Improving Continuous Feedback at Amazon

Improving Continuous Feedback at Amazon
Chances are that in the last week you’ve come across a headline related to the New York Times article about Amazon’s bruising workplace. I was intrigued by the original article, and equally intrigued by Nick Ciubotariu’s employee response. There were several areas where I felt Amazon was doing the right thing, and several areas where (if true) I felt Amazon was haunted. Wearing my WIRL hat, the key points of interest revolved around their practice of anytime feedback. 
 
I’m encouraged by the number of companies practicing continuous feedback (a definite positive for Amazon), but having lived and learned the best practices of continuous feedback from thousands of leaders, companies and employees – I’d like to offer one piece of advice to Amazon. 
 
Keep the continuous feedback, but ditch the anonymity.
 
It’s clear that Amazon craves a high-performance culture that’s predicated on continuous improvement, development and results. It’s also clear that continuous feedback plays a huge role in this. But if they want to achieve this culture harmoniously (and remove the elements of employee sabotage), then they need to increase accountability by removing anonymity.
 
In December 2014, our product took a stand and removed the option for providing feedback anonymously. Why? first it was a data driven decision. When we offered the option, 96% of the feedback provided was not anonymous. Digging deeper, this occurred because the companies that chose to implement WIRL, saw the role that transparency and accountability played in developing a culture of continuous feedback and improvement. 
 
Secondly, we believed that when it came to feedback, anonymity rarely promoted objectivity. We also believed that removing anonymity would open the lines of communication and achieve the goal of establishing a culture of continuous feedback. Without the option for anonymity, employees are encouraged to engage in further discussion, regardless if the feedback is positive or negative, and whether the discussion occurs in-app or offline.
 
We’ve all seen what happens when you have the option to troll anonymously. We learned of its toxic effects on employees at Amazon, and if it’s still not abundantly clear, I invite you to peruse the comments of any pop-culture video on YouTube. Happy scrolling.
GP

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