You Asked For Employee Feedback, They Answered. Now What?

By David Hassell

There has been a healthy buzz in the media lately about how better communication boosts employee engagement, productivity and satisfaction. Asking your team for honest employee feedback surfaces challenges, concerns, triumphs and ideas for improvement from the people who know your business best.

The first step is simply asking the right feedback questions, opening your door to hear what they have to say. You finally have pure, honest, valuable  feedback from your people! The tricky part now is, what are you going to do with it?

Acknowledge the issue

An employee can suffer through a problem that you probably don’t know about. However, once a concern is out in the open, you must be prepared to recognize it. Otherwise the employee will naturally fill your silence with all sorts of assumptions: “Is my opinion not worthwhile, or does my manager just not care about the problem..?”

A simple acknowledgement is a powerful first step. And for some feedback, an “I hear you” is all that’s needed. Other issues will require action but this is where you should start every time. This lets  an employee know that their concerns are valid, and a validated employee tends to be more enthusiastic, tenacious and productive. For other employee feedback, acknowledgements buy time to set the wheels in motion for real change that might be a necessary response.

If six months go by without acknowledgement or change, you can bet that top performer will soon be clocking in at someone else’s company. It is critical to quickly convert employee responses into actionable results.

Loop in others on performance feedback

Start a dialogue with other leaders at the company to gather the most information and to get a more holistic view company-wide. This is especially important for larger organizations, where making a change for some could exacerbate the problem on other teams.

It is critical to gain employee feedback from as many people as possible to determine if a concern is isolated or becoming an epidemic. For example, an employee does not feel comfortable that everyone is working remotely, and desires more face time with the team.

If only one or two people feel this way, then changing your policy to eradicate or limit work from home could mean losing your best players. The solution may be as simple as bringing everyone together in the office once each week.

If the concern affects multiple employees, the most efficient way to solve it is a group meeting where you can gather employee feedback all at once. Address the group, hash things out at one time and devise a solution to quell the rebellion. Sometimes employees misunderstood a comment you made or are otherwise misinformed about a company goal or product initiative. Now you can recognize employees and their feelings, address the misunderstanding, and instantly see a lift in satisfaction for your entire workforce.

Answer with a feedback question

What do you do when an employee comes to you with a concern or question for which you do not have an immediate solution? Many times they have already imagined one or several solutions, so flipping the question back to that person may be the quickest way to address the concern. This is not meant to step around the problem; instead, a feedback question  gives the employee an opportunity to consider your position and respond with more helpful information.

Even if you have an answer, get the employee’s input. For example someone on your team reports that they are stuck on a particular initiative and says that they don’t know what to do. Reply with “What should you do?” By soliciting employee feedback in this way, you empower people to discover solutions to problems in the workplace for themselves.

Receiving a question is often a leadership opportunity to develop the employee. They either have the solution in the back of their minds, or can devise one if given enough time to consider the angles.

Employees feel safer defaulting to your judgment, but by essentially saying “I trust you to find the answer”, you are encouraging them to trust themselves. This is one of the most valuable benefits of asking for employee feedback and acting on it. And if validating your team increases workplace morale, imagine the boost they will get when you implement their ideas!

Problems in the workplace are a blessing in disguise

Until you know the details underlying conflict or challenges on your team, you are stressing and probably imagining the worst for no reason. There is tremendous value in the tough conversation about a specific process that is not working for the organization (which you didn’t even know about) that is costing you time and money and inhibiting growth. Communicating begins the process of discovering a resolution and implementing improvements.

Soliciting feedback from your employees may cause short term stress but also long term benefits. Yes there may be challenges based on perceptions that something is wrong, but ultimately tensions will be eased and you will foster a healthier workplace that is ripe for growth, along with improving employee motivation. In each problem, find the opportunity through performance feedback to boost employee morale, make improvements, develop your team, and create more employee ownership and engagement.

How do you respond to challenging feedback? Leave us a comment below.

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Human Resources Today