Feedback culture matters at CKSource. Come join us!
What is the reason why team members spend so many years at CKSource and can’t even imagine working anywhere else? Why do they treat this company like their second home — a place where they feel secure, respected, and encouraged to do their best every day? Is it great leadership, best practices of remote work, the ability to combine team leading and coding, or a candidate-friendly recruitment process, and people-oriented policy in general? Or maybe, effective communication within teams, the atmosphere of transparency, cooperation, engagement, and knowledge sharing, as well as a sense of crafting high quality together? In our new cycle, we’ll try to highlight particular aspects of why it is so good and so beneficial to start or continue a working career with CKSource — whether as a software developer or as any other responsible, open-minded, and creative person.
This time, we take a closer look at feedback culture.
Feedback in the workplace, feedback-centered culture, open feedback culture, feedback-driven culture, feedback-rich culture — these are only some of the terms that we can hear about feedback culture, a way of communicating that is said to be the core component of fruitful interpersonal or human relations. Healthy feedback culture also greatly complements such qualities and values as cooperation in the workplace, as well as transparency and trust underpinning the organization at all levels.
Companies that are mentioned as those who have mastered feedback culture include such high-profile brands as Google and Netflix as well as Microsoft. And, interestingly, employees chose Google and Microsoft as top large companies with the best culture in 2020. But one doesn’t need to go that far to enjoy such a rewarding culture — CKSource, the CKEditor 5 originator with massive success in the U.S., operates in the very center of Europe, attracting people from all over the world to come and work here, on-site or remotely. It is undoubtedly a company where communication, along with close collaboration, is something vivid and crucial.
# 1. Feedback culture — what it’s all about
When feedback culture is implemented and practiced at work, it is one where employees at all organizational levels feel free to speak their minds giving comments and opinions to any other person within the company. And the need for creating a space for healthy feedback culture is something that more and more companies, and people behind them, see. Microsoft’s case indicates that as much as 90% of employees claim that both giving and receiving feedback is valuable.
Open feedback culture and free communication are key within any kind of relationship, including a professional one. In a study conducted by Comparably.com when asked what would improve office cultures across different companies the most, the majority of surveyed employees representing all departments (51% in total) pointed at “more communication” (29%) and “more transparency” (22%). And those qualities are all about feedback culture, indeed.
And software developers are no exception here. When choosing an employer worldwide, they pay attention primarily (46%) to “work environment/culture”, which tends to be much more important than factors such as “technology of work involved” (28%), or even “salary” (18%) and benefits (4%), a survey by Statista showed.
# 2. Why feedback culture is so beneficial
Why is the right culture, and being free to give and receive feedback at work, so important? Insightful comments can simply make people work harder and become more engaged. — Thanks to feedback culture, teamwork as a whole along with interpersonal relations get improved, and that’s what keeps employees motivated, and eager to grow within the company and not in someplace else. It’s crucial because actually, it’s people who keep us at work — says Natalia Stachowicz, Senior Technical Recruiter at CKSource. — Our team members know that they can make mistakes, and if the feedback is corrective, it’s given in a safe environment. With such experiences on their record, our employees start to help others within the team solve their problems — she concludes.
The perspective of other people, their opinions and observations, may be valuable in many ways. Open feedback culture both enables and relies on optimal communication, mutual respect, and trust — underpinning all aspects of working at CKSource as well as the company’s relations with its customers and the external environment in general. Tackling challenges, and enhancing positive sides and aspects is all that we may gain thanks to feedback culture.
Excessive quietness and sweeping problems under the rug is not a good practice at all and is also not a good sign as it may mean calm before the storm. Employees may mistakenly presume everything’s fine if the boss doesn’t give any feedback. Similarly, the team leader may think that a “quiet” employee is happy doing their job, but in fact they may feel disrespected and disregarded. And one of the reasons for it may be not receiving relevant or timely feedback. When there’s no or not enough feedback, employees may feel discouraged and tend to become less productive at work, and eventually look for a workplace they see as better.
As the data collected by Officevibe indicates, a staggering 98% of employees fail to be engaged when managers give them little or no feedback, and 65% indeed want more feedback. Additionally, almost 4 in 10 employees said they didn’t feel appreciated at work, and 69% claim that they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized.
