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Three Signs You May Have a Feedback Problem at Your Organization

May 7, 2024

Your employee compensation plan is competitive, your benefits package is generous, you’re scouting talent from the best schools and organizations in the country, but you’re still running into pitfalls that are affecting anything from low performance to lagging sales to HR complaints. It’s very possible that the root of your problems has nothing to do with bonuses, health insurance or lack of ping pong tables in the break room and have everything to do with your employees simply not being able to communicate constructively with each other. Here are three signs that the solution to your business woes may be as simple as better feedback.

HR is overwhelmed

If your HR department is struggling to keep up with interpersonal issues and high turnover, there’s a good chance it has to do with a lack of feedback. As you well know, a Human Resources department should be focused on big-picture issues like recruiting a diverse and high-quality team, ensuring that team is properly compensated, looking ahead to how to grow and develop your workforce and making sure any major issues that arise are appropriately dealt with and managed. But if your HR department is consistently pulled away from strategy to help manage feedback conversations or the impact of them, it is a sure-tell sign that the managers are struggling with effective feedback.

Here are some common HR issues that point to feedback problems:

  • Managers are asking people in HR to give feedback to their supervisees so they don’t have to have uncomfortable conversations
  • HR is constantly getting involved in performance problems that should have been solved by management communicating constructive feedback to their team
  • Annual performance reviews aren’t getting done, or they are being done but aren’t helping teams function better or they aren’t being delivered properly thus causing complaints to HR
  • HR is constantly processing resignations from high performing employees who didn’t feel valued or didn’t seem to think they were succeeding
  • The root of these HR issues can be tied back to managers, both new and experienced, who can’t or simply don’t give effective feedback.

Performance is lagging

It’s easy to blame a volatile economy or global pandemic for downturns in performance or revenue, and while those things certainly have had a major effect on businesses around the world, it may be oversimplifying the problem. A lack of feedback has been shown to have a direct impact on workers’ performance. According to a survey about feedback from Gallup conducted in the US, people who have frequent conversations with their managers are three times more engaged than those who do not receive feedback. Notice that says “frequent conversations” and not “once a year” or “bi-annual” conversations. It’s the daily, ongoing and bidirectional communication that impacts how engaged employees are. And why does engagement matter? Highly engaged teams are shown to be an average of 14-18% more productive than low engagement teams and low engagement teams typically experience turnover rates that are 18% to 43% higher than highly engaged teams. Simply put, better feedback from managers to their teams does affect better business outcomes.

“According to a survey about feedback from Gallup conducted in the US, people who have frequent conversations with their managers are three times more engaged than those who do not receive feedback.”

Turnover is high

Call it the “Great Resignation” or the “Great Reshuffle” or whatever you’d like, but if you are experiencing high turnover, there’s no doubt that bad feedback is one of the causes. 2021 saw record-high quit rates as people who had held onto their jobs during the height of the pandemic became a little more confident in their ability to find something better. In fact, a survey conducted by Gallup in the summer of 2021 showed that 48% of working Americans were actively job searching or watching for job opportunities. This mindset has become known as “career cushioning” which differs from the traditional advice to work extra hard at your job to avoid being laid off in tough economic times. “Instead of trying to make themselves indispensable in their current roles, career cushioners are looking outside of their companies and low-key starting the search for their next jobs before they absolutely have to.”

For many companies, the solution was to throw money at the problem, offering employees bonuses and increased salaries to stay onboard or generous signing bonuses to lure in talent, but that’s not a long-term solution. In fact, the best predictors of employee attraction and retention aren’t pay at all but a worker’s overall job satisfaction, their commitment to their organization, the quality of their work environment, the level of stress they experience at work and the cohesion of their workgroup. In other words, it’s the immaterial things that keep employees in their jobs.

So, what creates better organizational commitment and workgroup cohesion? Managers and teammates who practice open communication, recognition and feedback that fuels growth. An Office Vibe survey showed that companies that implemented regular employee feedback have a 14.9% lower turnover rate than those that don’t. But most employees don’t inherently know how to give in-the-moment, effective feedback. Like most skills at work, it needs to be taught and practiced. That means it might be time to take the money set aside for bonuses and invest it into providing feedback training for your managers instead.

“But most employees don’t inherently know how to give in-the-moment, effective feedback.”

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