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What Is Employee Feedback?
Employee feedback can take different forms depending on the type of questions asked by the leader or company. Do you know what your employees like most about working for your company and what aspects of working for the organization are most painful? Are you missing great ideas for improvement in processes because you aren’t asking for them? What benefits do your employees value the most? How do they experience the culture? All of these topics and many more are included in employee feedback.
Why Is Employee Feedback Important?
Without employee feedback, a company can miss key factors, changes in morale, and cultural issues. Employee feedback can provide a company with a competitive advantage and put the talents of your workforce to better use. Here are just a few ways in which employee feedback is a crucial resource for your company.
Engagement vs. Feedback
Employee engagement is the emotional attachment the individual feels at his or her place of work. Employee engagement may also include the level of enthusiasm and dedication an employee feels toward their position. Employee engagement can fuel a company and is an area of study in its own right.
Types of Employee Feedback
There are many ways you can ask for feedback. It can occur informally, in quick questions over lunch or in the hall, as well as in formal surveys or meetings. Here are a few general types of feedback that can all be useful.
Asking for suggestions (such as in a survey or suggestion box) may not get to core issues, but it can alert you to concerns or issues as well as get great ideas for everything from how to celebrate holidays to efficiency improvements.
Complaining has a bad reputation, but instituting an open-door policy or office hours can help leaders understand people’s core concerns with workplace problems. Consider training managers in active listening so they can see complaints as an opportunity to learn more and get valuable insight.
Ratings and Rankings
A rating and ranking system with numbers assigned to issues can help you track issues over time. For example, employees may rate their satisfaction with the company a 5 out of 10. That might seem bad until you compare it to last year’s score, which was 2 out of 10. Ratings or rankings are most helpful when combined with follow-up questions about why the employees chose the rating.
We all behave differently when we know we are being watched. Observing from a distance, however, can help leaders see problems within the organization. For instance, noticing that one highly productive individual does things differently from their peers can help leaders figure out improvements.
When to Gather Employee Feedback
Because it takes time to get feedback, it makes sense to focus on areas where it can do the most good. Here are a few categories of feedback you may want to focus on in your organization.
- Improving things relevant to employees’ jobs. Getting ideas from a receptionist about improving the front-desk experience for customers makes sense while getting their ideas about meeting financial ratios probably does not. Employees may feel frustrated if they are asked to do someone else’s job.
- Improving employee satisfaction. Employees are already thinking about how they can be happier at work. Asking directly about how HR can improve their work experience tells them the company cares.
- Focusing on possible change. It is wise to focus on getting feedback where the organization can make a change in the short term. Executives will probably feel that suggestions to shut down the company aren’t helpful, and employees who make suggestions but see no change may feel discouraged.
What to Include When Gathering Employee Feedback
Requesting feedback can be tricky. People may fear backlash from leaders or not want to be seen as complainers, and may only comment on what they think leaders want to hear. Here are some creative ways to get people to open up about real issues in the company.
Create a Safe Space and Be Upfront About Feedback
Acknowledge the fact that not all feedback is feasible to be acted upon. Explain why you value their opinions and that only their honest feedback will be useful. This upfront conversation will create a safe space and encourage employees to give relevant feedback.
Anonymous vs Identity Attached
Be clear about when feedback is anonymous and when it is not. Make sure employees understand when their name, age, gender, or job role is documented with their feedback. Make sure to keep any promises about what will and won’t be shared about who is making each comment.
Allow People To Back Out
Trust and respect are more important for the long-term health of the company when compared to any feedback people might get. Show people respect by allowing them to opt-out of offering feedback. If someone gives feedback but asks the individual not to share it with anyone, it is wise to respect their wishes.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Focus on questions that allow people to explain things in their own words. Beware of telling people what to think by the way the questions are asked. For example, rather than asking, “How happy does working nine to five make you?” instead ask, “How do you feel about working nine to five?” It is always okay to ask follow-up questions that get more details.
Employees’ time is valuable, so thank them for their time and effort. Notify employees when a suggestion they made is changing the organization, and highlight progress on issues the employees raised. Employees who see that their feedback had an impact will be more likely to offer more input in the future.
How Do I Get Employee Feedback?
There are many sources of inviting and finding peoples’ opinions and desires about their workplaces.
People love to talk about their work and often have great ideas if asked about ways to improve work processes. Leaders can use these conversations to know what kinds of questions to ask in surveys.
Surveys can be taken through one-on-one interviews, pulse surveys (frequent but short), group interviews, or online survey platforms like Qualtrics, SurveyMonkey, or Google Forms. These pre-planned questions can use rankings as well as free-form feedback.
Creating an anonymous way to speak up gives employees a safe way to express their thoughts without the fear of retribution from leaders and managers. Employees may feel comfortable sharing ideas about how to improve the workplace or specific processes that the company couldn’t elicit in any other way. Anonymity can be offered in suggestion boxes or online links.
Employees who are leaving voluntarily or involuntarily are typically more likely to speak about sensitive topics and can be a great source of insight into how the organization can improve.
Employees post reviews about current or former employers on many websites. Glassdoor.com, Monster.com and even Google reviews can help the organization get feedback on the company. Along with discussing salary and benefits, these reviews often discuss other aspects of work that are great or could be improved.
Employee Feedback Tools
Here are some tools you can use when trying to get employee feedback about your organization.
It is important to ask the right questions in non-biasing ways. If you need ideas, there are many online resources, including:
- Big Book of HR Sample Employee Satisfaction Survey Questions (page 189)
- Qualtrics.com 360 Feedback Questions
There are a number of survey tools that can help the company get feedback from employees and can ensure confidentiality.
- Pro: Free version has full features.
- Con: Costs money for added privacy.
- Pros: Well-designed. Pre-packaged employee feedback questions.
- Cons: Paywalls to get premium features. Complex for first-time users.
Having outsiders collect feedback can be helpful. Employees may be more comfortable sharing sensitive information if they know the person asking has no history in the organization.
- Student interns. Nearby colleges and universities likely have students in sociology, anthropology or business programs who have been trained to ask good questions and are looking for internships.
- Pros: Low cost. Academic advisors can help. Not threatening to employees.
- Con: Less experience.
- Consultants. Many companies are happy to come in and help HR gather feedback.
- Pro: Professional accountability. Big name offers legitimacy. Experience.
- Con: High cost.
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