The Importance of Feedback in Your Sustainability Journey

by Jul 13, 2021Employee engagement, SDG Strategy, Sustainability0 comments

Feedback, engagement, and sustainability

Employee engagement is an essential piece of establishing a culture of sustainability. When employees are engaged, they have an “emotional commitment” to an organisation and its mission, and they “actually care about their work and their company.” In fact, this emotional connection means engaged employees are driven by more than their salary and will “work on behalf of the organization’s goals” (Kruse). So how do you achieve this level of engagement? First, you must realise the importance of feedback in your sustainability journey.

A study by Zenger Folkman, a leadership development company, revealed that managers who gave more feedback had more engaged employees. As you might expect, employees who were provided with the least feedback were more likely to consider quitting their jobs. Regular feedback leads to increased engagement, and increased engagement leads to a more successful implementation of a sustainability culture.

Below, we’ll further explore these relationships and how your organisation can benefit from this information.

What is feedback?

How do we define feedback within an organisation? Employee engagement software provider Quantum Workplace defines it as “the process of giving constructive information or advice to employees and/or leadership based on performance, behaviour, or skills in the workplace” (Ryba). Basically, it is any information employees require to do their jobs effectively, and it is essential for growth.

Examples of employee questions answered through workplace feedback
Examples of employee questions answered through workplace feedback.

Many companies have systems where employees receive infrequent or ineffective performance reviews as the extent of their feedback. Instead, organisations should take the time to establish a pattern of giving and receiving constructive feedback, ensuring employees at all levels are willing and active participants.

This will help them create a feedback culture, where “every employee feels they have the right to give feedback to another person in the organization – no matter where they may fall on your organizational chart” (TruQu). 

Why feedback matters

When your company realises the importance of feedback in your sustainability journey, you can make changes that produce many benefits. We’ll address how to implement these changes later on.

But first, let’s take a look at one of the benefits mentioned above—feedback’s positive effect on employee engagement. 

Increased engagement levels 

Officevibe conducted research that found “4 in 10 workers are actively disengaged when they receive little or no feedback.” The results also showed that “43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week.” This was “compared to only 18% of employees with low engagement” (Marsh). Clearly, there is great value in not only providing feedback but doing so in a consistent manner as well. 

The relationship between feedback and increased levels of engagement is not unique to top-down communications. A survey of employees at organisations in the United Kingdom looked at upward employee voice and the receptiveness of those in management positions. The questionnaire found “a significant and positive relationship…between employee voice and emotional organisational engagement; and between senior manager receptiveness and emotional organisational engagement” (Ruck et al). When employees are empowered to provide feedback and leaders within the companies are open to these contributions, engagement levels rise.

But how exactly are organisations accomplishing this? What steps are they taking after realising the importance of feedback in their sustainability journey? One tactic is to ensure ongoing feedback is a part of their internal communication strategy.

Successful companies have strong internal communication strategies that include opportunities to give and receive feedback, and “effective internal communication promotes employee engagement.” These procedures allow employees to “understand and work in line with the overriding goals and strategies” of the company. Subsequently, this “creates satisfied customers and has a positive impact on the company’s financial performance” (Saxeby). 

And that’s not all! Let’s look into 3 other positive effects your organisation could expect as a result of implementing a culture of feedback.

Employee providing feedback to achieve positive effects
Instilling a culture of feedback can lead to many positive effects.

Additional benefits of ongoing feedback

1. Increased employee satisfaction

In addition to its importance to engagement levels, “feedback is critical to employee satisfaction” as well (Roy). Instilling a culture of feedback within your organisation will “raise employee morale and create a more positive and happy workplace environment.”

Having feedback as the norm will enable employees to “feel free to always share what they think about your organization, management, and other employees,” and as a result, “they are more likely to be happy” with your company (TruQu).

2. Improved performance and productivity 

Research by McKinsey highlights the impact that these strong communication strategies have on a business. Their study “showed that clear, transparent corporate communication between internal employees can help boost productivity by as much as 25%” (TruQu).

Employees recognise the value of this as well. A study published by Harvard Business Review found that “72% said they thought their performance would improve if their managers would provide corrective feedback.” And employees aren’t just looking for a “Great job!” They actually appreciate “negative” corrective feedback, assuming it is delivered appropriately (Zenger and Folkman). 

3. More company loyalty

When feedback is provided in a constructive manner, employees “feel supported in their roles and positions within the company” (Indeed). Having a sense of “how their feedback shapes workplace policies and programs, they’re more likely to develop a stronger commitment to the organization” (Macorva).

This makes them “less likely to seek employment elsewhere.” Another benefit? It also helps organisations save “time and money spent on hiring and training new employees often” (Indeed).

Graph showing benefits of ongoing feedback including increased employee satisfaction, performance and productivity, company loyalty, and employee engagement
Regular feedback can improve employee satisfaction, performance, loyalty, and engagement.

The importance of feedback in your sustainability journey

As your company works toward implementing a culture of sustainability, there are certainly major rewards to reap. But keep in mind that engagement is key for this process, especially when you consider the long term.

