If “feedback is the breakfast of champions”, we’ll have a late lunch. As more companies choose to go virtual, there’s been increasing research on the positive value of feedback at work. Here at Solid Digital, we have a history of incorporating feedback into our internal processes and culture. We believe that though the results can’t be measured in a data point, the benefits are evident.
What does it mean to have a company culture of feedback?
In a workforce where only 16% of employees claim to feel connected to their employer, the record number of Americans currently leaving jobs suggests, in part, a deeper issue surrounding employer-employee engagement. The reality is all employees need ongoing guidance and encouragement to do the best job and feel the most valued. Yet many companies don’t prioritize employees in this way. Inconsistent, ambiguous feedback leaves them unsure of their work and afraid to speak up or take on new challenges. A lack of guidance prevents them from knowing how to prioritize or strategize their workflow. The result is a culture of egg-shell walking mediocrity, and these types of work cultures quickly dovetail with high turnover rates. The numbers show it: globally, companies spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on high turnover rates and low-quality work.
At Solid Digital, we believe in pursuing the very best ideas far and above operating by any sort of company agenda. This philosophy hinges on a culture of feedback, in which every team member feels emboldened to give and receive honest advice, whether with a coworker or client. This standard of communication creates a “positive feedback loop,” where collaborators can go back and forth on project ideas without hurting egos; employees can feel supported by thoughtful, effective coaching that actually helps them grow, and ultimately each person at our agency holds a personal stake in building others up and pushing them to be better. It comes down to this weird thing we have about wanting our team members to stick around.
Benefits of a culture of feedback
A successful culture of feedback promotes curiosity, learning, and action. A team that is comfortable speaking to each other honestly and supportively works better together, is unafraid to push each other or ideas, and benefits from a wealth of contributing minds doing far better work than any one of us could alone. Feedback also encourages a trial-and-error learning model: team members feel unafraid to try new challenges, get helpful feedback, and sharpen existing skills and/or learn new ones.
This culture only works when it’s modeled from the top down. We treat transparent, constructive communication between managers and employees as a must. Our goal is for employees to feel just as comfortable bringing real concerns and feedback to their manager as they feel confident the manager will play a role in their growth. It also brings about the added benefit of interdepartmental cohesion. Our team members proactively forge bonds with people from other departments and, in doing so, gain insight into their work responsibilities. The result is a company-wide nexus of heightened respect for the different hands everyone has in our success.
How do we incorporate feedback into the Solid Digital culture?
Codifying honest feedback starts with solidifying one-to-one channels of communication. Everyone at our agency has a weekly meeting with their manager, where we touch base on the following questions: 1. What’s keeping you up at night? 2. What should we keep doing? 3. What should we stop doing? 4. What should we start doing?
For our employees as well as managers, these meetings are a consistent, personalized tool for gauging well-being, checking in on projects, and simply staying connected. Employees can feel assured that they will receive attentive support and coaching for every week of work, and our leadership can use a more frequent source of employee feedback – whether a concern or a new process idea – to strengthen the agency.
The frequency of these meetings also strengthens our quarterly coaching sessions, where the manager has a conversation with the team member about strengths, opportunities, and recommendations from across the previous quarter. Because the manager and team member have already been meeting regularly, these coaching sessions are streamlined to be effective, open discussions, where both parties can review questions, comments, and concerns they’re familiar with from their weekly meetings.
Public feedback offers a crucial opportunity to build appreciation and social harmony and promotes the multi-faceted benefits of recognition. The first is tried and true: people deserve to be recognized for hard, good work. When they are, they feel encouraged to grow and do an even better job. But when you also encourage your team members to recognize each other for a job well done, you create a culture with people just as invested in others’ success as they are their own.
A little-known basketball coach named John Wooden once said, “It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.” We find this to be true, too. Our bi-weekly team meetings always start with what we call “good news.” Team members get the opportunity to recognize others for living up to our company values: Honest Guidance, Dependable Service, Thoughtful Collaboration, and/or Creative Craftsmanship. We complete each quarter with a Recognition Award Nomination, where our employees nominate a coworker and describe how that person has exemplified the company values throughout the quarter. Bigger than any award, this type of employee-to-employee recognition leads to everyone rooting for those next to them rather than themselves.
Recent times have not only forced us to virtualize business operations but retool our feedback strategies to be “virtual-friendly.” Fortunately, having multiple locations prior to the pandemic meant we had already instilled our values of honest guidance and positive feedback across more than one office, allowing for fewer bumps. One of our favorite examples is our high-5 Slack app. Jesse McCabe, our CEO, took the classic high-five and made it Slack-friendly. It’s a quick, fun, and public way to recognize someone for their hard work, dedication, or extra effort. Even though we don’t have the largest team, we typically don’t go two days without somebody posting high-five recognition for someone else.
We like to think of ourselves as a growth company here at Solid Digital, but not merely in the traditional sense. The link between receiving guidance and feedback in the workplace and employee fulfillment, productivity, and retention has long been clear. An employee who appreciates their coworkers, superiors, and responsibilities will feel excitement overseeing their own professional growth aligned with that of the company. As we continue to operate by our “forever virtual” business model – and effective communication reigns as important as ever – we’re excited to keep honing our culture of feedback so our agency is always the kind of place where our team members can take part in our company growth as well as their own.