Building a feedback culture in the workplace

By 2020, millennials will make up more than half of the entire workforce, while Generation Z will comprise more than one fifth, making these contingents the strongest force in shaping the future of the workplace.

Yet, only 30 percent of millennials receive feedback regarding their job performance, despite the fact that 72 percent of employees under age 30 would like to receive feedback on a daily or weekly basis, according to a PwC study. On the other hand, 66 percent of Gen Z needs feedback from their supervisor every few weeks to stay at their job, and 40 percent of those want an interaction with their boss to be daily or several times each day, according to the State of Gen Z Annual Research Study.

That’s why many of the global companies, such as Accenture, Amazon, Adobe, Deloitte, Google, Netflix, among others, have opted to adopt a “more fluid system, in which employees receive timely feedback from their managers on an ongoing basis following assignments,” instead of the lengthy annual performance reviews.

These highlight the need for managers to rethink how they give feedback to their team members. With the accelerating change and unpredictability taking place in the business environment, the workplace puts a premium on an organization’s ability to anticipate, adapt and act on change.

Hence, performance feedback is one of the essential tools any leader should utilize to quickly change the behavior of their employees for better job performance, and to build the alignment and trust that is needed to energize and empower their teams. And employees and business leaders are in agreement.

In our study of local organizations, practically all of employees and managers agree that employees improve their job performance when they receive feedback, may it be verbal or written, from their managers. But interestingly, half of the millennial and Gen Z employees receive feedback only twice a year, which is aligned to the traditional performance review cycles that happen in two semesters of the year; and less than a third of the employees receive at least one feedback from their managers per week.

Why is there a difference in how the younger generation employees perceive how they get feedback versus how managers give feedback? One reason is habit. Managers who are mostly Gen Xers are used to the traditional once or twice a year performance reviews where they give feedback to their employees. This was the norm in the 1980s and 1990s when the business environment was more stable and less competitive.

There is also lack of appreciation from managers on how frequent and regular feedback to their employees result in improved job performance. In fact, close to half of the managers in the organizations we studied said they find it difficult to find time in providing verbal and/or written feedback to their employees, and close to one-third do not give feedback to their employees during or after projects.

How we address this to create a feedback culture in organizations entails a four-step process of changing the behavior of managers.

First is training. This is where managers and employees are immersed in the what, why and how of providing performance feedback. Also, the need to build a trusting and open work environment should be imparted to the target participants.

Second is reminding. Drawing from concepts of the book The Power of Habit, to start changing behavior, there has to be cues or reminders that trigger the person to perform the desired behavior. A manager can use basic technology to put reminders in his or her calendar on when to give regular feedback to employees. But there are more already more advanced technologies that leverage on artificial intelligence to prompt manager and peer feedback based on who employees work with most often.

Third is monitoring. This is where methods are used to monitor whether managers are delivering honest, effective performance feedback to their subordinates.

Fourth is rewarding. This is where reward mechanisms are employed for managers to deliver honest and effective performance feedback to their teams.

These four steps will promote the habit of giving frequent feedback to employees, until it becomes a habit and ultimately part of the organization’s culture.

There’s a business case for building a feedback culture in organizations. A performance feedback culture has strong effects on organizational financial success in addition to other positive consequences, based on the recent study of the Institute for Corporate Productivity.

The author is the chief executive officer of Hungry Workhorse Consulting, a digital and culture transformation firm. He is the chairman of the Information and Communications Technology Committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at