What Social Media Can Teach Us About Feedback

I’ve written a number of times on this blog about the important role feedback plays in our general happiness.  Indeed, research from a few years ago suggested that young people value positive feedback higher than nearly any other thing, including alcohol and sex.

Whilst I have some doubts about that myself, it’s beyond doubt that feedback is important.  This addiction to feedback is possibly one of the reasons we are so in love with social media.  If you think about it, our various online social activities are awash with feedback.  We get instant notifications about how popular each and every thing we do online is.

Social media feedback vs workplace feedback

We’re almost drunk on feedback in our online lives.  It’s perhaps not surprising therefore that so many are so disappointed by the feedback desert they encounter when they enter the workplace.  When you’re used to having feedback every hour of the day online, receiving it once or twice a year via a performance appraisal doesn’t really cut it.

Feedback in the workplace not only suffers in comparison from a time point of view, but also from who gives it to you.  Online, you tend to get feedback from throughout your social network.  In the workplace however, it’s often limited to your direct boss, with perhaps a sprinkling from colleagues via a 360 review.

I mean, you want the feedback to be instant in order for it to be effective, right?  If you did some fantastic work for a colleague in April, but your performance reviews are in October, how likely is it that they’ll remember to mention it, and even if they do, what use will it be to you?

Making feedback better

There are thankfully a number of services that are trying to make feedback in the workplace a whole lot better.  One of my favourite is an app called 15Five, which aims to make feedback something that you do on a regular basis, just like on social media.

The app itself is really straightforward to use, as it involves answering a simple five question survey about your colleagues.  You do this on a weekly basis, with each survey taking around 15 minutes to complete (and five to read, which explains the name).

“We’re taking this very complicated challenge of gathering feedback from employees and generating it in a way that they enjoy doing, and doesn’t take much effort or time,” company chief David Hassell says. “And we make sure the most critical information flows to the right people in the organization.”

How it works

The questions each week are set by the Chief Executive of the company.  Each employee is then free to answer the questions in whatever way they see fit.  They could be essays or single word answers, positive or negative.

The answers given by the workforce are then reviewed by the management, with any consistent issues then looked at in much more detail by the executive team.

As a way of obtaining, and giving, regular feedback it looks like a really nice approach.  As with any kind of feedback of course, it does rely on the culture existing whereby employees are comfortable giving feedback, especially when it’s negative.  That will remain the key to success, but as a tool, it’s a nice one to help that process along.

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