Employers have always recognised that in order to improve the performance of their business, they must be committed to improving the performance of their people. Part of this process is the provision of timely, objective and constructive feedback. Cubiks has seen the international popularity of 360 degree feedback tools steadily growing, and with this, organisations are striving to embed an open, encouraging feedback culture.
In order to grow in their roles and improve their performance, it is important that individuals recognise and acknowledge their development needs. Kristian Terp-Hansen, Managing Consultant at Cubiks Denmark explains, “People will only know what these areas are if they work in an environment in which they and their colleagues feel comfortable providing and receiving feedback. Creating such a culture is not an easy task and businesses face many challenges when implementing development initiatives.”
Cubiks interviewed a number of its clients about how they support employees to ensure that feedback discussions are productive and that all staff are confident and comfortable with the feedback process.
SITA NEWS (Benelux and Germany) provides services for waste and recycling collection and management and employs around 8,000 people. Cédric Degelaen, SITA NEWS’ Human Resources Development Manager told Cubiks that, like many organisations, the company has implemented several development processes that require comprehensive feedback to be effective.
“For all managers there is an annual formal appraisal, examining how far targets set in the previous year have been achieved. In addition to this, we carry out a ‘people review’ with about 200 top level managers, to assess them by comparison with the competency profile for their job role. The people review helps us identify high potentials who can then be invited to development centres to further explore their strengths and development needs.”
Many organisations deploy tools and processes such as 360 reviews for development, but the way in which they approach implementing these differs. “Many organisations place the responsibility on managers to assess their reports” says Kristian, “but further insight can be gained when individuals are encouraged to be self-critical as well.” By analysing their own performance in day-to-day life, individuals can gain self-awareness that is highly beneficial when it comes to personal development.
Leading provider of professional technology services, Sogeti has a workforce of more than 20,000 people across 15 countries. Marleen Kukler, HR Manager for Sogeti Netherlands explains that the company’s ethos focuses on employees continuously evaluating themselves in addition to the regular review process. Marleen says, “We provide an environment in which our people are encouraged to be self-critical. Employees are therefore aware of how their development needs change and they can request a discussion with their managers at any time.”
To ensure that this kind of strategy is successful, it is essential that a consistent approach and high standards are implemented throughout an organisation. Effective training plays a vital role when putting in place any development programme, particularly when there are diverse groups of employees spread across multiple locations.
Carlo Bertelegni is Organisation and Management Development Director at AGC Europe, a major producer of flat glass with 18 float glass plants and 14,000 staff throughout Europe. Carlo says that the company has implemented a range of sophisticated HR tools, but their main challenge is ensuring that line managers and HR are equipped with the necessary skills to manage candid feedback conversations with their people.
“At AGC Europe we have developed an online training to make sure that managers throughout our organisation are confident and capable when it comes to handling feedback discussions. We are further integrating this training with other mediums to offer a blended approach that inspires managers to engage with their reports in new ways.”
Recognising that it is important for individuals to understand the feedback process and take ownership of their personal development, AGC plans to open up this training to all employees next year. Carlo says, “Feedback is as much the responsibility of the individual as it is of the manager, so ensuring quality should be a shared ambition. This is why we are extending our feedback training to all employees, to make sure that everyone involved is able to get the most out of the process.”
Working to train all employees in handling feedback can help alleviate some of the common problems that occur in the process. Marleen says that enlightening individuals on both sides is important if you want to ensure that your staff are going to get the most from feedback discussions:
“It is always challenging for managers to give objective feedback and put aside their own preferences. On the other hand, it can be difficult for reviewees to accept and consider what their manager is discussing with them in an open-minded way and without becoming defensive. It is of course important that managers are trained in feedback delivery, but it is also vital that employees throughout the organisation understand their role in the process.”
While it is essential that individuals know what is expected of them in feedback discussions, it is equally important that they understand the significance and value of the process. This is particularly crucial for managers, who have other responsibilities that can often seem more immediate and pressing than the tasks involved with managing the people in their team.
Laurens Simonse, Managing Director of the Dutch employment, coaching and training agency Laurens Simonse Group (LSG) says that managers often have trouble finding time to facilitate feedback discussions. Laurens explains, “Working on new business can often become a more demanding concern than managing people internally and managers sometimes need some assistance with striking a balance between their responsibilities.”
LSG has implemented a development programme that provides managers with external coaching to help them improve their own performance and understand the value of providing high quality feedback discussions for their reports. Through this kind of initiative, the company can increase self-awareness in managers and train them to develop and apply the soft skills required to foster open feedback within their teams.
At the heart of facilitating a positive environment for feedback is ingraining a feedback culture at the roots of the organisation. HR can implement processes and provide training, but ultimately the best results come when these initiatives grow to be embedded within the culture of an organisation. Cédric explains that this has been a challenge for SITA NEWS, “We know that to effect cultural change, a prescriptive approach will not work. The change process has to be democratic; it needs to come from the managers themselves rather than us telling them what to do.”
Working cultures cannot be changed overnight, but with a persistent, long-term approach it is possible to gain buy in, raising awareness of the value of the feedback process on an individual as well as organisational level.
Kristian says, “Both managers and reports need to recognise the importance of the process as well as possessing the skills required to handle feedback conversations. On a more basic level, they must be able to manage their time effectively to give the feedback process the time it requires. When feedback becomes part of an organisation’s culture, it creates an encouraging environment for people to examine their performance, set themselves goals and strive to achieve them.”
Our thanks to the following people for their contributions to this article: