Believe It or Not, Your Employees Do Want Feedback

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The human resources department can play a key role in helping define a company's culture. Taking their cues from the top executives, they're going to devise policies, disseminating ideas, creating and enforcing standards of conduct that, if effective, can set the tone in a workplace. But often, there's a disconnect between the goals and policies, and the results that HR teams are hoping to achieve. If you think that's a problem where you work, it may be time for some inspired rule breaking -- which, as it happens, is a specialty of Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner. His company consistently earns "best workplace" accolades, so it's fair to assume he and his team have figured a few things out on this front.

In this episode of his Rule Breaker Investing podcast, David invited Motley Fool people team all-stars Lee Burbage and Kara Chambers on to discuss 10 ways this company's workplace culture breaks the rules -- and yours should too. In this segment, they talk about something that tends to be a real pain point for a lot of employees-- and managers: giving feedback. Stresses out and upsets the recipients, and it's often no picnic for the ones delivering it either. But in fact, most people will be glad to get feedback -- if you choose a better system for communicating it.

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To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on April 10, 2019.

David Gardner: Let's go to No. 5. People want feedback, I'm reading here on this carefully curated list that Kara and you have put together for us. People want feedback, Lee.

Lee Burbage: Yeah. This is really about, what we've found is that feedback is for the individual. So many companies out there are building feedback systems to fuel a performance management process, or to somehow back into a compensation system or something like that. Here, we've found that actually, individuals really want feedback, and they don't want it to be linked to anything else. So our feedback system is private. It's between the individual and their coach. They're the only ones that see the feedback. What we've found is in this little private bubble, people tend to give better feedback, more honest feedback, because they know it's not being shared around, doesn't have some ancillary meaning that can skew things. We've found that private moment, where people can really get genuine feedback, is so important. So that's the way that we set our system up.

Gardner: We talked about this, and I referenced this when we were going through No. 1, which was, if you have to make a mandatory, it's not compelling. This is a great example of it. But yeah, as an employee of our company, that's been my experience. I'm invited to ask for feedback. No one is required to get feedback. But most people, it seems -- what are the numbers, roughly? What percentage of our employees, when asked voluntarily, "Would you like feedback," will ask for it?

Kara Chambers: I believe it was 70%.

Burbage: Yeah. And we've also watched, in the early days, you could give anonymous feedback. You have the option, anonymous or not anonymous. And now, it's 100% non-anonymous. We built that program to see -- like, how many people in the world look forward to their feedback process at work? I think it's pretty low.

Gardner: Crickets!

Burbage: We get excited to say, "Hey, what if people actually looked forward to feedback and put their name on it?" So, those are two metrics that we chase. We feel like we've made something pretty compelling.

Gardner: I feel like I want to summarize our first five points. We're going to do that in a sec. But, Kara, one more here on No. 5. People want feedback about our coaching system here at The Fool.

Chambers: In many organizations, your feedback goes to your boss, so there's not a feeling of safety there; feeling like you're going to have to send a report to someone's boss. That doesn't feel good. There's a power dynamic. We have a whole system of volunteer peer coaches that meet with you and deliver the feedback. And the feedback only goes to them. We've found that's helped people offer constructive things, helpful things. In the end, going back to No. 2, people want to do great work. They're sitting down with their coach and they're excited to read and hear about how they can be better, because they want to be better, they want to be doing great work. That coach is there to help guide them, help them not over-focus on anything.

Gardner: And our coaches, these are people who are not necessarily professional coaches. Do we have a training session for coaches? I think we do that.

Chambers: Yes.

Gardner: But these are not HR coordinators at all. These are people from across the company.

Chamber: Yes, that's correct! We have 29 right now. It's about 10% of our company. They're people who are known as effective managers, people who are good leaders, they're good at the coaching part. We meet with them every other month, I believe, and we take them through some kind of new framework they can use or any organizational challenges that we're seeing and deploy them out to be good listeners out in the world.

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