“OK, we have 1 minute left. Is there anything you want to share?”
That’s how Leonard’s manager, Scott, ended their regular performance review. Previously, he had been talking for almost half an hour, pointing out achievements and areas for improvement. Leonard had practiced what he would say. But now, seeing there was only 1 minute left, he just smiled and said, “No, thank you.”
Leonard wanted to discuss being more involved in team projects. And he wanted to ask to attend a conference that he found interesting and relevant to his job. If Scott knew about these things, we would have taken action.
If only he knew…
Two-way feedback should always be a conversation where both parties receive and offer feedback. The most important is that this two-way communication should never be a monologue.
Employee feedback in its most constructive form should never be limited to formal performance reviews. It should be an everyday interaction between employees (employees and managers, colleagues working together, teams, and cross-department conversations).
Let’s see in detail why it’s important to encourage constructive employee feedback in your organization and tips on how to do so effectively.
The importance of asking for feedback
We know feedback is precious and offers an excellent learning opportunity. Gallup discusses that managers who engage in frequent and continuous feedback have teams who are 3.2 more motivated to perform outstanding work and 2.7 times more engaged at work.
Fostering a feedback culture in your organization supports professional growth and more positive organizational and financial results.
For example, customer feedback is vital to your business’s success. You’re paying close attention (and even replying) to customer reviews, listening to customer complaints and trying to fix them, understanding what current and potential customers want, and so on.
So why not do the same for your employees? They know what’s working and what’s not, clearly understand your company values, and can suggest areas for improvement.
Let’s examine some key reasons why employee feedback is essential in your organization.
1. It’s always available
When does feedback occur? One would say that feedback takes place during employee surveys, performance reviews, or training evaluations. In fact, feedback is around all the time. Every time your employees interact with each other or every time they speak to a customer or a vendor. It’s impossible not to give feedback in a few words.
2. It’s a means for effective listening
Every person who provides feedback needs to know if the receiver has adequately understood the message and whether this feedback offers any value.
Be it a verbal feedback session or a survey, knowing why it is important and how it will be used is essential. As such, effective listening skills are always put into practice.
3. It’s a key motivator
Employees can perform better when asked for feedback, as they feel valued and appreciated. They feel their opinion matters and can affect any business decisions. Meaning they know they are an integral and vital part of your organization.
4. It’s a performance booster
Feedback is not criticism. It’s constructive and helps make better decisions among teams and the business overall. These decisions change how your people work and interact with each other for the better, and performance is improved and increased.
5. It’s a tool for continued learning
By investing time in discovering your people’s experience in your organization, you get valuable insights into how your teams can stay aligned with your business goals, create effective synergies, further develop your products and services, and improve relationships (between employees and customers).
This helps foster a continuous learning culture essential for improving your business.
The challenges of gathering employee feedback
Perhaps you’ve tried to gather employee feedback, but everything was “OK” without any surprises. Or, you’ve sent out a feedback survey only to discover that the participation rate was not very high, yet you didn’t want to force employees to answer. Maybe finding the time to schedule regular and well-planned feedback sessions is impossible.
Before planning out your feedback strategy, it’s important to know the main challenges that lead to ineffective and unsuccessful feedback so that you can better address them.
- Absence of a communication culture: When employees and managers have difficulties communicating honestly and openly with one another, even daily feedback sessions won’t bring any useful results. When leaders don’t value communication, pay little attention to company relationships and online collaboration tools, and don’t make plans to speak with their people, feedback sessions become less productive.
- Employees don’t feel heard: Employees might have shared their ideas and concerns or offered valuable feedback, but there was no action taken by leadership. As a result, they don’t feel valued and taken into consideration. If employees feel that every time they point out problem areas, nothing will be done, they will be uninterested in engaging in discussions in the future.
- Lack of trust: People need a safe environment in order to express themselves in all honesty. When employees feel uncomfortable sharing information or receiving honest feedback, chances are they don’t trust the organization. Cultivating trust with employees is crucial. It takes time and effort to develop.
- Fear of negative criticism: It’s not easy for employees to receive criticism about their work. They fear feedback sessions. They might believe that sharing negative comments to leadership as feedback would lead to severe consequences right from the beginning, like being taken as whiny, unloyal, excessively demanding, or even worse, losing their job. Thus, they become defensive and try to avoid any feedback sessions.
Best practices for gathering employee feedback
Gathering employee feedback is essential to maintain healthy teams with growth opportunities. Effective communication channels allow you to understand what’s blocking your teams’ success and act upon it.
So how do you effectively collect honest and valuable employee feedback?
Train managers and employees
Giving feedback isn’t child’s play. And it shouldn’t be taken lightly. People interactions need careful handling in order to be valuable and bring useful results. You wouldn’t want your managers to lack people and communication skills, like active listening, empathy, and using plain and inclusive language during conversations.
Ensure you support managers and employees in effectively gathering feedback from others in your organization by offering soft skills training. Then, they will have all the knowledge they need to have difficult conversations at work and build more confidence overall.
This will allow them to handle interactions more effectively and, as a result, have more chances of building trust and collecting honest feedback from their teams.
As discussed above, one of the biggest challenges when gathering employee feedback is that employees feel nervous about sharing their honest opinion. So, it’s necessary to implement methods that guarantee complete anonymity and confidentiality. For example, online surveys, online feedback forms, focus groups, or even 1:1 sessions with external moderators.
Anonymous feedback encourages employees to be fully honest and is a fantastic way to spark discussions and take action.
Invest in two-way feedback
When employees are across a leader who’s not straightforward, they’re less likely to feel confident enough to share their own opinions. Instead, a leader who’s open to discussions and gives people frequent and constructive feedback so they know what they’re doing well or what needs improvement, creates a safe environment.
Your teams will be more motivated to give you valuable feedback if you offer it to them regularly.
Set up formal and informal feedback sessions
Feedback is an evergreen process. It doesn’t suffice depending on formal processes, like annual or quarterly reviews. You won’t have well-rounded information and data on what’s effective for your employees and what’s not.
It’s important to include less formal feedback sessions in your strategy (i.e., weekly 1:1 sessions) so that employees can express their opinion more frequently and in a more targeted manner.
Be transparent about findings and next steps
Honesty brings honesty. Take the time to explain why you are seeking employee feedback and what you want to explore. Let employees know that they need to provide their viewpoints in an empowering way, along with possible solutions, so that their voices can be heard and taken seriously. Make sure you are clear about the approach you’ll use to gather this information, too.
After employees give you feedback, it’s crucial that you thank them for their valuable input and share any decisions that were made based on that (even if you took a different approach or path than the one they’ve suggested). Also, thoroughly explain the reasons that led you to these decisions. Employees should never consider feedback as a futile process, as seeing the driving changes will encourage them to feel more inclined to share their opinions in the future.
Sharing is caring
An open communication and transparency culture will help gather honest employee feedback–even if you don’t officially ask for it. But to reach that level, it’s crucial that employees feel safe first.
So, building trust with your people, showing that you care about their experience and well-being at work, and acting upon their feedback are key steps to building a robust culture of feedback in your organization.
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