The Importance of Feedback
We’ve always valued feedback at Cronofy.
Wait, let me start again.
We’ve always valued honest, candid 360 feedback at Cronofy. As a business that works remotely, the quality of our communication is super important. Equally, we want to know from our peers and colleagues what we can be doing better, and how we can improve. Truth is a core Principle, and no matter how difficult it can be to give, we endeavour to provide it - to each other, to our managers, to our customers.
But there’s always room for improvement right? I started this year with an aim to improve the quality of feedback across the organisation. Here’s what we’ve always done in the past:
For each review (once every 6 months) there is a 360 feedback section. Everyone goes through it at least once a year, ideally every review, but definitely in the first review (i.e. at 6 months employment). You’re asked to choose a handful of your peers, including your Manager, to answer the following:
What should I start doing
What should I stop doing
What should I continue doing
Do you have any other feedback to provide
Straight forward enough, lots of feedback happens here.
We also encourage regular feedback - face to face where possible, but also our performance management tool allows the opportunity to give feedback publicly and privately.
It became evident that some people found it difficult to give feedback. I was getting some questions like ‘how do I tell this person they could be better at this? How do I word it?’.
Also, in some exit interviews we realised that people hadn’t taken opportunities to give feedback. If an individual had given certain feedback to certain people, some grievances might have been rectified.
And to top it off, we noticed a dip in the quality of feedback from some more recent starters. The feedback, while of use, could’ve been more valuable with a little more clarity provided. As we grew as a business, giving someone the time and attention to showing them what good feedback looks like was getting overlooked.
So we want more and higher quality feedback provided across the business. Positive feedback is really easy - hey you’re amazing at this thing, keep doing this thing you’re amazing at. However, when it came to constructive, or often difficult feedback, people erred on the side of caution. There was definitely less of this type of feedback that, wouldn’t you know it, was the most useful to give!
The starting point
I needed to understand where we are before we decide where we are going. I went through every single bit of feedback provided in the past 12 months and scored it. What’s my scale? Well a few feedback models, some umming, some ahhing, led me to this, the ACID test:
Action - The specific action that led you to giving this feedback
Context - ‘Like this’ or ‘for example’ to provide more context, and help make a connection to the action (often internally referred to as ‘the 6 months ago test’ i.e. if it was feedback about something that happened 6 months ago, would they understand it)
Impact - The impact that action had on the person, team, customer etc
Do / Do differently - A suggestion of something someone could do, or do differently, to help them improve.
I scored 1 point for each, which means each time someone gave feedback, they could score up to 4 points
(side note, at one point the model was AID, with an extra point for style, but that was too obscure)
After scoring everyone it was clear we had some feedback champions, and people who needed a little more support. The collective and company outcome was a score of 2.2. Lots of actions, lots of suggestions, but not much context or impact.
TL;DR - At Cronofy we were giving great advice, but we weren’t explaining why that was important or what the impact of that advice could have.
How do we improve from here?
I decided to run some coaching sessions with everyone in the business. A feedback 101 course, talking about the importance of feedback and going through my ACID model. I wanted to bring everyone up to the same level, we even had some role plays (mixed results but overall positive outcomes if a little classroom styled). I also shared the company score to show how far we all needed to come to giving great feedback.
What’s the point of all of this? Well all of this was to give me something to work with. I’ve decided that this quarter my objective is:
To increase the average feedback score at Cronofy from 2.2 to 3
To have at least 100 bits (pieces?) of feedback provided. If you squint, that’s one a day
What else am I doing?
Once a month, in our fortnightly All Hands meetings, I’m sharing some real examples of feedback that has been provided. With both individuals’ consent, and asking the whole company to talk about why it’s good, why it’s not, what could be better, and what score would we give it. I’m really trying to encourage the buy-in for improving feedback.
What’s happened so far?
So there’s definitely been a notable increase in the amount of feedback provided, particularly publicly. Scores seemed to have improved but I won’t know until the end of the quarter if we’ve achieved the goal of reaching 3.
The real benefit, aside from better feedback, is that we’re reaffirming how important feedback is for our culture. My hope is that new starters will see regular feedback, be on the receiving end of (sometimes constructive) feedback and view it in a positive light. It’s super important that we send the right message that feedback should not be taken personally, and the provider is doing it in the best interests of the receiver. That’s a huge lesson that we want someone to learn very early on in their employment with us.
When it comes to feedback and my ACID model, one thing I haven’t mentioned is acceptance. Where we put a lot of focus on the provider of feedback, it’s important to mention that it’s up to the receiver to choose whether to accept the feedback or not. This emphasises the importance of recognising that feedback is only given with positive intent and knowing that person wants you to be better. This was a really important message to deliver to our entire organisation.
So there we have it. Feedback is super important to us at Cronofy, and I know from personal experience how powerful it can be when delivered in the right ways. The more we do it the better we all become in a business that values honesty and transparency at every opportunity.
This is our way, not everyone’s right way. If you have any questions on feedback within your organisation please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.