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How to Create a Culture of Feedback in Your Engineering Organization

Whitney Diehl

By: Whitney Diehl
January 27, 2022

Adult in team meeting holding coffee cup

Technology leaders looking to drive high performance can support the evolution of their teams by creating a culture of feedback in their organization. Read on to find out why honest and constructive feedback is crucial to engineering success.  

The Importance of Routine Feedback 

Regular feedback on particular units of work, processes, and best practices can be an effective way to help ensure agile teams are aligned and that all requirements are understood and met. 

Employees who receive regular feedback on their work feel more confident and secure in their positions because they understand what is expected of them and the role they play in the organizational structure. According to one report, only 43% of highly-engaged employees received feedback on a weekly basis, while an astonishing 98% said they fail to be engaged when managers give little to no feedback, showcasing how essential feedback is to the cohesiveness of teams. 

Furthermore, a positive culture of feedback can enhance psychological safety on teams. When feedback is a fundamental part of a blameless team culture, team members understand that feedback is critical to growing as a team and achieving key goals, and will likely feel more secure in sharing ideas, acknowledging weaknesses, and asking for help. 

How to Foster a Feedback-rich Culture 

As an executive, it is important to lead by example, as your actions can serve as a benchmark for best practices to be followed throughout the organization. 

Leverage the Power of 1:1’s 

Regular check-ins can play an integral role in building a successful feedback culture. Providing dedicated time for managers and direct reports to discuss goals, share feedback, and more, 1:1’s are a great way to engage employees and build trust. 

During your 1:1’s, you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and make statements that: 

    1. Build an interpersonal connection – “How are you and your family”
    2. Encourage collaboration – “What’s on your mind? Is there anything I can help you with that you may be stuck on?” 
    3. Show recognition, appreciation, or provide coaching 

Here at Code Climate, our executives and managers hold weekly 1:1’s with their direct reports to surface any process blockers, discuss ambitions, and generally catch up. We are committed to this practice as a way to foster safety, transparency, and cohesion within our organization. We aim to ensure that each team member understands how their work fits into larger company initiatives and feels secure enough to share ideas that enable us to continually innovate and improve.  

Enhance Feedback with Engineering Data 

The most effective feedback is specific and actionable, so it can be helpful to use engineering data to ground conversations in particular units of work. For example, if you have a question on a specific Pull Request, it can be helpful to surface detailed information on that particular PR to help you place progress in context and check any assumptions you may have. Objective data can also help you identify areas where coaching may be beneficial or showcase areas where you might not have known an IC was excelling. Furthermore, data can help you set and track progress towards goals, adding value and effectiveness to your feedback. 

Feedback Goes Both Ways 

A culture of feedback is most effective when it’s holistic, so it’s important to make sure you’re giving your team members the opportunity to impart their feedback on processes, workflow, expectations, and more. To help achieve this, you can provide your team members with a forum to share viewpoints during 1:1’s, standups, and retrospectives. In doing so, you regularly afford yourself the opportunity to actively listen to and learn from your team. 

Feedback is an essential tool that helps leaders drive excellence on their teams. Remember: 

  • A culture of positive feedback helps create the ideal conditions for innovation
  • 1:1’s can be a powerful way to build trust and create alignment
  • Engineering data can help you place observations in context
  • A true culture of feedback requires that team members are also empowered to speak up and offer their feedback

With a thoughtful approach, you can cultivate a safe and welcoming work environment that motivates teams to strive for excellence. To find out how to employ data-driven feedback in your organization, reach out to a product specialist

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