Building trust with continuous feedback

January 26, 2023

Consider the strong, reliable relationships you’ve built in your life. What makes those relationships strong? Were they built on a foundation of fear or trust?

People often stay in relationships that they are comfortable in because there’s a level of trust and stability. Security is built in an environment where proactive communication, or consistently giving and receiving constructive feedback, is the standard expectation. This is true for personal relationships and can be true for transactional relationships like the ones we build at work. Managers and employees operating in the continuous feedback paradigm cultivate this environment. With deeper levels of trust and stability, the probability of retention is increased on both sides. The precedent of transparency that’s set through continuous feedback enables managers and employees to reach mutual agreements before the last resort: leaving the company.

63% of US workers cited the lack of opportunity for growth as a reason for resignation from their roles (Pew Research). This begs a few questions:

  • Did employees have a good enough relationship with their managers to discuss their aspirations and inquire about growth opportunities?
  • If so, how often? Every six months to a year during performance reviews, or continuously?
  • Was adequate actionable feedback and opportunities consistently given to employees from their managers to express growth?

So what’s the key to developing and maintaining trust between managers and employees? It’s this simple: Consistent, transparent conversations. Employees need to feel heard and be comfortable advocating for themselves as managers open opportunities for new projects. This means embracing an open-door policy where impromptu meetings occur on top of regularly scheduled 1:1s and performance conversations. There needs to be space created to have open dialogues about a range of things, from work-life balance to long-term career aspirations. This is achievable onsite and even remotely.

In any case, if employees notice a pattern of openness around communication, conscious or subconscious notes are taken. Conversely, when there isn’t an established flow and pattern of direct communication, it leaves room for assumptions, misperceptions, or misinterpretation. This can translate to anxiety, insecurity, and a lack of trust. If those silent factors take over, employee behaviors can shift to ​​seeking validation from their peers (which inevitably affects team morale), defaulting to skip-level leaders for direction and validation, or leaving the team or company altogether. This also causes challenges where managers will try to solve the problem without a clear understanding, like using an L&D budget misaligned with needs. In either example, there is damage done to the relationship.

A manager’s role is to create and maintain alignment to keep paths to success clear with partners and stakeholders. This also includes contributors on their teams. Continuous feedback is a holistic paradigm that reciprocally benefits employees and managers. Managers’ jobs are easier when they can rely on a secure and consistent feedback loop with their teams. Employees can trust that they will receive the information that they need to be successful. Managers can trust that their employees are autonomously doing their part and will be transparent if they feel undervalued, underutilized, or ambitious. In many ways, it forces managers to be better by stretching their capacity.

When leadership prioritizes developing a loop of continuous feedback as early as possible, trust and transparency can be built organically for and from their employees. Of course, communication is a two-way street and will only work if both sides of the connection are receptive. To create synergy and actualize trust, managers and employees must align in real-time—not every six months or once a year. Even though both parties have expectations and goals, sometimes (a lot of times) circumstances change, shifting what may have been established. By enabling alignment, continuous feedback promotes continuous alignment and fosters company-wide agility and resilience, and, with consistency, builds trust.

The condition of relationships between managers and employees is evident in outcomes. The result of continuous feedback is overwhelmingly positive. Employees can honestly engage with their managers, advocate for themselves, and be transparent about their experiences and needs. Managers also trust that their employees are doing their part with the tools and information provided. Both sides can focus on success while mutually trusting that there will be communication before any challenge becomes a problem.

Alexiah Grant has been in tech for nine years, working at companies scaling through various phases from startup to IPO. Starting as an Engineer and transitioning to Engineering Leadership, her expertise is building and leading Infrastructure and DevOps teams. Her passion is helping people grow their careers by tapping into their self-awareness and coaching them through finding their own solutions. 

Continuous feedback facilitates career progression, alleviates the emotional and tactical toll on both employees and managers, and shifts the dynamic of employee-manager relations to a growth mechanism. Find out how Pando can help you build a culture of continuous feedback with the first employee progression platform.