Fostering Feedback Culture. Tips for Cultivating Open Communication at Work

One of the pillars of an effective feedback culture is open communication. It is only through open communication that honest, clear, and objective feedback is made possible. The presence of an effective feedback culture allows employees to develop and progress in their careers.

Unfortunately, organizations often overlook the significance of feedback culture, with 33% of employees citing the lack of honest and open communication as having the most negative effect on morale (and other benefits). Luckily, cultivating open communication at work isn’t as difficult as it seems, but it will need the full support of HR management along with the rest of the organization’s leadership.

Why Is Open Communication Important?

An organization with open communication experiences several benefits that impact the objectives of effective HR and overall business performance. Some of these benefits include:

Increased engagement. Open communication’s power lies in connecting people. When goals are aligned and managers understand the employee’s motivations, employees become more engaged and productive in the workplace, which can lead to a 21% profitability increase.

Lower attrition rate. Open communication and feedback culture go hand in hand. When employees receive feedback that can help them improve and develop, they’re able to achieve their goals and career aspirations, leading to improved job satisfaction. Plus when employees are satisfied in the workplace, the attrition rate can decrease by 50%.

Creates a positive work environment. Teamwork is built on open communication. When employees are comfortable communicating openly, they have a good understanding of their roles and what’s expected of them. It then becomes much easier to manage conflict, collaborate, and be creative in finding solutions to challenges.

Tips to Cultivate Open Communication

For feedback culture to become part of an organization’s identity, it requires HR Managers and other leaders to promote and cultivate open communication in the workplace. You won’t find it happening overnight but implementing these tips can help you get where you want to be.

1. Nurture a growth mindset

Employees with a growth mindset thrive in open communication and welcome feedback. They understand that feedback is an essential nutrient that nourishes growth and development, and therefore use it to improve their skills and performance in pursuit of their goals. 

HR Managers can nurture this growth mindset through the following:

  • Recruitment process. Actively seek candidates that have displayed the willingness to learn, rebounding from failures, and other behaviors that manifest their initiative for growth.
  • Learning and development programs. Professional training, whether in-house or external, also offers opportunities for employees to learn and gain new skills that improve performance and prepare them for the next stage of their career. It’s also a means of attracting talent, with 42% of millennials saying learning and development opportunities are major factors when looking for job opportunities.
  • Rewards and recognition. Appreciating employees who communicate openly and invest in their growth can motivate and inspire others to do the same. 

2. Provide proper training

The communication skills required in giving and receiving feedback are not built-in and need to be learned. And make no mistake — it can be challenging. It’s human nature to feel great about communicating positive feedback, but it becomes challenging when it’s something negative. For feedback to be an enabler of growth, communication has to be honest, objective, and constructive to avoid it becoming a personal attack and hurting others’ feelings.

So make it a part of the training within your learning and development programs; however don’t let the learning stop there. It should be continuously practiced in daily operations to allow employees to become more adept and comfortable with communicating feedback.

3. Be transparent

Transparency propagates openness. By being transparent with the company’s goals, strategies, and purpose, employees gain a better understanding of what they’re working for. It also lets them align their own beliefs or goals with the organization, and the more aligned they are, the more productive and engaged they become.

This creates trust between employees and management, carving an easy path towards open communication, not just in the aspect of feedback but also for collaboration, generating ideas, and sharing experiences that can improve teamwork and create a positive work environment.

4. Lead by example

In a study, 65% of employees choose leadership by influence — a statistic that highlights the impact leaders have on their employees. It is well established that leadership should set the example for any expected behavior an organization wants its people to adapt. If employees are expected to communicate openly, they should experience it firsthand from their managers and leaders.

When executives, HR Managers, and the rest of management communicate openly and hold themselves accountable for their actions, it sends a message to employees that they value open communication and feedback and are willing to listen in the interest of bettering themselves.

5. Create a safe environment

A safe environment is essential to cultivate open communication, and it starts with trust. Aside from transparency, HR Managers and other leaders can build trust in different ways, such as: 

  • Demonstrating respect. When speaking with employees, give them your full attention. Display positive body language, put away distractions, and listen intently to gain a better understanding of what they’re trying to say.
  • Being approachable. Open communication isn’t possible if you’re not approachable. Emotions need to be controlled to encourage employees to open up and feel safe in the workplace.
  • Keeping it confidential. Some feedback or concerns should be kept confidential. Doing this demonstrates how you can be trusted and will make employees feel safe and comfortable to open up about serious issues without fear of retaliation or gossip.

Having this kind of trust and accountability benefits the organization beyond feedback culture. According to Harvard Business Review, high-trust companies experience 106% more energy at work and 50% more productivity,

6. Use multiple communication channels

People have different communication preferences that they’re most comfortable with. Some are good at verbal communication, while others may prefer to write things down. This makes it imperative to have multiple communication channels, especially when giving or receiving feedback.

Anonymous, online, 360-degree feedback, and written are just a few examples of different feedback channels that organizations employ. By being flexible, it becomes more encouraging for employees to communicate, and this brings you closer to the culture you’re trying to achieve.

7. Communicate regularly

Before feedback becomes ingrained as part of organizational culture, employees first need to form the habit of open communication. This will only happen if it’s habitually done.

The more employees communicate, the more comfortable and confident they become. Managers can do this by making it part of their daily operational procedures. Encourage employees to speak up or ask questions during meetings, ask for ideas when faced with problems, ask a lot of questions during one-on-one meetings, and others.

When it comes to developing open communication, there’s no such thing as over-communicating. By making open communication the norm, it becomes a habit that will foster feedback culture.

– Carlos Acosta

Looking to foster feedback culture in your organization? Let The QualiFind Group help you create strategies to cultivate open communication in your organization. With our decades-long experience in talent management and organizational development, our hands-on approach has helped countless clients find solutions to their organizational challenges to foster the culture they want to establish.