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A feedback culture is key to melting the ‘Iceberg of Ignorance’

  • Written by Monica Watt

In the late 1980s an idea began to gain traction in boardrooms around the world. The idea is straightforward, there is a disconnect between what the employee see and hear and what gets back to executives. Developed by Sidney Yoshida, the ‘Iceberg of Ignorance’ concept saw the rise of the suggestion box throughout the corporate world In a bid to melt the iceberg. Despite the progress made over the past 30 years, many of the challenges of yesteryear still exist.

An ‘Iceberg of Ignorance’ is the result of a disconnected workforce. Unsurprisingly in the COVID-19 environment the risk of disconnection between leaders and teams is enormous. The move to remote working showed organisations how they can work with greater flexibility but it also highlighted the challenges that a disconnected workforce can present. For some employees the pandemic induced remote working heightened feelings of isolation and remoteness from their employer and their teams. Isolation can quickly become disconnection so it’s important that HR leaders step in quickly.

At the core of addressing a disconnected workforce is the need to build a strong organisational culture. The culture is the lynchpin that all levels of the workplace can work together to create. It should act as the light on the hill for executives and employees alike.

All organisational cultures need to be centred around feedback if they are to remove the possibility for widening disconnection. The staff benefits, team drinks, casual dress codes and wellbeing initiatives are important as well. However, to truly melt the iceberg of ignorance leaders need to understand what is happening on the ground. The only way to achieve that is to create a culture where employees are encouraged and confident to speak up safely.

A key part of creating a feedback culture is having the infrastructure in place to allow for two-way communication feedback loop. In the modern workplace, technology is imperative to providing the means for organisations to communicate. Whether it's through messaging platforms or through formal HR processes, technology makes the act of communicating much simpler. Technology is an enabling tool for employees to share their insights, experience and anecdotes of what they are experiencing on the front line. A formalised process of lodging issues through technology platforms can also help management and leaders understand when isolated incidents are becoming trends and issues.

The strength of a feedback culture will be underpinned by the confidence employees have in their ability to fearlessly raise their concerns. Implementing whistleblower programs or anonymising feedback channels helps employees feel confident that they can raise issues in a safe environment. Having senior leadership welcome and applaud anonymised employees for raising issues through the correct channels also sets the right tone that feedback is welcome.

In order to effectively manage a team, leaders can’t just sit on top of the iceberg. Creating a healthy feedback culture allows leaders to make better informed decisions while building an environment where employees can grow, develop, and enjoy their work experience.

By Monica Watt - Chief Human Resources Officer, ELMO Software

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