Giving and receiving feedback is vital to the culture of openness at VodafoneZiggo

Last year, over 1,000 employees at VodafoneZiggo took part in a tailor-made training course on how to give and receive feedback. With many more employees still to go, Culture & Engagement Manager Nynke Hagen and Senior Trainer Marianne van Munster tell about this special project, in which openness, behavioral change and teamwork are at the center of attention.

Culture program

The training that Schouten Global developed for VodafoneZiggo is part of a broader culture program that focuses on three values: Open Up, Team Up and Step Up. Currently, the company is concentrating on the first value, Open Up, which is all about creating a culture of openness and accountability in which employees feel free to give feedback and ask each other questions. “Our company culture has been high on our agenda ever since the joint venture between Vodafone and Ziggo started in 2017,” says Nynke. “So, we spent the first year exploring what we stand for as a company, and then started focusing on what we know about our values. By 2020, we were ready to start working on developing behavior within the company.”

Meeting the need for change

According to its own engagement survey, which VodafoneZiggo conducts several times a year, there was a strong need among employees to improve behavior in relation to the three cultural values. VodafoneZiggo wanted to seize the opportunity to act on this feedback. At the same time, the company had entered a period of fast-paced digital transformation due to the COVID pandemic, which increased the need for clear communication and efficient teamwork even further. “We asked ourselves, what kind of behavior do we want to reinforce in our culture and prioritize? And that’s when we started talking about the value Open Up,” explains Nynke.

Feedback in teams

“The idea behind the training was to teach our people what feedback is and, more importantly, what it is not, and then to give them a chance to practice the ‘how,’” explains Marianne. “At first, we offered the training on an individual basis. But soon it became clear that we needed to shift our focus towards creating a feedback culture within our teams. By now, we have trained more than 150 teams, from technicians and store staff, to our HR director and his team. The feedback training immediately lays the basis for stronger teamwork and empowers people to experiment. And these skills are precisely the focus of the other two values, Team Up and Step Up.”

“Even if you’re good at giving feedback, it doesn’t matter unless the other person is able to receive it. If you improve the way you receive feedback, then the way other people give you feedback is no longer as important.” Marianne van Munster - Senior Trainer Schouten Global

Major success

Nynke says, “The training was tailor-made for us and the content is even placed into context for each different team.” “The response has been incredibly positive,” adds Marianne. “Recently, someone was telling me that he had reached his learning goals. He said he now felt less like a weak cup of coffee and more like a strong espresso! And last week, one of our team managers was visibly moved at the end of the training. She said she was so touched by the way she saw her team open up. Those are excellent results. We’re also seeing that reflected in the evaluations and effect scans. After completing the feedback training, people rate themselves two points higher on average than how they rated themselves before the training. Nynke adds, “What I am hearing is that people now find it ‘easier’ to give one-on-one feedback. They are now more likely to point out positive aspects instead of only dwelling on negative things, and this also leads people to ask each other more critical questions.”

Unlimited learning

Now, employees at VodafoneZiggo think of feedback in terms of “supportive” and “developmental” instead of “positive” and “negative.” “This is a wonderful development, which is fully in line with our new mindset of continual learning,” explains Nynke. “To truly create a culture in which everyone feels safe to speak openly, we are also embedding this mindset in other processes and programs, such as performance management and leadership development. In addition to this feedback training, we still have hundreds of training modules and courses on the Archipel platform, a sister company of Schouten Global. Our employees have unlimited access to these.”

“Are you working on your company culture? Embed your values in everything you do and be sure to involve people from every part of the company.” Nynke Hagen- Culture & Engagement Manager VodafoneZiggo

Trust and engagement

The feedback training had only just gotten off the ground when Marianne proposed to Nynke that they visibly embed all three VodafoneZiggo values into it. “We are making a more meaningful contribution by working on strategically developing the organization and shaping partnerships instead of just providing training,” says Marianne. “From the very beginning, Schouten Global has been a sparring partner and a source of inspiration to us,” agrees Nynke. “We work together to figure out ways to improve behavior. The people at Schouten Global are true experts and they are also flexible. That makes the process very smooth.”

Safeguarding the future

The learning process never ends. That’s why Nynke and Marianne are already looking for ways to expand the feedback training by organizing an additional module or refresher. “We’re exploring how to give feedback from every possible angle,” explains Nynke. “We’re helping managers to develop their leadership skills in this area, to inspire their team members by telling their stories, and helping them to give feedback on the job. We’ve developed practical tools that make this easier. Feedback is also an important aspect of our new performance management process, in which teams regularly have an open dialog about how things are going. And it’s not just about performance, but about ‘the how,’ which is behavior.

“To any organization that wants to work on its culture, I would also like to say: embed your values in everything you do and be sure to involve people from every part of the company. It isn’t enough to just choose some standalone training module and then expect for it to have an effect. Make sure that the learning process continues even after the training is over, so that new behaviors become the norm.”

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