The peer feedback loop: 10 ways to create mutually-supportive teams
Peer feedback loops are gaining more and more attention from savvy business leaders—and no wonder. Because in recent times, we’ve seen a radical shift in the way people work.
Not so long ago, working in an office-based team environment was a given for most white-collar roles. Now many people spend much less time in the office or may even work remotely full-time.
There are many advantages to this new approach to work, but managers need to be aware of the downsides, too. Employees may feel isolated and disconnected from their colleagues with less human interaction.
Communication becomes transactional rather than interpersonal. As a result, the all-important team spirit may suffer without a means to provide feedback.
This is a growing challenge for organizations of every size.
According to Officevibe’s employee feedback data, over a third of employees feel they don’t receive enough recognition for their efforts. They say their achievements go unnoticed, with feedback focusing mainly on the negative aspects of their work.
Fortunately, there is a solution. Implementing a peer feedback loop is a proven and effective way to address this problem. A peer feedback loop helps rebuild the community spirit and allows employees to share with their colleagues.
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Creating constructive peer feedback loops in your teams
What does a peer feedback loop look like
You may already be familiar with a manager/employee feedback loop, which facilitates two-way communication between team leaders and members. A peer feedback loop works similarly but connects colleagues within a team.
With a feedback loop in place, employees can share their ideas, opinions, wins, and suggestions with others on their team. Greater recognition of their efforts leads to greater motivation, higher engagement, and improved productivity.
Team members continuously give each other feedback so that everyone can learn and improve. It's a great way to nurture trust and collaboration, replacing isolation with a feeling of belonging.
A simple example of a peer feedback loop would be a weekly team meeting, either in person or over video. Employees are encouraged to acknowledge any small wins achieved by colleagues during the week in the discussion. This regular positive reinforcement helps to build team spirit and keep everyone motivated.
10 Ways to build a constructive peer feedback loop culture
In the modern, evolving workplace environment, you need to be proactive in creating an environment where your peer feedback loop can thrive. That may sound challenging, but it's not as hard as you might think.
How you get employee feedback makes a difference. So here are 10 simple suggestions for encouraging better peer-to-peer communications across your organization.
1. Define a feedback process for your team
Although using an informal peer feedback process may sound tempting, it's the least effective approach. Inevitably, some employees will make their voices heard, while others keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves.
A peer feedback loop can only work effectively if everyone on the team feels empowered to contribute. Contribution is much more likely to happen if you define a straightforward process for your team to follow.
There are many different ways to implement feedback loops. You might choose an informal approach, where team members discuss matters in conversation or through an online chat group.
A less formal technique works, but the unstructured nature means you may not get the most value from this approach. You can miss out on much of the helpful feedback that a more organized system can bring.
A better alternative is to create a dedicated feedback channel, using a solution such as Officevibe's employee feedback tool. This makes it easy for you to gather feedback from employees wherever they are located. Using quick Pulse Surveys, you can collect actionable insights and follow up with open-ended questions. Because employees can express their opinions anonymously, you get honest feedback that gets straight to the point.
2. Educate your team
There's no point in investing time and effort in creating a peer feedback loop if no one knows how to use it. That's one good reason why an intuitive feedback tool makes a great choice.
But whatever system you use, take the time to show your team how to take advantage of the opportunity. Explain why you want more feedback—and why it's vital for them to share opinions and suggestions with colleagues. Show that the system is not just another drain on their time but a real chance to enhance teamwork and increase job satisfaction.
Most importantly, show them how to get better at giving and receiving feedback. Teach your team what's of value and what to avoid. Give examples of good employee feedback, plus advice on what they should avoid. A little education will go a long way towards improving the results.
3. Make constructive feedback a key priority
A peer feedback program aims to improve how team members work together. But, of course, this is hard to achieve if the environment turns into a culture of criticism and blame-shifting.
So remember to build your system to prioritize constructive feedback. People need to understand that the goal is not to point fingers but rather to find solutions together.
Team members must feel safe both raising concerns and being the subject of feedback.
