3 Ways We Encourage Genuine Peer Feedback

When you want a food recommendation, you ask your server. Why? Because they work with the food every single day. They see which meals people rave about, and they know which items people send back.

Likewise, who knows an employee’s performance (good and bad) better than the people working with him or her every day? We think peer feedback improves our work. And since we’re dedicated to improving employees, we have created a culture where employees give genuine peer feedback frequently. Here’s how:

We made feedback a company value. (Kind of.)

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Alright, the value isn’t actually “feedback.” It’s “be open.” And it requires everyone at Bamboo to be open about a couple of things:

· We’re open about what we think. I’ve heard our CEO, Ben Peterson, tell multiple employees (me included) that he expects us to tell him if we disagree with him—he’s not keen on being surrounded by “yes” men and women. All employees are expected to share their opinions and expertise with coworkers at every level (CEO to intern). Of course, we’re tactful about it. There’s a right time and place to share opinions and a kind way to do it.

· We’re open to what others think. We’re also expected to listen when others have constructive feedback for us. Now, just because we receive feedback doesn’t mean we have to apply it every time (it’s okay to agree to disagree). But listening and evaluating whether or not to incorporate the feedback helps us do our jobs better.

When we’re open to feedback, we get to collaborate with perspectives different than our own. And these diverse perspectives often result in a better end product.

We give and get positive and constructive feedback informally and in the moment.

HR genius Suzanne Lucas said it pretty well: “This is the problem with the feedback sandwich: People only give you praise when they are trying to butter you up so you don’t get angry at their negative feedback. It feels false and forced — mainly because it is false and forced.”

False and forced peer feedback is the exact opposite of what we want. To avoid it, we give feedback in the moment and independently. We share critiques when warranted and compliments when earned. Feedback given informally and in the moment is actionable because it applies to what we’re currently doing. Some of the tools we use for this informal peer feedback are:

· Google Docs: You can comment and make trackable changes in a document that’s accessible by multiple people. It makes feedback and collaboration really easy.

· Project management tools like Asana and Jira: These tools are a great way to keep track of historic feedback that’s organized by projects.

· Talking: Call us old fashioned, but we give quite a bit of in-person feedback. We high-five each other for wins. We tactfully discuss criticisms as they arise. Plus, each month we get together for a company meeting, a segment of which is dedicated to shout-outs from employees to their individual peers.

Genuine peer feedback (whether it’s positive or negative), given right in the moment (instead of waiting for a yearly review), helps ensure that the feedback we get and give is clear and direct. And when we get clear feedback, it’s much easier to use that feedback to improve.

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We give feedback formally (and frequently).

Formal feedback is important too. It provides a benchmark for employees to base performance goals on. But, to accomplish those goals, formal feedback needs to be received frequently. Our formal feedback works like this:

1. Employees meet with their team leads at least monthly for a one-on-one to give feedback on current projects. We discuss goals from the last quarterly review so employees can continue achieving them or adjust them if necessary.

2. Then, each quarter we use our performance management tool to gather self-assessments, manager assessments, and (of course) peer assessments. Employees and managers review the results (although, some of it is kept confidential and/or anonymous), and use the feedback to create goals for the upcoming quarter.

Formal peer feedback helps employees make and measure improvement on goals. And when employees can work on and accomplish goals, their skills grow, and performance improves.

We know that collaboration and peer feedback are crucial to our success. Check out your organization to see if you’re putting enough value on being open with each other, whether employees give each other genuine and informal feedback, and whether or not you have a good performance management program that collects formal peer feedback. Hopefully, improving peer feedback can help your employees be more successful, too!