Though “sustainability is a good strategy for achieving near-term savings via conservation and energy efficiency,” you’ll want to stay focused on your end goals. “It takes engagement to achieve longer-term benefits of innovation and retention” (Clark), and doing so requires active participation and true behaviour change. 

To attain these, you first must get people engaged and onboard. Employees who feel personally connected to their company’s sustainability targets are more likely to adjust their behaviours and become advocates for the organisation’s mission. As we’ve discussed, ongoing feedback can increase engagement and help you reach these targets.

Sustainability culture goes hand in hand with feedback culture

When it comes to fostering sustainability knowledge and behaviours, your first step should be to collect relevant feedback. Gather information about what employees already know (or don’t know), as well as what they’re interested in and motivated by. You can encourage real, honest feedback by allowing for anonymity. These data insights will help you adjust your sustainability strategy accordingly. 

“Give everyone freedom to talk about the strategy and its implementation.” -Laura Dunkley, “Communication is key to a Successful Sustainability Strategy” 

This isn’t limited to just those who work at the company, because “sustainability communication effectively engages investors, customers or employees as the key stakeholders” (Bhatia). “For both internal and external audiences, communication plays a key role in the strategy’s success,” so after establishing clear goals that align with employee feedback, communicate these to all individuals invested in your company’s success, financially or otherwise. Your organisation’s stakeholders “need clear expectations, an opportunity to make suggestions, and a chance to give feedback” (Dunkley). Make time for internal conversations, be open to further adjustments, and regularly return to these goals. 

Ensuring this cycle of feedback is present within your business will make it easier for you to follow up on sustainability progress too. Your company will need to regularly evaluate how individuals and the company as a whole are progressing toward your targets. Aim for transparency, and publicise these reports if possible.

Additionally, you can request more feedback to improve processes, allowing stakeholders to have a voice. Show them how their contributions have been considered, and respond directly to their feedback when possible. 

Quote: A culture of sustainability goes hand in hand with a culture of feedback
Establishing a feedback culture makes implementing a sustainability culture easier.

How to create a feedback culture

Let’s dive deeper into how your company can use feedback to increase engagement and successfully implement a culture of sustainability. Here are 3 steps you can take to incorporate more (and better) feedback in your organisation and achieve these results. 

1. Provide training

Your employees may need help learning how to effectively give and receive feedback. Share resources like articles and videos through internal communications, have experienced individuals within the organisation lead educational sessions for peers, or consider an external training program. 

Make sure employees from all levels of the company are included. Many programs exist to teach managers how to provide feedback, but it is just as important that they learn how to receive it. Similarly, the employees they manage need to know how to seek out feedback, apply it to their work, and provide their own in turn. 

2. Be consistent and timely

Feedback shouldn’t come just once a year, such as part of annual or mid-year performance reviews. By that time, it likely isn’t relevant anymore. Set up a schedule for providing feedback—will it be when certain goals are or aren’t met? If someone demonstrates initiative? Whenever an employee requests it? 

Determine what is logical and realistic for your organisation considering the company size, KPIs, and any other factors that seem relevant. Whatever you decide, try to respond on a regular basis (and as close as possible to anything that prompted the feedback). This will help ensure any changes can be made when they actually matter, positive behaviours are encouraged in a timely manner, and employees continually feel seen and heard.

3. Maintain a balance 

As we previously discussed, employees want feedback, including corrective notes. It’s important to strike a balance between feedback that is both positive (for a job well done) and “negative” (when there is a need for improvement).

For times when employees need to be recognised for praiseworthy actions, try saying thanks. This simple gesture goes a long way. (Looking for more practical tips? Take a look at our post “Try Saying Thanks: Celebrating Success in the Workplace”).

Need to provide more critical comments? Focus on your delivery. This should likely be a closed-door conversation, one you should have when emotions aren’t running high, and objectivity is key. You also want to make sure all feedback is constructive and actionable, so recipients know exactly what to keep doing or fix moving forward.

How to build on these steps

Following these tips will foster a growth mindset amongst members of your organisation. Don’t forget to request feedback from all employees regarding the company as a whole, too.

Remember that “asking for feedback sends the message that the company and its leaders want to listen to what employees have to say.” When this happens, “employees see a clear demonstration of interest in their experiences,” and “they’re more likely to reciprocate it with a stronger sense of engagement and commitment at work” (Macorva). 

Recognising the importance of this type of feedback in your sustainability journey is crucial. Discovering what your employees think, know, want to learn, and are capable of is incredibly valuable. With a platform that provides a personalised results report, 2030 Builders can help you access this information—learn more about this product here. This type of data collection will enable you to plan the next steps of your sustainability strategy.

We can further increase your levels of employee engagement with a collaborative, gamified experience that allows employees to safely practise sustainable behaviours. Most importantly, we will help you implement a culture of sustainability. If you’d like additional guidance, check out our article “How to Build a Culture of Sustainability in Your Organisation.”

Ready to see what else 2030 Builders can do for you? Book a demo with us to learn more.

The 2030 Builders platform increases engagement and helps companies learn more about their employees.

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