#9 Ways That will Help Promote Actionable Feedback in Your Organization
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
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Let’s face it – receiving feedback is hard. Because it tells us what’s wrong with us and that we need to improve. And that’s exactly why it is the key to growth. Of course, not all feedback is negative. Occasionally there will be stuff you hear that will make you proud. That’s important too. But the feedback that really matters – whether it’s for a person or an organization – is one that shows us how to do better, be better.
The Perils of Being “Too Nice”
As individuals, we are constantly gathering/giving feedback, but most of it is tinged with the social rules of the groups we operate in. In short, we are too concerned with being ‘nice’ and non-offensive, which is understandable because feedback (especially negative feedback) requires a certain level of familiarity and candor between the two parties. Unfortunately, this whole “being nice” business renders most feedback exercises meaningless.
Why We Need Authentic Feedback
Because most employees never get any meaningful feedback and they tend to develop a feeling that the organization does not care enough to try and improve them. The result is a “don’t ask- don’t tell” status quo. No feathers are ruffled and nothing changes.
In the course of my work, I have met several CEOs and HR heads who are looking to build a culture of feedback. They have tried various methods like employee engagement surveys, 360-degree feedback surveys, annual performance reviews and more but have not had the desired effect. I tell them a survey’s success depends as much, if not more on the way it is conducted as on the medium itself.
How to Gather Feedback
I am crystallizing my experience here in 9 steps that will ensure the success of any employee feedback exercise:
It All Begins with Trust
It’s a privilege if the receiver accepts your feedback positively, a privilege that has to be earned. The way you earn this privilege is by building trust when everyone understands that any suggestion offered for improvement is out of care for their success. Without this psychological security, the receiver will hear only criticism.
Project Seriousness About the Process
It’s important that a feedback exercise is considered a value-adding exercise and not just a nice-to-have HR shenanigan. This message should travel down from the top. Leaders must ask for feedback themselves and visibly show that they receive feedback well. A good way to do this is a 360-degree feedback that solicits feedback from up (seniors) and down (subordinates) the hierarchy as well as sideways (peers).
Create a Safe Environment
Nothing spooks employees like the fear of retribution. Nobody is going to put their job/relationship on the line for saying the truth. Employees must feel safe in airing their opinions. So it is best to opt for third-party professionals who ensure respondent anonymity. There are many good ones out there to choose from – Psyft, Kenexa, Great Places to Work, Aon and more.
Structure the Exercise Clearly
Often, even the most well-intentioned feedback exercises fall flat during execution because no one has an idea of what they are doing. Whether you use surveys or personal one-to-one sessions, all communication related to it must clearly define what is the goal of the exercise, who gives the feedback, who receives it, how it is to be done and how will the results be used.
Both giving and receiving feedback can be tricky. Most of us have no clue how to do this until we are asked to. So in the interest of a successful feedback exercise, it is important to train people in best practices. Pre and post survey briefings will help participants learn important skills like how to frame criticism so it is perceived constructively.
The Questions - What to Ask In a Survey?
Many businesses realize, albeit too late, that a professionally written survey is worth its weight in gold. Taking questions off of the internet or using a low-cost self-service survey portal, you are likely to end up with a survey form that is too vague or too leading, too long or too short or too lopsided. I’ve not listed all of the potential problems but you get the picture
The key takeaway here is that the real cost of conducting an employee survey is not the cost of the questionnaire or software platform, but the time that is invested by the management, employees and HR department, in planning, training, implementation and post-implementation events.
Make it Convenient
Two words – “go mobile”, because that’s where your audience is. It has been observed in many of our surveys that participation rates really improve when people have the liberty of completing it in on a smartphone. It gives them both mobility and privacy.
Act on It
All too often we find survey reports gathering dust in forgotten corners of the HR department. A survey does not end with a report. It ends when you take actions based on the report. You can be sure that no future survey will be taken seriously by employees if they feel you did nothing the last time around.
It is a simple thing really - when you make a decision or change based on the survey findings, let your employees know. “We did this because of your feedback” – these are powerful words that can be immensely empowering for employees. Their engagement with the process and the organization will increase dramatically when they see that the organization acts on their suggestions.
Feedback On the Feedback
Finally, take the time to get feedback on the survey process itself. It doesn’t have to be a complex exercise – a few random check-ins with employees will give you a good sense of their experience. You can then apply this intelligence the next time around.
While some of the above suggestions are tricky and take time (e.g. building trust) most are surprisingly simple and easy to implement if you choose a survey partner wisely. Sticking to these has helped several organizations derive concrete value from the feedback process. I hope you do too. Good luck!