Our learnings from changing the feedback culture

  • Zahida Huber

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Last november we started a pilot project where a group of people committed themselves to give and get more feedback over a period of four months. Here are our learnings and the next steps we will implement.

“I started looking at feedback as an art, a skill to develop, and I now feel "officially" supported by Liip in spending time giving/receiving it.” François Bruneau

It takes a committed and organised team to pull something off

The organisers each committed to spend half a day for this project. Of course it turned out to be more. We organised trainings, answered questions, evaluated tools, reported bugs, led interviews, prepared newsletters and a talk. We organised ourselves in roles and each of us took responsibility for specific topics. Short reviews of what went well and what didn’t are totally worth their time.

Going with volunteers had pro’s and con’s

We asked for volunteers because we wanted to find people who cared about feedback. It was great to see how many volunteered and it gave us the safety of working on a topic that is important for the company. For the participants it would have been easier giving feedback to people who are open for it. But with volunteers in different locations all over switzerland this was not possible.

Offering a feedback training paid off greatly and is now offered company wide

We invited Marion Walz as a coach to give feedback trainings (one of many things I learned from Jurgen Appelo’s book “How to change the world”). More than thirty participants attended. Many told me that they had a better understanding on feedback mechanics, received inputs on how to formulate feedback and how to deal with feedback situations. The trainings gave a much better learning experience than any of the videos or reading material that we provided. We already organised more trainings for the whole company and will continue to do so.

“After the feedback training yesterday I managed to overcome my obstacles of giving difficult feedback and gave some. And it was amazing for all involved.” Michelle Sanver

Asking regularly about progress and obstacles helped us to take decisions

At the end of the pilot we decided if it’s worth spending more time on the topic and in what to invest next. To back this decision with data and to have regular feedback from the participants, we sent out a survey every couple of weeks and had detailed interviews with some of them.
In the first month the participants made remarkable progress, experimented, set goals and the motivation was high. Over time the engagement started sinking. We could identify which participants profited and stayed engaged, and what challenges were still unsolved.
Next time I would care more about how to visualise the data to make it easily accessible for everybody.

Participants who worked with a mentor made visible progress

Unsurprisingly “no time” was one of the main reasons for not giving feedback. Many participants didn’t or couldn’t take time to reflect on themselves or others.
The group of people who chose to work with a mentor took this time regularly and kept it going. The advice from their mentors had a great impact on their progress and their goals that would have stagnated otherwise. Nadja Perroulaz will implement mentoring company wide this year, yay!

“I could solve two rather big problems in current projects with the help of a mentor which was a big success for me. I also asked somebody for a one-time mentoring for a specific question where I benefited a lot. I really appreciate the chance of being able to discuss challenges with a mentor and get feedback from an outer perspective.” Simone Wegelin

We do not need a tool to deliver feedback

We offered Leapsome to our participants as a tool to give and request feedback and monitor progress. After an initial peak when everybody tested the tool, we only counted two feedbacks per week. Most participants preferred to give feedback face to face and said that they don’t need a tool at all. Some would like to manage their feedbacks, keep track of what they have given, received or learned, but not with Leaspsome. For now we are continuing without a tool.

“I'm sure now the tools or the methodology is not the big issue, but rigor about actually doing it is. And this doesn't apply only to me ':)” Valentin Delley

Given feedbacks had an impact and led to changes and learning

A few people took the time and shared compliments or gave difficult or critical feedback to other Liiper. Not all of them went well, some people overreacted or just ignored the feedback. But mostly the feedback did lead to change the receiver and they were grateful for it.

“Before the pilot, I wasn’t sharing when somebody did a good job, I always thought that somebody else will maybe do it. Expressing it now makes the interaction more valuable and precious with this person.” Raphaël Santos

“I gave two critical feedbacks, both hard to give and to receive, but they had a tremendous impact. My learning: if there is a problem, go talk to the person instead of ignoring the person.” Thomas Botton

How might we reach a critical mass of Liiper who address issues directly and timely?

However, many Liiper don’t address their issues. Offering support, addressing conflicts or sharing compliments are often forgotten or avoided. For a lot of people it is still easier to ignore these issues instead of addressing them. We picked this as our next challenge to work on.
Christina Henkel, Christian Stocker, Martin Meier, Rita Barracha and Simone Wegelin gave their time and energy to come up with ideas on how to solve this. Jake Knapp’s book “Sprint” was a great help in this process. We will test and implement three winner ideas.

Feedback champions across teams and locations

We will recruit interested Liiper, who want to encourage feedback in their teams and locations and help to keep the culture alive. We will offer actionable activities for them, that are easy to do it beside everyday work.

A team budget for feedback

We will provide budget to teams which they are expected and encouraged to spend on giving feedback and increasing their feedback culture.

The feedback trophy

We are producing and testing a trophy, which can be placed on a colleagues desk. This colleague has to give feedback to somebody of their choice within a week and pass on the trophy. A history displays the given feedbacks.

How about you?

How do you handle feedback in your company? Do you face similar challenges or completely different ones? I’d love to hear from you at zahida.huber@liip.ch

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