Welcome to AllVoices Experts, a series discussing emerging trends and technologies shaping the Future of Work. We’re on a mission to create safe, happy, and healthy workplaces for all, and we’re excited to learn from experts who share our mission. In Part 1 of today’s Q&A, we chatted with Shelby Wolpa on what a culture of feedback in a remote work environment looks like.
Shelby Wolpa consults with CEOs, People Leaders, and Venture Capital Firms who believe people-first cultures empower successful companies. Shelby has spent the last 15+ years building and scaling people functions at high-growth companies while creating world-class company cultures. She most recently spent 3+ years reimagining what a truly outstanding workplace culture can be in a fully distributed environment at InVision and previously founded three successful people teams at Instacart, One Medical Group, and Palantir Technologies. Additionally, Shelby is an Advisor for SemperVirens Venture Capital and PeopleTech Partners, advising people technology startups to accelerate solutions that drive the future of work. Shelby is also a Board Member at Worldwide ERC, the premier trade association for talent management and global mobility knowledge.
Shelby, how do you define a culture of feedback?
Long gone are the days where an annual performance review checks the box for feedback. Companies that care about culture and creating a productive and engaged workforce are taking a multi-pronged approach to feedback, where it’s ingrained into every moment across the employee lifecycle.
Feedback is an essential component of growth and development at work, but it’s something that many companies don’t get right. Whether feedback is delivered in a 1:1 or through a more formal performance process, it’s crucial to deliver it well. Feedback should be meaningful and is most valuable when it's specific, tied to a tangible outcome, respectful, timely & ongoing.
As companies are moving to either a hybrid in-office approach or a fully remote workforce, how can employers build trust with their teams?
Managers play a critical role in building trust and a culture of feedback on their teams. There are three fundamental actions that successful managers build into their ongoing performance practices: continuous feedback, 1:1’s, and performance reviews.
Senior leadership’s role is to set the strategy for the company and set clear company-wide goals. Employees will want to regularly hear from senior leaders on how the company is tracking against its goals, the misses, and the big wins.
It’s important for leaders at all levels in the organization to create many moments to listen and gather feedback, whether that’s through engagement surveys, during onboarding, or following the completion of a learning and development program. Employees need to know that their feedback is being heard and that meaningful actions are being taken at the company and department level because of it.
What should a manager’s ideal feedback structure look like in practice?
Regular 1:1s - 1:1s are for your direct reports and their needs, not for managers to receive status updates. Managers should be clear with their team that their 1:1 is their time to ask for help, review progress against goals, and get coaching.
Engagement Surveys - Engagement surveys are beneficial but are typically run 1-2 times per year and gather aggregate data on engagement trends over time. Because engagement surveys are aggregated across companies and departments, it’s challenging to take action on specific feedback shared in the survey at the individual level. Engagement surveys tend to inform organization-wide and annual programming for companies.
Employee Lifecycle Surveys - Targeted employee experience surveys to gather feedback on moments such as recruiting, onboarding, learning programs, manager training, offboarding experience, etc. are incredibly helpful to pinpoint specific improvements that can be made in key moments in the employee journey.
People Business Partners (PBPs) - PBPs partner with leaders to drive employee engagement and create high performing teams. PBPs are an incredible resource but cannot see, hear and react to every employee issue, especially in a remote working environment.
Anonymous Reporting - An ongoing, anonymous reporting tool is a critical component of a holistic feedback culture as a mechanism for listening and addressing specific, serious issues. An ongoing listening tool gives HR & leadership specific issues that need to be addressed more quickly than an engagement survey can facilitate. Employees may feel more comfortable reporting an issue to this tool rather than speaking directly to a human at first.
What tools do you recommend companies look to or explore to ensure they are thinking proactively about employee feedback?
Regardless of the size or stage of your company, remote-first companies need tools to have a centralized place for documentation, virtual collaboration, and easy tracking. I do not recommend using manual processes like email or google docs as these can lead to many problems, such as employees or managers modifying templates so you do not have a standardized way to measure and track feedback and because manual processes can lead to private information being shared with the wrong people unintentionally given lack of proper security controls.
- Lattice is a great tool for consolidating 1:1 notes, pulse & engagement surveys, continuous feedback, 360s, performance reviews, and career development plans.
- AllVoices is an essential component to the feedback toolkit. With AllVoices, HR and leadership teams can gather anonymous, specific, and more serious feedback that needs to be addressed quickly and sensitively, in a way that feels safe to the employee. Companies can also track, manage, delegate, and resolve all reports in one centralized case management dashboard that allows employers to visualize and identify data patterns and trends.