As a manager, you probably think you’re doing an awesome job of running the show.
No one’s ever complained about anything, so that must mean that everything you’re doing is perfect, everyone’s happy, and nothing needs to change. There’s no need to ask employees for feedback, right?
Unfortunately for you, this type of mentality is what drags employee engagement down the drain. If you want to improve workplace satisfaction, retention, and your organization’s culture, don’t you think it’s about time you gave your employees a voice?
If you're unsure of where to start, know that we've got your back. Here are some tips and tricks to creating a feedback action plan that will help drive employee engagement.
The Pitfalls of Annual Performance Reviews
When we talk about employee feedback, we’re not referring to the yearly survey. That thing’s an outdated dinosaur. Just as employees want to get frequent feedback from their supervisors, they also want to give you their opinion way more often than once a year. And they’re not looking for 50 closed-ended questions.
Leverage a survey platform that captures your workers’ feedback on a regular basis. Regular one- to two-question surveys sent out weekly or biweekly are the way to go. Employees are ready to listen to you and improve their performance in real time, so they want the same thing out of the company.
Importance of Employee Feedback
The biggest impact of feedback for any organization is that it has the power to improve the work environment. Employees aren't feeling valued at work? They don't have the tools to complete tasks?
All of these concerns may never be unearthed if employees aren’t offered the chance to provide their feedback. Here’s how employee feedback improves the workplace:
1. Improves organizational culture
Anonymous feedback at work allows people to bring up concerns and issues they've been holding back. And thanks to this feedback, managers can address the situation and find a solution before anything gets out of hand.
2. Drives transparency
Surveys open up a line of communication between employees and managers. When done anonymously, they make employees feel less threatened that their opinion will result in negative consequences.
3. Increases engagement
Most employees won’t outwardly say to their boss, “I’m unhappy here.” But if given an anonymous employee feedback tool, people can make their managers aware of how they're actually feeling about the workplace.
Because issues are never-ending, ask for feedback and ask again. Never close the communication channel, because doing so will only hurt your workplace culture.
Benefits of Pulse Feedback
Burnout can happen to the best of us. We put in so much time and effort into our work that stress sneaks up or suddenly takes over. A study by the American Institute of Stress revealed how big of a problem workplace stress is:
- 80% of employees are feeling stress on the job
- 50% said they need help dealing with it
- 25% of Americans view their jobs as the number one stressor in their life
But go ahead and breathe easy because there’s a solution: employee feedback. This valuable tool has the power to flip workplaces upside down (in a good way) and create an engaging environment.
It may be easy to bottle up work stress, but that only leads people on a negative route. Providing employees with access to a safe place to air out their concerns can actually improve their mental health.
According to Psychology Today:
Employee Feedback Obstacles
Just like any practice, there are advantages, and there are disadvantages. However, we’re not afraid to shine a light on the obstacles you might face when implementing feedback surveys.
1. Costs money
Yes, employee feedback surveys can cost money. So in this sense, money does buy happiness. Companies that invest in their employees to keep them engaged reap the benefits of productivity, financial returns, and retention.
2. Takes time
Employees have to take time out of their busy day to answer the survey. But if the survey only has one simple question (like pulsing surveys), then workers don’t have to worry about spending a good chunk of their day providing feedback.
3. Getting employees to buy in
A sense of futility is the biggest obstacle. And it’s up to managers to crush that mindset. Managers need to show their employees that they’re doing something about their employees’ feedback to build trust. The more changes employees see, the more they’ll be encouraged to voice their opinions.
When done right, an employee survey is just what you need to find out what engages your workers, what frustrates them, and what you can do to make your organization better. The key is to stick with a few successful ingredients:
1. Make it digital
Leverage digital employee feedback software like TINYpulse that gets sent directly to your employees’ inboxes and can be accessed in any place, at any time. What’s easier than that?
2. Commit to anonymity
Remove the fear of retaliation. If employees have no doubt that they’ll be protected from identification and criticism for their feedback, they will give you candid responses.
