mushroom management" (minimizing people and keeping them in the dark, with no chance to express their opinion, and feeding them with garbage, giving them altered secondhand information about the processes that take place at the top). A profitable business relies on the contribution of every pawn. Thus, the best attitude is to request feedback periodically from employees and receive it with positivity.

Upward feedback is the process that faces the most difficult barriers of communication. Employees may have personal biases regarding the topics under discussion, or negative emotional exchanges with specific persons in the staff. Also, trust is a key element; the lack of it makes feedback impossible. These drawbacks can be overcome by using proper means of communication. The most important instruments for upward communication are surveys and focus groups. Surveys can be filled in company-wide or by department, over specific issues or globally.

For employees, the main principle for sending feedback to their superiors is respect. Boundaries exist, even if they are temporarily left aside. The best attitude for employees is to focus on their own perspective and on how they can improve things, not to picture how they can do so much better in the boss's place, because there are always some elements missing. Constructive feedback gets results.

Downward feedback

These are the messages that managers regularly give to their subordinates in return for their performance in the workplace. Feedback can be given via formal means, such as letters and reports, and also through personal contact. It is a way of keeping employees well informed about their contribution to the progress of the overall organization's objectives, thus increasing engagement. For managers giving feedback, the best approach is to maintain criticism at a constructive level and to request feedback in exchange.

Multiple directions feedback

In a fast-paced organizational structure, the models of one-way feedback are sometimes replaced by sessions of multi-rater feedback and viewpoint exchanges. The main concepts here are 360-degree feedback and team briefings.

Evaluating an employee by combining various points of view—self-assessment, peer review, superior's feedback, and, in some cases, signals from external sources (customers, suppliers)—is called 360-degree feedback. This is not a traditional performance appraisal, but rather a process of dynamically reviewing the position of an individual in the organization. It appears that the most accurate feedback comes from people working together for one to three years (long enough to know the person well but not too long to make generalizations). This type of feedback works best when you use a form template with the appropriate indicators.

Team briefing is a good method to perform communication upward and downward in the organizational structure. It's based on face-to-face group meetings of four to 15 people, covering important topics. During a team briefing, staff can send any feedback and the leaders can answer their questions. It prevents rumors from gaining credibility and offers the opportunity to explore various points of the business strategy. Every team briefing has a written map and uses a specific form to gather observations and opinion. The form encourages participants to record relevant details, handle questions, and note comments. It also serves as an attendance record.

Which are the best practices in corporate feedback?

1. Use media-rich communication channels. People don't just receive information directly, as computers do. A complex mixture of signals must harmonize with the overall message—environmental conditions, tone of voice or the layout of written message, visual cues (e.g., gestures). Communication channels should capture most of these parallel signals. Media-rich channels reproduce a good amount of the information transmitted, ensuring the receiver fully understands the message. The richest medium is face-to face communication, but it's obviously impossible to have surveys via oral presentation. One of the most useful channels for feedback is email, including forms sent this way.

2. Combat communication barriers. Barriers in communication are a serious issue. Organizational barriers include the serial transmission effect (a message that is passed along a chain of emitters, with changes reflecting each of them, until it can't be recognized by the original sender) and so-called bypassing (different people having different understandings of the topic). Avoiding barriers calls for communication redundancy: repeating the main point in various places of the message, sending the message through multiple media, using appropriate grammar and a lot of synonyms surrounding the more difficult expressions. Last but not least, a familiar format will make the message clear, so use a written report instead of a video one, a classical form instead of an interview.

3. Rely on well-established form and survey templates. Self-awareness is not always an indicator of performance, and personal observation may fail to offer sufficient details for evaluating team members, so organized feedback serves as a reliable indicator for administrative decisions and developmental purposes. Feedback survey templates you can use include the employee exit interview, 360-degree feedback survey, career path survey, corporate climate study, corporate structure study, employee benefits survey, employee evaluation, management evaluation, team evaluation, and workplace safety study.

4. Make a habit of having periodic sessions of feedback. Creating systems that promote feedback, such as an official feedback form and an open-door environment, will encourage constructive suggestions. It may be necessary to find independent solutions and instruments for performing an assessment in order for the feedback to be unbiased and effective.

Laura Moisei is the brand manager at 123ContactForm online survey builder.

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