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The Critical Value of Employee Feedback Loops

Posted on Sep 6th 2018

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The Critical Value of Employee Feedback Loops

In college auditorium settings, linear communication runs rampant.

The professor addresses the class in lecture format, dominating (if not entirely consuming) the available air time in that day's session.

There are a few reasons traditional education formats like the lecture hall are under fire:

  • It's easy to argue that physical presence isn't necessary if a student's participation in educational dialogue isn't possible. Traditional lectures, whether listened to in real-time or watched later from a remote location, aren't shaped by dialogue. So why carve out time to attend class physically when it doesn't impact the value they'd get from the content?
  • The method of learning most individuals respond to isn't one-way information handoff. Hands-on work, independent study, and group discussions consistently outperform lecture-style learning in information retention. These methods foster a critical skill that simple memorization doesn't: the ability to think critically, understand the why, deepen knowledge, and make informed opinions and decisions.

One-way information handoff isn't as effective as the alternative because of what it lacks: impactful feedback loops.

Feedback loops - the exchange of information, ideas, and feedback - are what enhances the learning process.

In most organizations, feedback loops exist between the company and the customer. Some are well-formed, others are not. But in most instances, they exist to some degree and allow the organization to better understand why their customers feel and engage the way they do.

Internal company feedback loops, however, are typically given far less consideration, and therefore, don't function nearly as well as they could.

Managers and leaders often share information in a linear format. "Here's what we're working towards." "These are our revenue goals." "This is what's happening and here's what we need to change."

These are obvious instances of linear communication in the workplace, but they're hardly the most common or the most detrimental.

"You failed to meet the requirements of the project, so I'm going to hand this off to someone else."

"You're not hitting your numbers, so here's how we're going to adjust goals."

"Great job, I'll take it from here."

I'll let sales know what we've decided to do so they can adjust their process."

These are all examples of instances where feedback loops have either broken down or been ignored.

It's common for employees, managers, and teams to leave linear interactions with differing perspectives on what really happened and why, what went well and what didn't, and what needs to happen next.

Here's what typically results:

"My manager asked me to do that, so I did."

"I don't know why our budget didn't get approved, we did everything we needed to."

"I didn't know I wasn't meeting performance standards."

A lack of clarity on "why" and "so what" are common in linear interactions where feedback loops should have been present. In many organizations, this breakdown manifests itself in blame, frustration, departments rifts, a lack of employee engagement, poor morale, and employee turnover.

Creating consistent feedback loops throughout your organization does more than make your people feel involved.

It can be the enormous difference between quick recovery from failure and the permanent loss of valuable people and dollars.