What’s important is that by enabling feedback in organizations, we don’t accumulate bad emotions, like disappointment, bitterness, or resentments, that could grow big and have terrible outcomes, but solve problems right away. This is the way of promoting assertiveness — being self-assured, and firm, as well as respecting the viewpoint of others. It is also the right means to avoid the more instinctive aggressive or passive attitudes and actions. If we aren’t open and straightforward with expressing our feelings, we tend to feel insecure, anxious, hurt, or superior towards others. This can make them feel uncomfortable, irritated, disgusted, or angry, and vengeful when contacting us.
A feedback culture is simply something that makes relations within the company better. The happiness and wellness of both the whole team and particular employees get triggered. When employees are heard, they feel appreciated, and they tend to contribute more and be more effective, as well as stay with the company for longer periods. Knowing that their company is such a friendly workplace and that their voice does matter, team members tend to open up even more and give their feedback even when not asked. When their opinions are taken into consideration, they feel more confident and the trust between them and their supervisors gets stronger. They start treating them not only as team leaders but also as partners. And their ideas, when turned into reality, make the whole organization operate better.
Giving feedback, but more importantly — receiving it — is a crucial part of my day-to-day work. Proper feedback gives everybody in the team an opportunity to grow and correct weaknesses. To me, the most important thing is to make everybody feel free both in terms of giving and receiving feedback. This enhances teamwork, improves the atmosphere, and builds relations within the team. It’s because any person in the team can give feedback to any other at any time. Such an attitude facilitates the work because it enables correcting various behaviors on the fly. This way, every person in the team influences other team members’ growth and development so the team gets better every day. This is a means for constant mutual improvement.
Feedback in the workplace affects the team leader’s growth, too. It shapes better communication styles and makes identifying everybody’s needs easier. Being honest simply pays off — spotting an issue at an early stage may save the project, and make a deadline possible to achieve. Sometimes, it may protect the whole team from veering in the wrong, pointless direction. This way, we may save a lot of time and effort and can focus on performing more relevant tasks and duties.
# 3. Feedback culture and developers — what good this mix can bring
— Feedback culture is something that is strongly appreciated by developers. During job interviews, they often tell us that they cherish it, and are happy when they find out it’s something at the core of CKSource — admits Natalia Stachowicz. In day-to-day work, healthy feedback culture results in the fact that iterations go faster and in a smoother way. And in the long run, it may prevent burnout and lower staff turnover rates.
A newly hired employee may expect that the work at CKSource won’t be in total isolation and that their voice will be heard and appreciated. Feedback regarding both soft and hard competencies will be given. It will come from different directions, not only from the immediate manager. Also, feedback from employees will be expected and encouraged. The feedback will be given per their style and needs, within the atmosphere of trust and respect.
Depression and feeling burnt out, misunderstandings with colleagues, meeting overload, difficulties with maintaining work-life balance when working remotely — these are only some of the problems that giving and receiving feedback in the workplace can solve. Team leaders, upon gathering feedback on such issues, may trace them fast and tackle them efficiently.
There are numerous ways and tools designed to make the feedback flow the best ways possible, and many of them are used by developers working at CKSource. They depend on the project, team, and reason for obtaining it. Some of them include:
- Officevibe — helps shape better relationships between managers and team members, opens up a particular person; it’s anonymous so the answers gathered are very honest
- Slack — proper for fast technical feedback
- Face-to-face feedback — to gather opinions from particular team members by team leaders
- Code reviews — for immediate checking each other’s code for mistakes
- Retrospectives — developers reflect on the team’s previous tasks and achievements, say what they liked and what could be improved
- Regular 1-1 meetings within particular employees — on areas such as aspirations and career goals, personal and interpersonal issues, team improvement, etc.
- Skip-level meetings — feedback meetings between people that are at least two grades apart in the chain of command, like CTOs with Junior Software Engineers
- Scrum stand-ups — in the regular form of daily meetings or an asynchronous form of write-ups
— The written word may be interpreted differently so the verbal feedback, online or in person, is very important — emphasizes Natalia Stachowicz. It’s worth mentioning, however, that team leaders and managers are aware of the growing problem of meeting overload and unproductive, excessive meetings are not something common at CKSource.
