Four ways to gather employee feedback and use it effectively

2 employees giving/hearing feedback

Gathering employee feedback can be tricky. Everyone’s got their own hang-ups and fears and biases, and getting to the truth isn’t always easy. To do it, you’ll likely need a mix of face to face conversations and anonymous inputs, and the reward for listening to feedback is well worth it.

2 employees giving/hearing feedbackNot every organization has a well-structured employee feedback gathering system, and maybe you need some help getting started. Let’s look through some of the more popular techniques can how you can apply them.

One on Ones

The classic coaching session. Talking to your team member one on one isn’t just about getting them to improve their work, it’s just as much about learning what’s going on in their head.

Anyone with coaching experience will tell you that you can only get the best out of someone if you really understand them. To do that, you need to foster a conversation that gets the employee to open up and offer what’s going on in their world. Are they motivated for that next promotion, or do they feel like they’re being held back by that annoying coworker who wears too much cologne? Ask lots of open-ended questions about what’s going on in their world, and encourage them to help you find solutions to the problems they perceive. The feedback will start flooding in.

Skip Level Meetings

Hey, you’ve moved up in the company and you’re not coaching the front-level employees anymore. Congratulations.

It’s important not to lose touch though. If you don’t get a respectable amount of time with the people doing the hard work at the ground level, it’s easy to start losing touch with their reality. A mid-level manager or supervisor might be telling you everything’s going great and effectively managing their manager while they sit on a mountain of inefficiency and lies.

You likely won’t have time to do skip level meetings all the time, but a couple of times a year with a random selection of employees could give you brilliant new insights into how teams are being run, what’s working and what isn’t. And if anything is going badly, employees in a skip level meeting might be giddy to tell you about things they don’t think their manager is getting right, assuming they feel it’s a safe-space.

Suggestion Box

Suggestion boxes can be tricky, tricky things, but when well you can get great ideas and feedback from your workforce.

In their physical form, you can get some great ideas from employees who are a little shy to speak up in team meetings or one-on-ones. The anonymous nature of slipping a letter into a box can really help employees to freely express themselves.

If you use a web-form or email system, this provides the added benefit of allowing employees to hand in their ideas and feedback from their desks. That’s convenient, but keep in mind: even if you promote some kind of anonymous feedback platform, employees will always fear that you might track something back to them.

Engagement Surveys

Engagement surveys are the perfect, comprehensive way to gather feedback from your organization. They can gather a whole swath of opinions from the workforce and ultimately measure how engaged the average employee is and why.

While it’s possible to develop and roll out your own engagement survey, your best bet is likely in contracting a company to perform one for you once a year. Having an outside party conduct the survey gives employees the feeling of total anonymity, making their feedback more open and honest, and it sets up your organization to have clear problems to address and solve as you start working on annual performance reviews.

With the right Engagement Survey, you can really unlock a wealth of knowledge. In my prior organization, we were able to drill down on hundreds of questions, and find out employee sentiment engagement levels by department and team.

Act on employee feedback as much as possible

Employees are only going to be honest with you if they feel like its worth it. If they never see resolution to their feedback, or receive a worthy response at least, you’ll quickly find that feedback is harder to come by.

One-on-one’s should of course always have clear meeting notes, and if there’s actionable feedback, it should be tracked there. Skip level meetings that find issues needing addressed shouldn’t be ignored, and employees should know they meant something. Suggestion box ideas should be brought up in a company newsletter or townhall (at least, the ones that aren’t rude jokes). And findings from an Engagement Survey should shape and mold at least some of your company’s goals for the next year.

If you put together an effective system using a few of these systems, you’ll see growth in your company. Employees will feel their opinion is valued and give you more of it, possibly solving issues you previously thought unsolvable, and you’ll be able to get more done pretty quickly.