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Developing your teams with structured feedback

This article looks at the value of structured feedback and development methods for getting the most from corporate teams. It is particularly useful for managers keen to build high-performance working cultures, with a strong ethos of accountability.

What is feedback at work?
Many of us give feedback at work every day – whenever we praise or criticise a colleague, direct report, stakeholder or supplier. Sometimes feedback can be direct and verbal and other times, it is perceived and non-verbal. The value of feedback depends on a number of factors, such as the person giving it, the method of the feedback given, whether the recipient is receptive to the feedback and crucially, whether they decide to act on it. When delivered in the right way and for the right purposes, constructive feedback can be a powerful tool, used to shape behaviours within the workplace, recognise success and drive improvements. It can also be used to embed cultural change programmes and drive forwards larger programmes of organisational change, where new working practices are key.

How can you develop a feedback culture?
There are various formal mechanisms to developing structured feedback methodologies and 
360 degree feedback is just one of them. When used correctly, this tool can be used to develop management and leadership teams, by asking a range of people that they deal with at work to give comments and constructive advice on what the individual does well and where they might improve. The power lies in the anonymity of the process and the fact that it asks for feedback from a range of internal contacts, rather than just chosen individuals. This activity can create a full picture of the individual and the way that they interact and do business. It is also a cost-effective development tool when used to drive success and will ideally be implemented into a wider structured training and development programme.

Investing in training and development.
This type of feedback is valuable for all staff, but it can be a time and resource intensive process that is usually managed by an in-house specialist or training consultant. For this reason, it is often used with management populations and other identified priority groups such as change teams, management trainees and graduates and those on intensive development programmes. It can also be used in cases of performance improvement, as a method for reporting on progress and improvements. Ideally, the process will link into a wider programme of training and development within the organisation, so that the individual has a chance to discuss the results or his or her feedback with an expert facilitator, pull together an action plan and then implement it by attending structured leaning and training opportunities.

The benefits to the individual are clear in terms of development and self-awareness, but the company will also greatly benefit from a more intuitive working culture and a greater performance focus. This is core to driving forward business improvements and shareholder value; it tends to be the organisations that invest heavily in their staff development that see the greatest business performance gains and correponding increase in shareholder value.

Sophie Wilson writes regularly on 360 degree feedback and other training methodologies for a range of corporate websites and blogs.