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Feedback Unplugged: Is it Time to Reinvent Traditional Approaches for Modern Workplaces?

19 min read

reinvent feedback in the workplaces

According to a Gallup survey, companies that conduct regular feedback witness 14.9% lower turnover rates than other firms. If you find this statement hard to believe, here is a short instance of a company that made it a reality.

During the early 2010s, Adobe Systems took a revolutionary approach to their feedback system by introducing the ‘Check-in system. This feedback system helped drive productivity and reduce its top talent attrition tremendously.

Unlike the traditional system, the new system promoted frequent one-on-one conversations between managers and employees, helping the employees understand their performance gaps and work on them immediately rather than waiting for year-end performance feedback.

Another notable feature was the establishment of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time) goals for every individual, assisting them in tracking the alignment of their efforts against the organizational goals. Managers also supported their team member’s professional development and growth by discussing their career aspirations and growth trajectories.

The results of this system were remarkable. The company created a vibrant and inclusive culture, increasing overall employment satisfaction levels and reducing the employee turnover rates. Employees felt supported and dedicated to achieving strategic objectives and sustaining the organization’s long-term growth.

This example demonstrates the impact of adopting a continuous and effective feedback system in the daily functioning of the organization, acting as a catalyst to improve employee performance, satisfaction, and loyalty.

Unmasking the high cost of disengaged employees 

Employee disengagement is a silent killer of productivity and profitability in organizations. It’s a problem that cannot be ignored if we seek to build a thriving and successful company.”

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group

Find it hard to believe? 

Lost productivity resulting from employee disengagement costs businesses around $3,400 to $10,000 annually, states an economy survey. It also negatively impacts customer relationships eventually and damages the company’s brand image, states the same report. 

Disengaged employees feel disconnected from their daily work, losing connection with the organizational objectives and goals. 

They negatively impact the organization in the following ways: 

  • Decrease in overall organizational productivity. 
  • Reduce the team dynamics with frequent absenteeism. 
  • Loss of hiring and training costs due to increased attrition. 
  • Irreparable damage to brand reputation in the long run, as disengaged employees lead to disengaged customers. 
  • Blow to workplace culture and morale due to fast-spreading negativity. 

All these seem like a few dreadful problems. The solution appears far-fetched, but it is the only way forward. 

A well-structured feedback mechanism can be one of the best and most powerful tools to address employee problems and reduce the levels of disengagement. 

Here’s how it helps organizations: 

  • Identification of potential issues: 

Regular conversation with the employees helps managers identify the early signs of disengagement. Symptoms like frustration, confusion, and lack of enthusiasm lead to proactive steps that minimize their adverse impact. 

  • Personalized assistance: 

Feedback sessions allow managers to comprehensively understand the employee’s needs, strengths, and performance gaps. By providing personalized feedback and development opportunities, they feel valued and engaged. 

  • Growth and development opportunities:  

Constructive feedback sessions with the managers help employees identify their career goals and aspirations. A clear career progression path improves employee engagement and retention. 

  • Addressing concerns: 

Employees find it easier to share their problems and challenges in the workplace with managers when they communicate regularly. This also increases their trust and confidence in the management. 

  • Alignment of individual and organizational goals: 

These discussions can also help ensure a better alignment of goals, as when employees see the real-time impact of their overall efforts, they are more likely to feel motivated to achieve the goals. 

In short, an effective feedback system provides a platform for open communication, personalized support, and growth opportunities that help undo the substantial cost of disengaged employees. 

From conflict to collaboration: Can empathy be the key? 

What is an empathetic feedback culture? 

Before answering this, it’s essential for a manager to know the various types of feedback and choose the one that best serves the organization’s interest.  

There are several types of feedback. The most common ones are as follows: 

  • Appreciation feedback: Positive feedback that recognizes the employee’s efforts and accomplishments, this helps in encouraging them. 
  • Guidance feedback: Constructive feedback that offers specific advice, suggestions, or recommendations for improvement, helping individuals understand their flaws. 
  • Encouragement feedback: Supportive feedback that motivates employees to continue their efforts during challenging times, building resilience and confidence. 
  • Coaching feedback: It stresses the long-term development of employees, providing personalized guidance to aid in reaching their full potential. 
  • Forward-looking feedback: They help see the future growth and development of employees and assist in achieving the desired outcomes and results. 

These feedback types are often used depending on various scenarios and contribute to creating a well-rounded and supportive feedback culture. 