4. Get the balance right
While constructive feedback is the 'holy grail' you aim for, it's not the whole story. Inevitably, the issues raised will run across the entire spectrum from very negative to highly positive.
You need to ensure that all this feedback is taken into consideration. While those negative concerns may be troubling, you can't afford to sweep them under the carpet. So work on getting the balance right—encouraging constructive criticism while also accounting for less-than-positive feedback.
5. Ensure that managers engage, too
Peer feedback loops, of course, are all about team members communicating with each other at the same level. But managers still have a pivotal role in making the process work. It's a team effort where everyone needs to be involved.
All feedback loops begin and end with management. From defining the process at the start to ensuring that feedback is acted upon at the end, managers play a crucial role in ensuring that peer feedback loops succeed.
6. Be creative
Your peer feedback system needs to be a natural fit for your organization. Even when using automated tools to manage the process, you may want to make changes. Be creative in your implementation, adding features that work for your team or subtracting those that don't.
For example, you may find that creating a 'Feedback Friday' routine is an effective way to promote employee engagement with the feedback system. This is an excellent way for employees to end the week positively, sharing their insights and ideas with colleagues before the weekend break.
7. Encourage honest feedback
Sometimes peer-to-peer feedback will raise negative concerns regarding how the organization or management operates. That's OK…everyone should feel able to give honest feedback on any issues that arise.
The management team should always be open to considering whatever issues arise—giving feedback and getting problems out into the open means they can be tackled and resolved. That's always better than allowing issues to fester—or simply hoping they will go away! Employees also need to be open to receiving feedback, even if it's not always what they want to hear.
8. Aim for continuous improvement
The great benefit of using a loop system is that it makes continuous improvement possible. So fixing a problem may just be the start of the change process. With the help of peer feedback, it may be possible to turn a negative into a positive asset for the organization.
Aim for a culture focused on ongoing innovation and improvement to make this happen. After all, why settle for good when something can be great or even fantastic? It's no accident that companies famous for their creative cultures—such as Apple and Google—are among the most successful in corporate history.
9. Create actional feedback
Raising concerns or suggesting ideas is not enough. A peer feedback loop won't achieve anything unless you take real action as a result.
So design your process so that the feedback suggests actions, and get on them! Get this right, and you will greatly accelerate the program's success. Actioning small change will have far more impact than a big idea that never sees the light of day.
10. Repeat the process regularly
The true value of peer feedback is revealed when the process becomes a regular part of the organization's routine. That's when you start to see exponential improvements in performance and results.
So design your feedback program to be an integral part of your business processes. That way, you will see a huge return on the time and money invested.
Peer-to-peer feedback nurtures trust and collaboration
Companies that deploy peer-to-peer feedback loops can achieve transformational results. The outcomes you can achieve are tremendous in proportion to the effort required to set them up.
A well-designed system will help to nurture trust among employees, giving them a valid option for expressing their views and being heard. It's also an excellent team collaboration tool that can produce innovative ideas that change how you work. Who knows what imaginative concepts your team might come up with!
Employee recognition in a remote work environment
We know that the recent dramatic changes in the way we work are unlikely to reverse anytime soon. Working remotely has become accepted as a legitimate and productive option.
The benefits for both employees and companies are enormous, but there are challenges, too. Employees working remotely need to feel that their contribution is acknowledged and recognized. And making this happen is getting easier, thanks to new tech innovations.
For example, Officevibe is launching a new feature called Good Vibes, aimed to restore the human connections needed to thrive in the remote-first era of work.
After completing a Pulse Survey, anyone on your team can now share positive memories with colleagues. Better still, they can do this using delightful cards that humanize the connection.
Good Vibes makes it easy to highlight actions and traits worthy of celebrating. It also surfaces little wins, good deeds, and kind words that may otherwise go unseen.
Good Vibes employee recognition feature in Officevibe is one example of how emerging technology helps organizations create effective peer feedback systems. As a result, you can now reap the benefits of remote working without sacrificing that all-important team spirit. As we advance, smart businesses will leverage peer feedback loops to gain a real competitive edge.
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