I don't use the term "culture" very often when I talk about work. I think communities, not CEOs, are responsible for art, science, and the manifestation of human intellectual achievement.
A lot of people disagree with me, but I think what you have at work is a shape-shifting ecosystem of behaviors and micro-interactions that vary based on geography, visibility, and proximity to corporate power and money. You're either with me or you're not and that's okay.
One thing we can agree on is human resources professionals are taught that culture starts at the top and nothing changes unless you gain leadership buy-in. I've come to believe leaders who do good things can inspire healthy behavior throughout an entire organization. But influential workers at the local level wield a tremendous amount of control over things like morale, engagement, and team cohesiveness.
So, let's agree on two things: it's important for senior-level leaders to inspire the workforce and it's important for local employees – including HR professionals – to follow best-in-class recommendations.
Instilling a culture of feedback helps employees feel valued and builds trust in work relationships. Feedback can't just happen during those twice-a-year performance reviews. Ongoing, informal and candid conversations between employees and supervisors will yield tremendous results that improve productivity and efficiencies in the workforce.
I'm ready to drop the semantics around the word "culture" and strive to create a work environment where feedback is encouraged and reciprocated.
Here are a few practical ways to create a culture of feedback in your company:
Creating a healthy organizational culture is the challenge of a lifetime. People like Sheryl Sandberg and Richard Branson have dedicated their lives to building cohesive workforces that are trustworthy, respectful and compassionate.
Instead of drafting an HR manifesto on culture, start small. Take the 30-day feedback challenge and create a goal of improving employee engagement within HR. Teach your team how to give and receive feedback, and measure the impact your efforts have on engagement scores and morale in your HR department. Then move forward and build on the lessons you've learned with other teams.
Model good behavior
The best way to instill change is to model the change you want to see in the organization. I've worked in HR for over twenty years and I know our leaders are notorious for not always accepting feedback with good intent. Go ask your colleagues outside of HR for specific feedback. Be open to constructive criticism and ask for examples of how you can improve as a human resources leader. And, when the conversation is over, never underestimate the power of a thank you note from HR to an employee.
The biggest barrier to creating a culture of feedback is the wall we put between people when we assign them a rank and serial number at work. While job titles are important, they're often intimidating and scary. Use your employee intranet or company newsletter to highlight examples of senior leaders giving and receiving feedback to local workers. Tell a positive story of growth and trust. Reinforce the positives behind the experience and show how feedback can be given throughout the organization without fear of retribution.
Call in the experts
Finally, creating a culture of feedback is serious stuff. You may not have the expertise within your HR department to begin this journey. My advice is simple: you're not alone. Call in reinforcements from experts like consultants, professional associations or vendors you can partner with to get case studies and insights from other organizations who have been on your very same journey.
Creating a culture of feedback is a worthy goal. You have to start somewhere and I hope you have the courage to start with your own team and build upon your successes.