Now delving back into the question, revisiting the example of Adobe’s Check-in System, they placed significant emphasis on open two-way communication. A culture of this ensures the managers provide constructive feedback while actively listening to their concerns, ideas, and aspirations. When employees are heard, it creates a sense of psychological safety and trust, promoting job satisfaction and organizational commitment. This is an empathetic feedback culture. 

But why an empathetic feedback culture? 

The importance of an empathetic feedback culture is as follows:

Trust and psychological safety: When employees are heard and understood, they share their ideas, concerns, and aspirations openly without fear of judgment.

Conflict resolution: Adding empathy to conflict resolution minimizes the escalation and encourages collaboration to find mutually beneficial solutions.

Improved productivity: This provides constructive guidance that helps employees develop skills and competencies to improve their productivity. All of this helps enhance the employee’s professional growth and career progression.

Employee retention: Employees are likely to continue in an organization that allows them to communicate openly and invest in their career growth.

Now, if you are convinced that empathetic feedback culture is the right foot forward, here are a few tips to build and sustain an empathetic feedback culture: 

  • Training and education: Teach the managers the best ways to express their thoughts and feelings with a pinch of empathy and actively listen to their subordinates. 
  • Leading the way by example: Leaders should demonstrate empathy in their daily interactions to encourage the managers to follow it. 
  • Creating safe spaces: Building a culture encouraging honest and open communication makes it easier for employees to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without the fear of retaliation. 
  • Encouraging peer-to-peer feedback: Employees should be motivated to exchange daily feedback from colleagues to reinforce strong team support among team members. 
  • Feedback loops and surveys: Implementing feedback loops and surveys to gather insights on the system’s effectiveness and facilitate continuous improvement. 

trust, support, understandind and communication

Is your feedback nurturing growth or inflicting wound? 

Managers are often left puzzled about what mistakes they make while giving feedback. While building an empathetic feedback culture is the right foot forward. Most managers need some impetus to help them figure out their primary mistakes while giving proper feedback. 

Let’s figure out the tiny points often overlooked by managers with an example. 

TechTribe is a leader of the market in tech space. They trampled the competition with their innovative products and culture that nestled on an empathetic feedback mechanism. At the heart of their team was Alisha, their product team leader, who led her team with an empathetic approach and nurtured the team with her constructive feedback. Two new employees, Rajesh, and Sandeep joined the team as product team leaders. Rajesh believed in being brutally honest while giving feedback, while Sandeep loved to sugar-coat to protect people’s feelings.  

Once while sipping coffee at the cafeteria, Rajesh, Alisha, and Sandeep overheard a conversation between two of their subordinates. Alisha approached her teammate, “Hey Jake, I appreciate your hard work and dedication towards our latest project. Let’s catch up for a quick meeting in the second half to discuss your areas of improvement, so we can achieve even better results the next time.” Hearing this, Sandeep said, “Hey Simran, don’t worry, you are doing amazing work, we all make mistakes, don’t be derailed by such tiny silly mistakes. Continue your good work!” 

In this scenario, Jake appreciated the empathetic and collaborative nature of Alisha. But Simran was left puzzled, having no clue about the mistakes she was making.  

Over time, the TechTribe team handled multiple high-stake projects. As usual, Alisha’s team outshone the others and achieved all their targets. Sandeep’s team faced challenges in identifying their mistakes due to his vague praises, and Rajesh’s team was left demoralized due to his harsh criticisms. 

So, what were the key takeaways from this tale? 

Distinguishing between good and bad feedback: 

  • Good feedback is constructive, focused on specific behaviors, and provides actionable strategies. 
  • Bad feedback makes personal attacks on the individual’s intent and character, is vague, and lacks empathy. 

do and dont of feedback

What are the common mistakes managers often make? 

  • Public feedback humiliates employees, damages their trust, and demotivates them. 
  • Not offering clear solutions makes the employee feel helpless and without guidance. 
  • Harsh language degrades the level of trust and respect in the feedback process and often leads to employees misunderstanding the real intentions of the managers. 
  • Overlooking positive leads to unbalanced feedback that damages the integrity of the feedback giver.

Instances of negative consequences

  • Max’s Brutal Honesty approach demotivated his team, hindering fresh ideas, collaboration, and productivity.
  • Olivia’s Sugar-Coated Approach made it difficult for her team to identify areas of growth and improvement, leading to their stagnation.

Thus, the tale of the two faces of feedback highlights the true potential and nature of empathetic feedback in empowering employees and driving a company’s productivity. By distinguishing between good and bad feedback and avoiding common mistakes, managers can foster a culture of empathy and constructive feedback, building trust and productivity within the organization. 

