Start A Culture Change With Feedback [reblogged from impraise]

Reblogged from our friends at impraise. Written by Andrea Hak.


Every company has their own unique culture. Whether positive or negative, company culture is a set of norms, beliefs, values and vision that define how employees and managers interact within an organization. Whether you have a preset list of company values or not your company has its own culture. The question is how you can shape your company’s culture to fit new norms and objectives you’d like to see in your company?

A 2015 study by Deloitte University Press found that 87% of the organizations surveyed cited culture and employee engagement as their top challenges. This is because the two are inherently linked. Your company’s culture plays a major factor in employee engagement and how potential hires perceive your company. For example, Ben and Jerry’s is known for its environmentally friendly culture with managers and employees regularly taking place in environmental activism and composting projects. A new hire at this company would know better than to try throwing a can of coke into the wrong bin. Wall Street companies are known for their competitive nature, if you’re not ready to work 14 hour days you won’t apply.

Sometimes you simply want to update your company’s practices to make it more competitive, as Microsoft experienced when it broke with its much loathed sack ranking system. Other times toxic behaviors need to be rooted out through a complete culture transformation. ANZ Banking Group is now realizing this in light of its Wolf of Wall Street style culture being revealed. One study showed that 96% of companies think they need a culture change. Having an open honest environment is one of the most sought after attributes of a great company and this can be achieved by instituting a feedback culture. Not only does it help achieve better communication, but feedback can also help you to more easily adopt and institutionalize other norms into your company culture.

Borrowing from International Relations Theory, Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink describe three stages of the norm life cycle: norm emergence; acceptance; internalization. The actions you will be taking this month will help set the stage for the emergence of a new feedback norm, setting you on the path to acceptance and internalization.

Norm Emergence

  • During this stage communication is key. As your company’s norm entrepreneur, it’s important that you start off by calling attention to the issue you want to change by using the appropriate language and and interpretation, known as a process called ‘framing’.
  • Norm entrepreneurs must start off by convincing norm leaders to embrace the new norm. These norm leaders will play a critical role in communicating your vision and then acting as ambassadors for change within your organization.
  • Stage one and two are divided by a tipping point in which a critical mass of people begin to adopt the new norm.

Now that we have the basic steps for creating and introducing new norms, we spoke with Anna Carroll, executive coach, organizational consultant and author of The Feedback Imperative: How to Give Everyday Feedback and Speed Up Your Company’s Success to bring you her expert insights on the best way to introduce a feedback culture into your company:

Get started on the right track with your feedback fitness plan

Discuss your plans for a feedback culture change thoroughly among key stakeholders and executives. Gain their clear commitment, as you want the changes you are implementing to be in full alignment with the company’s goals and values.  For instance, your company may aspire to open communication, transparency, and developing all employees. Continuous feedback is congruent with all of these values.

Acknowledge and make public the results of your employee survey. [ed: highlight the instances of ethical leadership and long term thinking] Summarize the data you received and highlight the key needs and desires expressed by most employees. For instance, you may hear that employees rarely or never receive feedback or coaching on their work throughout the year. You may hear that some bosses are harshly critical and demotivating. 

In an email–preferably from the CEO–and in group meetings, communicate the survey findings and your organization’s plans for creating a continuous feedback culture throughout the next year. Explain the benefits, steps, and tools in simple terms. Because this represents a significant change, make sure to do this in real-time conversations (face-to-face, phone, or Skype) after the email. Answer questions patiently and be ready to repeat this kind of communication as frequently as needed.

[ed: For more on developing a feedback culture, see this video from our Ethics By Design 2016 plenary on Beyond Carrots and Sticks: Encouraging a speak up culture]