Peter Drucker famously stated, “What gets measured, gets managed.” And while it’s likely that your business tracks KPIs such as sales, lead generation, or even staff turnover, are you using this same disciplined pursuit of feedback to monitor employee morale?
Gallup reports that just 32.6 percent of American workers are engaged; it’s not surprising, therefore, that 69 percent of employees are “open to other opportunities or already seeking their next job,” according to Rapt Media. Reducing turnover and retaining top talent have become top priorities for employers in 2017, yet too many look for solutions in expensive training programs or incentive schemes.
The real solution may be simpler, easier and more affordable.
Why you need to listen to your employees
Listening to your team—really listening, not just waiting for an opportunity to interject—demonstrates to employees that you care about their thoughts, ideas, and contributions. Certainly, you can remember a time when you felt like you weren’t being heard, and you likely remember how frustrating that felt.
Employees who don’t feel they’re being listened to respond by disengaging. In light of clear evidence that their feedback doesn’t matter, they stop offering suggestions that benefit both the company and their tenure within it. They tune out and—when the opportunity presents itself—they walk away, taking with them all the training you’ve invested in.
“Listening” in a corporate context can take many different forms, from formal feedback programs to simply making yourself available for casual chats. Remember, however, that not all employees will feel comfortable giving feedback in the same ways. For this reason, it’s helpful to take a multi-pronged approach to employee feedback.
6 methods for gathering employee feedback
1. Use a formal feedback process
We’re not talking about the age-old suggestion box—the one comment cards disappear into, never to be seen again.
Andre Lavoie, writing for Entrepreneur, shares the alternative process put in place by the startup 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. “
Yes, creating and implementing a public process may be more time-consuming, but when employees see that every piece of feedback is given serious consideration, they’ll be more likely to raise the critical issues they may have otherwise left buried.
2. Try an automated tool
Feedback gathering doesn’t have to be quite so public, of course. Tools like 15Five, TinyPulse, RoundPegg, and others give the opportunity to capture employee responses privately and with much less hassle and discomfort than in-person meetings.
Bear in mind, however, not to overdo it with the automated tools. If employees feel they’re being solicited too often, or that nothing is being done with the information they’re sharing, they’ll disengage from even the tech-savviest of tools.
3. Hold “office hours”
Your employees can’t give you feedback if they’re constantly greeted by closed doors. Instead, schedule weekly office hours, just like your favorite professor did back in college.
Put the time on your calendar and publicize it to your entire office. Emphasize that you’re open to all conversations, whether that involves offering career guidance or answering questions about current projects. Don’t pressure employees into providing feedback during this time; simply make yourself available, should they wish to share.
4. Respect generational differences
Your younger workers may want to give feedback in very different ways than your older employees. Millennials, for instance, tend to favor frequent communication and an open flow of feedback. Members of Generation X and baby boomers, on the other hand, may prefer to work within more established feedback structures.
These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, just something to keep in mind. If you see generational differences in the way your employees respond to the specific feedback-gathering programs you implement, consider adopting alternate strategies that make each group feel comfortable.
5. Encourage office downtime
Sharing feedback—especially negative feedback—isn’t easy, but it feels monumentally more difficult when you don’t have strong working relationships with the people you’re offering suggestions to.
Office downtime can be the solution, whether that means casual breakroom chats or whole-team hangouts at a local happy hour. Focus on building solid relationships and company culture first, before expecting employees to be fully honest with their feedback.
6. Match employee actions with feedback
Finally, look beyond stated feedback to see whether or not your employees’ actions support what they’re telling you.
Imagine that you’re put on the spot to give feedback. You don’t want to offend anyone, so you give a watered down version of the truth, if not an outright lie, to avoid hurt feelings. As a result, whatever issues you had go unrecognized and unaddressed.
Nonverbal behaviors may hint at these kinds of disconnects, according to The Muse’s Caris Thetford:
“Look around the room when you speak to your team. Do you see downcast eyes? Averted gazes? Tight faces? At times, such reactions may be appropriate—like if you announce bad news, or if an employee really messed up and you call her out on it. However, if you regularly see body language or nonverbal reactions that convey distrust or frustration, you may have a problem on your hands, and you should take the time to dig a little deeper.”
Gathering employee feedback is about more than simply asking for requests; it’s even about more than putting one of these suggestions in place and hoping for the best.
True feedback success comes from implementing programs, monitoring their impact, and iterating as needed. It’s about watching for cues that tell you that you’re not doing a good enough job listening to your employees and about acting on those signals to create a workplace that’s open to feedback.
It’s an ongoing process, but it’s one that’s critical to the long-term engagement of your employees.
Sujan Patel is a leading expert in digital marketing. He is a hard working and high energy individual fueled by his passion to help people and solve problems. He is the co-founder of Web Profits, a growth marketing agency, and a partner in a handful of software companies including Mailshake, Narrow.io, Quuu, and Linktexting.com. Between his consulting practice and his software companies, Sujan’s goal is to help entrepreneurs and marketers scale their businesses.