3. Keep it short and simple
Don’t take up too much of your employees’ time. Stick to just one or two questions on a specific topic and you’ll enjoy thorough, thoughtful responses. You might also see sustained response rates as high as 90%, like some TINYpulse clients.
4. Repeat frequently
Aim for a weekly or biweekly format to establish a regular channel of communication. If your survey is short and easy to use, you don’t have to worry about the frequency being a burden on your workers.
How NOT to Act on Feedback
Sometimes you get good responses, while other times you get ... not-so-positive ones. Regardless of what kind of feedback you receive, it all comes down to how you react to it. Here are the three worst things you could ever do with feedback:
1. Ignore the feedback
Blessing White found that a third of employees become disengaged when employers ask for feedback but do nothing about it. Fielding a survey without the commitment to act on its results is a recipe for disengagement.
2. Hunt down the source
When we receive negative feedback, we immediately want to know who said it. But how are you going to improve your culture or gain trust from your employees by calling them out for voicing their opinion? Stressing about who said what will only cloud your judgment and potentially breed bias against certain employees.
3. Not sharing the feedback
Managers tend to hoard information because it gives them a sense of power. In actuality, you’re telling your employees that you don’t care about them. And according to our 2013 Employee Engagement Survey, transparency is the number one factor that contributes to happiness in the workplace.
How to Respond to Employee Feedback
1. Share the responses
Good, bad, ugly — share them all. An important part of being a transparent organization is to let negative feedback out in the open so your employees know that you won’t hide from criticism. Of course, you’ll also be sharing positive responses too, so don’t worry about damaging team morale.
2. Act on the responses
You can’t just capture feedback — you have to do something with it too. Get ready to create action plans to act on all the great feedback you’re about to receive.
What to Do With Negative Feedback
1. Get clarification
Is it just a one-time situation? Or is this issue recurring? Get a better understanding of the issue by responding to the negative feedback. But do so privately (through email or private messaging) to ensure the respondent’s comfort.
2. Talk it out
If the employee is feeling comfortable enough, meet with them in person. Find out why they’re feeling that way and how it’s affecting their work — there's a good chance other employees might be feeling the same too.
3. Elicit concrete examples
Has your employee been working an extra two hours every day for the past month? Perhaps they’ve been having trouble communicating with a certain team.
Think of negative feedback as data that's meant to improve your workplace. Employees aren’t saying things just because — they’re reaching out to you because you’re the person who can implement changes in the workplace.
Why Feedback Needs to Be Anonymous
Employees find it difficult to be completely candid with someone who has the power to fire you or make your work life miserable. So in order to crush this fear, you need to keep feedback anonymous.
A survey conducted by Cornell and Harvard Business Journal found that 42% of respondents who’ve spoken up about work problems or offered ideas said they withheld them on other occasions because they feared personal consequences.
The Virtual Suggestion Box
In today’s digital world, you need a virtual suggestion box. While an online survey may drill down on a specific topic, it’s important to offer an open-ended suggestion box too.
Our Employee Engagement Survey found that, when asked, 18% of employees include useful, actionable feedback. So surveys alone aren’t enough for feedback.
If one employee has an idea to improve the workplace, it’s likely they’re not alone. As a manager, it’s easy to overlook certain needs and inconveniences. For example, scheduling meetings at an inconvenient time where employees have to come in early just to attend.
But again, employees are afraid to voice their unhappiness with the meeting time for fear of retaliation. That’s where a virtual suggestion box comes to play. An employee can make this suggestion without their name attached; they don’t have to worry about receiving any negative consequences.
And when managers act upon these ideas, they’re acting to improve the work culture. If it’s a major inconvenience for one person, other employees are most likely feeling the same.
There are many parts to feedback. But just keep in mind that it’s a powerful practice that can only do good for your workplace. As long as you keep the feedback tool frequent, short, and anonymous and include a virtual suggestion box, then you’re on your way to improving employee engagement.
Share Your Tips
What are your best practices for dealing with employee feedback? Or perhaps you want us to go more in-depth with a specific topic. Just let us know in the comments section below!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
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