It is awesome that so many businesses are interested in getting feedback from their employees – whether it is about the company, company strategy, work environment, or suggestions and ideas for improvement. However, what I see happen is that leaders think this is easy (it is) and quick (it can be) so they put something together, send it out and it doesn’t go as planned. While this process of getting feedback from employees can be quick and easy, it is only truly effective if it is well thought out and intentional.
Asking for employee feedback is as much about “HOW” as it is “WHAT.” How you ask for and respond to employees’ feedback is powerful. If this process goes well, employees feel heard. You increase trust, engagement and productivity. Everyone wins! However, if the process doesn’t go well, employees are much less likely to participate in the future. Even worse, it can result in a loss of trust, engagement and productivity — the exact opposite of the reason for getting feedback in the first place.
Here are some thoughts if you are asking your employees for feedback:
1. Be thoughtful about what you want to ask
Some businesses see this as a great opportunity so they want to ask everything. If you find yourself thinking ‘and we could ask this, and this, and this’, STOP. Be thoughtful. Be intentional. What is sparking your desire to get feedback? Has there been a recent change and you want to know how it’s going? Are there ongoing areas that you will consistently want feedback on? Ask about those.
2. Tell them what to expect now and in the future
It is important to manage expectations about the process to gather feedback and how the feedback will be shared. Be sure to provide the following information at a minimum:
- Is this a one time process to get feedback or will it be ongoing? If this will be an ongoing process, how frequently will you ask for feedback? If you are not sure of that answer, say that you don’t know. Another great way to position it if this is the first time you are getting feedback is to say that this is a ‘pilot’ process and based on the feedback on the process, you will determine what the future will look like.
- What information and results will be shared with employees? The more open and transparent you are with the feedback you receive, the more likely you are to build trust. This includes sharing feedback that wasn’t so good — if you hide the feedback because it’s bad, you will erode trust. And whatever you do, don’t say you are going to share the feedback and change your mind.
- How will the feedback be collected? For example, will feedback be collected by surveys or by in-person employee focus groups? There are many ways to collect the feedback. Consider your company culture and what you are trying to accomplish when determining the collection method. But even more important, will it be anonymous? First, if people are asking if it will be anonymous and how they will know if it’s anonymous, read this as a red flag around the culture. Something in the culture is making your employees hesitant about speaking up. Second, if you say it’s anonymous, make sure you keep it that way. Don’t try to figure out who said what (even in private). The truth is, it doesn’t matter.
3. Start with a response of appreciation.
How you respond to the feedback is SO IMPORTANT. Feedback is a gift. Whether or not you agree with the gift or no matter how the gift makes you feel, it is still a gift. So the best way to respond to feedback is the same as how you would respond when you get a gift…..say ‘thank you’. Remember, how you respond to the feedback will impact the level of trust and engagement of your employees.
4. Follow up and share information
This concept ties back to the bullet above. You have already communicated what employees can expect. Now follow up. Follow up within the timelines and guidelines you shared. Share the results of the feedback you heard. This seems basic but when things get busy, this sometimes falls to the bottom of the list. This needs to be a priority. Period.
5. Do something about it
If you get feedback and don’t do anything about it, people will stop giving you feedback. They will think “why did I bother if you weren’t going to do anything with it anyway?” or worse, “why did you waste my time?”. If you truly want to continue to get feedback in the future, you need to do something about it now. This doesn’t mean that you need to fix every area for improvement that employees list in a survey. It does mean you should address the things you can, you should explain why you are focusing on some priorities and not others. But let employees know you are going to do something with the feedback they provided.
To learn more about how to get feedback and engage employees, let’s connect! Here’s a link to set up a meeting directly with us: Connect with People Spark