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4 Ways to Get Truly Honest Feedback From Employees While positive feedback encourages people to continue doing what they do well, it's the constructive feedback that helps people -- and businesses -- grow.

By Andre Lavoie Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Getting employees to give honest feedback can be like pulling teeth. After all, no one wants to upset their boss with complaints, criticism or suggestions. But just like employees, employers need to hear the good, the bad and the ugly.

While positive feedback encourages people to continue doing what they do well, it's the constructive feedback that helps people -- and businesses -- grow.

Related: How to Find Out What's Really Happening in Your Organization

Eliciting honest, constructive feedback from employees can be difficult, but not impossible. Instead of outdated employee grievance systems that don't work, here are four ways employers can gain better insight through honest employee feedback:

1. Ditch the suggestion box.

The anonymous aspect of the stereotypical suggestion box encourages employees to give their two cents because there's no fear of retribution. But that fear shouldn't be present if a company has successfully developed a culture based on open communication and an ownership mentality. Employees should feel empowered and realize they have a stake in the success (or lack thereof) of the organization.

Instead, embrace transparency, just like marketing agency Quirk. Quirk created a public process -- in the form of a flow chart on the office wall -- that allows anyone in the company to suggest ideas, gather support for those ideas (through signatures) and potentially have them implemented. Suggestion boxes keep ideas and suggestions hidden, rather than empowering employees to voice their opinions, as Quirk's flowchart method does.

2. Ask insightful questions.

Having an open-door policy is great, but it doesn't always motivate employees to come forward with their comments, suggestions or concerns. The key to bringing out truly honest feedback from employees is to take the time to meet with them in an informal, one-on-one setting.

Knowing what to ask employees during individual meetings, whether they're performance check-ins, lunches or exit interviews, is crucial to drawing out honest, actionable feedback. Asking questions such as these can help employers gain better insight:

  • If you were in my shoes, what would you change tomorrow? Why?
  • What are you hearing clients (or customers) say about our business?
  • What do you enjoy most about your job? Least?
  • How can I help you be more successful?

Related: Treat Your Employees Well -- They Are Your Best Brand Ambassadors

3. Assign feedback coaches.

It's one thing to receive feedback from a boss, but it's another thing entirely to give feedback to a boss. The key to getting candid opinions from employees might just be to allow employees to choose who they give that feedback to.

Take The Motley Fool, for example. The multimedia financial-services company found a way to take the intimidation factor out of the feedback process. Instead of having employees report to their boss when it comes time to give or take feedback, they encourage employees to choose from a list of designated "feedback coaches."

These coaches are well-versed in handling employee feedback and, most important, take some of the fear out of the review process. Designating a select few to handle employee grievances could be the key to eliciting honest, constructive feedback on everything from management issues to business solutions.

4. Follow up with employees.

In the end, how employers elicit employee feedback is irrelevant if they don't follow up with employees. When it comes to giving employers constructive feedback, the greatest motivator is to show employees their feedback is being considered or, better yet, applied. Employers can bet that once an employee has taken the time to give their opinion on a matter, they'll be watching to see if their opinion is truly valued.

Even if an idea or suggestion remains just that, follow up with employees and let them know that their feedback is always appreciated and encouraged.

How do you get candid opinions from your employees? Share your tips in the comments section below.

Related: Should Your Employees Solicit Feedback From Each Other?

Andre Lavoie

Entrepreneur; CEO and Co-Founder, ClearCompany

Andre Lavoie is the CEO of ClearCompany, the first talent-alignment platform that aims to bridge the gap between talent management and business strategy by contextualizing employees’ work around a company’s vision and goals.

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