# 4. How to build feedback culture in the workplace right
But many of those great advantages and benefits may only be unveiled when feedback is given and received by certain rules. It should be to the point — as specific and clear as possible, and even more importantly, future-oriented. It should allow space for improvement, and the employee’s progress ought to be the main intention of the feedback giver, and not just proving their point. What may also help is giving comments that are actionable and applicable, along with some helpful ideas or thought-starters.
Understanding that giving feedback holds great value, CKSource teaches its team leaders to do it right. They are aware that feedback should be regular, frequent, honest, and, most importantly, fast enough and direct, as Microsoft’s case shows.
From my perspective, the key element of feedback culture is continuity of feedback. The faster and more up-to-date the feedback, the better results it brings — just like within the iterative Agile approach to software development. The quicker it is given, the greater the results will be like strengthening or correction of certain behaviors. This is of huge importance and greatly influences each employee’s growth. A well-implemented feedback loop has another great advantage: it’s easy to get used to in the long term and take to it. And once we do it, we feel carefree not only to receive but also to share comments, observations, and remarks.
What we should keep in mind is that both giving and receiving feedback may be very stressful. Even if it is well-thought-out it may cause fear of what the other party’s reaction will be. And the latter may be varied because many people are afraid of opinions they are to hear about themselves. If employees are to open themselves in front of the boss, they need to feel secure, not to give trivial answers that they think are the “correct” ones.
For this reason, feedback should not be given in front of the whole team. To ensure that the meeting and its findings aren’t superficial, we may also use tools such as Officevibe — for gathering anonymous information on how employees feel at work. This way, we may trace it when the overall team vibe is starting to get worse and take remedial actions accordingly. It’s also important that feedback gets in sync with the needs of particular employees, matches the right project phase, etc.
To avoid mistakes when receiving feedback, one needs to listen actively and ask for clarifications but on the other hand — simply let the employee speak out. This should be done in a friendly environment, in an atmosphere of trust and with good intentions, and on the right day (not when being tired or annoyed) and with no unnecessary emotions. Also, the tone and choice of words do matter — it’s best to talk simply and calmly, based on facts and with clearly stated requirements.
What also counts is being supportive, empathic, appreciative, and open to what the other party has to say. An employee should have enough time and space to express their opinion on the issue, and the person giving feedback should not overwhelm them, suggesting their own solutions. The employee’s feelings and personality need to be taken into account, and we should do our best to try to ease the situation that may be difficult for them. No shouting, rude language, giving orders, or humiliating expressions are acceptable. Of course, employees should not be criticized if they hadn’t been told what is expected from them beforehand.
Sometimes team leaders are afraid to give feedback to their subordinates, and they postpone it. But it’s good to keep in mind that employees hate both the lack of feedback and when it is given late. They want to feel and be treated based on partnership, and feedback is a great means of achieving that. Plus, it shows the best or the most desired direction to go in and makes the employee’s work more useful and meaningful.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that feedback can take any form. Employees hate it when there’s no discussion, and they are only given instructions on what to do. Also, using generalizations like you “always” do it this way, or that you “never” listen is not welcome. Just like exaggerating tiny issues or being unprepared to give feedback at all. But there are mistakes that feedback recipients make, too. Some of them include lying, shifting the responsibility to others, as well as acknowledging feedback but without taking any further actions.
It’s good to keep in mind that new additions to the team need to be provided with feedback more often than its longtime members. It’s crucial, as the lack of feedback in the beginning may result in a growing mismatch between the company and a newly-hired employee, and, eventually, in a layoff in an initial phase. However, feedback at an early stage may be perceived as threatening even more and thus need to be threaded very carefully.
As time goes by, those practices tend to go smoother and become more time-efficient. There’s the general rule that the more we practice healthy feedback culture principles, the more natural and normal they become to us. They start to be an imminent element of the workspace, with no place for feeling offended. Just the opposite — employees get to know that their opinions, impressions and feelings do matter, and this makes them open up even more.
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