5 Steps to Getting Better Employee Feedback (Even If You Hate It)

As an entrepreneur, feedback from your employees allows you to grow as a founder and lead your company down a successful path.

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By Patrick Proctor • Mar 28, 2014

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The good, bad and the ugly. When it comes to getting feedback from your employees that's how to ask for it. But that isn't usually what entrepreneurs do.

Many times founders only like to seek out the positives in what employees say. And who wouldn't? It is nice to hear how well we are doing and how our employees are pleased with our performance as their hard-working supervisor. Unfortunately, this is not where you'll find the gems, the gold nuggets and the game-changing tidbits of information regarding how your employees truly feel -- and how you are really doing as a boss.

Here's how to get employees to share and to earn their feedback:

1. Have more than just an open-door policy. How you invite employees to provide feedback is critical. Having an open door to your office is not the same as having an "open-door" policy. Are you approachable or are you defensive when you hear something you don't like and/or disagree with? Be sure to thank your employees who step up to offer insight and suggestion.

2. Ask, ask and ask again. Offering a one-time invite does not count. Your employees do not "win" opportunities to meet with you. Instead, you are earning this right from them. You are in your leadership position to serve and support your team, not the other way around. Pursue and remain constant in your solicitation of their feedback.

Related: How to Turn Criticism into the Ultimate Startup Motivator

3. Have team meals. People like free food. Offering company BBQ's, lunches, and catered parties is a great way to get people talking. Mingle amongst your employees and learn everything about them -- not just work-related issues. Also note that if you wear a suit to work each day and your employees do not, dress down on the company ice cream social day.

4. Make them believe by being genuine. If your employees truly believe that your leadership team cares about them then people will share. If they do not feel this way, and you cannot convince them of this, then they will not offer up insight. Ever.

Related: Facebook Co-Founder Chris Hughes: User Feedback Is Everything

5. Follow up. Are you hearing their needs? Only your employees can answer this question and only will they answer "yes" if things improve over time. Of course, the benefit of asking for ideas from your employees is that some are brought to fruition -- failure to do so will eventually result in reduced employee sharing.

Here are some helpful questions to ask your team. It's essential that you remind your employees that there are no wrong answers, meaning you will not critique, be defensive or challenge in any way the feedback you receive.

  • Why do you work for this company? Why do you stay?
  • In your current role do you feel that you make a difference?
  • What is the single most important value/attribute you bring to this organization?
  • Does your supervisor provide on-going feedback?
  • How have we thanked you for your service in the past six months?
  • Do we support you in your professional development?
  • What's the one thing you desire to see improved within our organization?
  • Who is our number-one competitor in our industry?
  • Do you know what our mission and core beliefs are?
  • How do you and your team typically receive company-wide information?

Although you may not choose to ask all of these questions, these are all important and get at specific objectives. For example, the question pertaining to your number one competitor, inquires whether or not the employee knows what's happening beyond their own function. Have you provided enough of a broad spectrum of knowledge? Keep in mind, employees want to be informed, but will rarely ask for updates that do not directly relate to their duties.

Related: The Art of Effective Feedback

Patrick Proctor

Vice President of Operations, Stash Tea Co.

Patrick Proctor is vice president of operations at Stash Tea Co. in Portland, Ore., and is an experienced organizational development, HR and strategic business planning leader. He writes about workplace issues.

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