Every company needs a good feedback process.

If you're wondering whether or not your company has one--you likely don't. It's essential you start building a program for feedback as soon as possible, because, as I've learned recently, the benefits can be tremendous.

Or at least that's true when the process is well implemented.

I remember dreading the year-end review process when I worked at Google in 2010. We had to do a large-scale review for roughly 15-20 people twice a year. It took an entire week to complete all the reviews, and they ultimately weren't as effective and thoughtful as they could have been because everyone had to scramble to submit before the deadline.

The best feedback process is easy and effective for everyone involved, and I wanted to make sure that was the case at my own company. So, at the beginning of 2018, our team brought in a consultant to help implement a streamlined feedback program. Why a consultant?

When someone doesn't work at your company, they can better understand your overall needs.

This may seem counterintuitive, but it's true.

Just like it's difficult to criticize your own work, it's difficult to see your company with completely clear eyes. A consultant doesn't just see your processes--they see the way a wide variety of other companies operate. They know what works and what doesn't. They help team members open up, since they're truly objective. They create a barrier of trust.

In essence, an outside consultant can assess what your company needs without any bias.

Nancy, our consultant, saw we could benefit from the 360 feedback model, so she helped us build that review process along with a complementary leadership matrix.

With that outside perspective, we revamped our entire feedback process.

We don't do the traditional year-end review here. Instead, each person's yearly review is on their ThirdLove "birthday"--the day they started.

That ensures managers aren't completely swamped with performance reviews during one or two weeks in the winter. Instead, it's a continuous, organic process.

Nancy acts as the third party, explaining the process to the teammate and their manager. But everyone is in charge of their own review. During the review, you choose five people--one of them has to be your direct manager--and set up a time with each of them for a 30-minute chat. You give them the questions in advance so they have time to consider their answers, and then you meet with them in person to discuss.

It's a more comfortable and proactive way of getting feedback, and the hope is that it sparks an honest and open dialogue that continues throughout the year.

We realized how important it is to get feedback from the right people.

You definitely want to get feedback from people who know you well. At the same time, you also want to cast a wide net, so that you're getting various perspectives.

For example, Sam, our PR Coordinator, chose two previous managers, two teammates, and her direct manager to ensure she's getting feedback from people who interact with her in different roles. Hopefully, all the feedback a team member receives is relatively consistent, meaning the managers are making the same points as the teammates. But it's possible that the peer group sees different things than the managers, which is why it's crucial to hear from more than one or two people.

The feedback process is simply a way for people to learn where their strengths lie and where they can focus on improving.

Once someone receives feedback, they should know how to use it.

The leadership matrix I mentioned before isn't part of our feedback process, but it comes into play after everyone goes through their review--and good feedback is crucial to using it properly.

The matrix contains a number of levels: coordinator, associate, manager, senior manager, and so on. Not everyone's titles include those exact words, but everyone in the company is under a certain tier in the matrix.

This allows us to look across the business and set expectations for each level. For instance, if someone's goal is to move up from associate to manager, then they have a clear idea of what's expected of them. And when they get feedback, they have an opportunity to see how well they communicate, work cross-functionally, set strategies, get buy-in, and all the other aspects of being a manager.

The expectations increase the higher you get within the matrix, so the feedback process is a way of starting a conversation about where they can improve and where they should focus to get themselves to the next level.

The truth is, people need good feedback to get better at what they do. And every company needs a process for helping their team members get that feedback. It doesn't have to be exactly like ours, but it does have to benefit your team.

Published on: Jan 25, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.