How to craft feedback that fuels motivation? 

As a manager, the primary responsibility of driving the team to success rests within you, and motivational feedback sessions are one of the best and easiest ways to do so.  

Crafting effective feedback is an art and not everyone is an artist. So, here are a few tips to help you make your next feedback sessions truly motivational: 

  • Be specific: Specific instances of the employee’s positive accomplishments add credibility and additional impact to the feedback. 
  • Timeliness: Give feedback on time, as delaying it further lessens its relevance and effectiveness. 
  • Use positive language: Frame feedback in a way that praises the receiver’s accomplishments, promoting a feeling of mutual respect and achievement. 
  • Focus on behavior and effort: Concentrate on the employee’s hard work and effort rather than character and personality traits. 
  • Encourage growth with empathy and understanding: Acknowledge the challenges the employees face. Then, tie the feedback to future growth and development opportunities to encourage them to continue their efforts. 

The basic guidelines for writing or giving effective feedback are clear. Let’s delve deeper into understanding the two most powerful techniques for crafting feedback that influence Gen Z employees: 

  1. STAR Technique for Constructive Feedback 
  2. SWOT Analysis for Feedback 

1. What is the STAR technique for effective feedback? 

The STAR technique is a structured approach managers use to create effective feedback. Here it stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.  

For instance, Sakshi, the Marketing Head, gave feedback to Sanaya, a marketing executive using the technique. 

Situation: Sanaya was assigned to lead a high-profile marketing campaign for a new feature launch. 

Task: Her task was to create a comprehensive marketing strategy and coordinate with the sales team to execute the campaign. 

Action: She conducted market research to identify the target audience, developed engaging content for them, and collaborated with the design team to create catchy visuals. She also worked closely with the sales team to ensure the alignment of various activities. 

Result: The marketing campaign was a resounding success, and the feature launch generated a tremendous increase in leads, resulting in record-breaking sales figures. 

FEEDBACK (Using the technique): “Sanaya, I commend you on your exceptional success during our recent feature launch campaign. You conducted thorough market research that helped us identify our target audience. Your leadership and collaboration skills were commendable, as you effectively communicated with various departments to successfully execute all the initiatives. Your dedication and commitment helped us to achieve record-breaking sales figures, and I believe it will motivate all your counterparts to drive such projects in the future. And I can’t wait to hand you many such significant opportunities in the future.” 

2. How do you use SWOT analysis to give effective feedback? 

SWOT Analysis is also quite effective in giving engaging feedback to employees.  

Consider this example, Ram, the team lead, is giving feedback to Akshay, one of his project managers. 

Strengths: Akshay is well known for his exceptional communication and organizational skills. 

Weaknesses: Akshay struggles while delegating his tasks and often takes up too much responsibility and stress on himself. 

Opportunities: He has the potential to guide his junior team members in the right direction with his excellent communication skills. 

Threats: If Akshay continues to take the maximum burden on himself, he may experience burnout soon and miss the opportunity to enhance additional skills and competencies. 

FEEDBACK (Using the technique): “Akshay, your communication and organizational skills were quite instrumental in nudging the project toward the right direction. But I have noticed that you tend to take on a lot of additional tasks, which are sometimes overwhelming. By delegating a few tasks to capable team members, you can free up some of your time and mentor junior team members in developing project management skills. I believe this will improve your team’s overall performance and create a sustainable work environment for you and the team.” 

Thus, these two techniques present the managers with an all-rounded, personalized, and customizable approach to feedback that fosters a culture of growth and development in the organization. 

Are you ready to build a future-proof feedback culture? 

Organizations today are heading towards a constructive feedback model that complements the fast-paced and technology-driven nature of their workplace. To unlock the true potential of their employees they must use feedback as a catalyst and create office spaces where they feel motivated, engaged, and empowered. 

Keka’s continuous feedback system is the perfect ingredient to fuel this journey. This system not only allows managers to offer timely praise and recognize employees’ accomplishments, but it also facilitates seamless one-on-one meetings, helping them deliver impactful and motivational feedback that aids in employees’ overall growth and development. Start your technology-driven feedback journey today. Book a free demo! 

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    Meet the author

    Anwesha Panja

    Content Writer

    Anwesha Panja is a Content Writer at Keka Technologies. She has a passion for crafting captivating pieces around the latest HR trends. With a love for mysterious and spine-tingling things, she spends her free time exploring haunted locations. She is also a bookworm and an avid Sherlock fan.


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