Can frequent feedback promote an efficient company culture?

Millennials are all about instant gratification in their personal lives. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, even texting, all result in immediate responses — I like this, she shared that, you commented on that. Or, as I’m sure we’ve all said, “I posted that hours ago. Only three likes?!” We’ve known since the advent of Snapchat (the first technology our little sister had to explain to us) that it was only a matter of time before this type of immediate feedback filtered into the workplace.

business_9As more and more millennials enter the workforce, we will all start noticing changes in the workplace towards immediate updates. Once millennials become CEOs, supervisors, and managers (a day that’s here in many companies), we will see more managers immediately providing feedback on projects, more interns asking for constructive feedback, and more new hires doing monthly, not bi-annual, check-ins. With these changes on the horizon, it’s a great time to take a look at how these changes will affect your company. The good news is, contrary to popular belief, this constant need to know “How am I doing?” actually promotes an extremely efficient work environment.

How Does Feedback Promote Efficiency?

Millennials’ constant need for gratification has begun to inspire a culture of frequent feedback within the workplace. Many employees are beginning to hear how they’re doing on a weekly or even daily basis. While this may seem like an increase in feedback time (and a decrease in working time, as a result), it actually significantly increases productivity and even improves company culture.

When employees receive frequent feedback, they’re better able to understand what is expected of them and apply themselves with better confidence to each task. They have more direction, better opportunities to ask questions, and are able to form stronger, more comfortable relationships with their coworkers and superiors through this frequent and constructive interaction. As Facebook’s Molly Graham put it, “It actually makes you faster. There’s a speed that comes from relationships.”1

It’s true; having comfortable relationships with your employees and coworkers means you can skip the cordial smalltalk. You can cut to the chase; if you’re swamped and need help, you can say that. If you have an idea, you can voice it. Familiarity and strong relationships diffuse corporate hierarchy and the formality that comes with it so you can get things done quickly.

Many successful corporations have come to the same conclusion. In 2011, Facebook, Inc. implemented an internal feedback system called Rypple that provides and solicits feedback in real time. Rypple allows each employee to provide feedback, track progress, and receive coaching from supervisors instantaneously. Rypple even offers a “thanks” feature, so employees can directly message each other about a job well done.

In 2012, Adobe created and adopted a similar system called Check-In, where employees receive and give feedback in real time and when requested by supervisors. When Check-In was introduced, ratings and rankings were abolished. Now, employees focus on professional progress without having to worry about corporate competition.

Instead of worrying if you’re doing as well as your cubicle-neighbor or if you’re being upstaged by the new guy, you can focus more on your own work and on collaborating with your former competitors. Programs like Rypple and Check-In save time and stress, increase productivity, promote efficiency, and improve company culture.

Why is This Important?

Frequent feedback means constructive criticism will improve work quality and that good work and effort will be lauded. Validation of a job well done, or even of just a job done, is a crucial part of creating not only an enjoyable company culture, but a successful one. Acknowledgement of work reinforces a good worth ethic and promotes a greater perception of meaning in each person’s work.

Behavioral Economist and Duke University professor Dan Ariely’s great TED Talk, What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?, discusses a study on how perceived meaning and acknowledgment of effort affects our work ethic. In his study, participants were split into three groups in which they were each paid the same small sum of money to perform a mundane task on paper.

Group 1’s papers were handed to the experimenter, who scanned them up and down, said “uh-huh,” and put them in a pile. Group 2’s papers did not have the participants’ names on them and were taken by the experimenter, not scanned, and merely put in a pile. Group 3’s papers, also unnamed, were handed to the experimenter, who immediately put them in a shredder in front of the participants. After each round of completion, each participant had the option to do it all again, this time for a slightly lesser sum. This continued until each participant had had enough.

What Ariely found is that participants whose work was acknowledged with visual scanning and a verbal “uh-huh” were willing to work for half the pay that participants whose work was shredded, even though they were all doing the same work. Additionally, participants whose work was ignored demonstrated similar work motivation as that of participants whose work was shredded.

So, I Should Look at Everyone’s Work?

As Ariely himself puts it, “There’s good news and bad news here. The bad news is that ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes….The good news is that by simply looking at something that somebody has done — scanning it and saying ‘uh-huh,’ — that seems to be quite sufficient to dramatically improve people’s motivations.”

Feedback matters. Negative feedback helps employees better understand tasks, avoid potential miscommunication or misalignment of priorities, and ultimately guides him in the right direction. Positive feedback leaves employees more satisfied with and confident in their work, and more content with working at their company.

Whether you’re the CEO, manager, supervisor, new hire, intern, or copy boy, you work with others. You collaborate on this project, seek feedback on that one, and give feedback on others. How you work with others and receive and give feedback can dramatically change your workplace culture and productivity.

If you’re a supervisor, try holding open hours one day a week for employees to pop in for feedback and to spitball an idea or two. If you’re a subordinate, try talking to your supervisors; ask them for a progress report. Tell them you want to make sure you’re doing the best that you can be doing. Hearing their feedback will either validate the great work you’re already doing, or tell you how you can improve it. Either way, more consistent feedback just might be the boost your company needs.

Let us know what feedback methods you use at your company! Here at Aspire we love to discuss any and all ways to improve workplaces. If you have a topic you’d like to discuss, a question you want to ask, or just feel like chatting, let us know by emailing us at hello@aspire.is or tweeting at us at @aspireperks!