'Ssst,' it sounds, just before you walk into the coffee room. One colleague is sitting at the table, attentively stirring his tea. The other gets up and 'goes back to work'. You feel bad. You know you made a mistake this morning and you also know they were just talking about it. You're embarrassed and you're angry. Why don't they just say that to me?
Giving feedback is exciting. Scientific experiments have shown time and again that when people have to judge another person personally, they don’t say what they really think. It is our nature to keep the atmosphere pleasant. After all, you never know how the ball will bounce back when you tell a colleague what you perceived as negative. As a result, most people are reluctant to address someone directly about their behavior.
Giving feedback requires more than the right skills
It is important that giving feedback becomes a collective tool. It must be recognized by the entire organization as an important value. This requires a corporate culture in which employees feel safe to make mistakes and to learn. Such a culture is characterized by a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. Employees have the confidence that they can develop and become better and better at their jobs.
That's exactly the culture RAV Brabant had in mind
Employees in ambulance care often work under high pressure. Giving feedback is not self-evident in this organization, as evidenced by the results of the employee satisfaction survey. The survey paints a picture of a culture in which employees are reluctant to give feedback. Employees experienced both giving and receiving feedback as extremely uncomfortable.
That had to change
The ambition of RAV Brabant is to become a learning organization. Giving feedback is part of that. To relieve the pressure on planning, they were looking for a solution that employees could work with themselves in lost hours. Together with IJsfontein, the organization began to investigate how they could do this using the gamified learning platform UpTrek. ‘It’s the first time we’ve experimented with teacher-independent training,’ says Martin Dubbelman, educator and trainer at RAV Brabant. ‘The ability of employees to solve problems is much greater than you might think. We are now making use of that.’
A new feedback module has been developed specifically for RAV
Maria de Lange is product owner of UpTrek and explains. ‘We work iteratively, which means we do a lot of testing with the target audience, right from the first prototype. ‘ With this new feedback module, too, the team quickly started testing. And that was just as well. In the first version, employees not only got to work with the theory of giving feedback, but they were also encouraged to give feedback directly to colleagues. We were clearly going too fast. Employees got angry and didn’t feel safe,’ says Maria.
Back to the drawing board
The UpTrek team looked for a way in which employees could still safely practice giving feedback and be challenged to reflect on themselves. We opted for a form in which we did not practice with real colleagues but with fictional characters and (funny) movies about ‘other’ people. This made the material very accessible. Employees were also confronted with their own assumptions and prejudices. In the game they are rewarded if they dare to be honest about this.
So the training was still confrontational
But in a much safer setting. Employees work together in the game with their own team, but could not see from each other what answers they gave. As a team, they could earn points. The more played, the more points. Moreover, they could earn extra points by improving themselves or challenging a colleague to a quiz battle. In the game, each team has its own island. By playing they earn items with which they can make their island more beautiful. They also see how other teams score.
November was game month
Throughout November, employees were challenged to play the game. The response was huge. The employees really enjoyed doing it. They thought it looked beautiful and were fanatical about making their island the most beautiful,” says Martin. The winning team received a sum of money for a team outing and a challenge cup. The effect of the training is already visible. ‘We work with practical trainers who have to give feedback to their students. We see that the quality of their reports has increased after this training.’
But culture change goes step by step
In an organization where employees are not used to giving and receiving feedback, you cannot “just start” giving feedback. That doesn’t feel safe and will only backfire. By playing this first module with all employees, the tone was set and they were ready for the next step. Martin: “The IJsfontein team speaks the right language and really dives into the subject matter. They kept asking questions and really listened to us and to the employees. This not only resulted in a wonderful game, but also in new insights into our culture and organization that will help us to further shape the culture change. Together with IJsfontein we are now looking at the next step. Culture change doesn’t happen overnight, but you have to have the courage to start. Afterwards, you can always make adjustments.’