How to make the most of employee feedback

When was the last time you got in-depth feedback from your employees? Last month? Last year? Or perhaps it’s one of those jobs that you’re always meaning to tackle but never seem to get round to.

31 July 2018

If so, you’re not alone. A study of over 27,000 executives by LeadershipIQ reflects how poorly many organisations listen to their staff. For example, only 24% said their leader “always encourages and recognises suggestions for improvement” and only 6% say that at their organisations, good suggestions or valids complaints “always lead to important changes”.

The temptation to avoid gathering feedback is understandable - coordinating the process can take time. What’s more, creating effective questions and collecting responses is only half the task; interpreting this data and transforming it into actionable results has to happen next if the process is to be effective.

However, gathering employee feedback should be treated as a priority rather than an afterthought. Try to think of the time you put into this task as a worthwhile investment, because collecting and acting upon your employee’s answers is crucial to your business’s success.

1: Little and often is best

A key way to make the most of employee feedback is to ensure it’s collected regularly. If staff are asked to fill in a form once a year, they’re likely to have forgotten many of the ideas, complaints or observations they’ve had over the last 12 months as so much time has gone by. Asking them for their opinion once a year won’t be nearly as fruitful as collecting employees’ thoughts on a regular basis.

Once you’ve collected this data, act on it as swiftly as possible. The benefit of gathering feedback regularly is that it allows you to solve problems before they’ve had a chance to develop and worsen. So make it a priority to always translate employee comments into action within a set time-frame.

2: Listening boosts retention

When responding to employee feedback, take action that makes them feel heard but not judged. When your employees can see you’re listening to them and reacting positively, they’re likely to feel more appreciated - and as a result more loyal - and improving staff retention allows you to save money on retraining new staff.

So if your staff complain about feeling undervalued, swiftly arrange a workshop to dig deeper into their feelings on what exactly this means for them and how you can help. This will allow you to find tangible, practical ways to resolve the issue.

3: Use flexibility to meet staff needs

Time and again, a key issue that crops up in employee feedback is the struggle with finding a work/life balance. While this may seem too vague a problem to solve effectively, flexible working can be a great way to help staff feel freed up to embrace their home life while staying committed to their role.

Flexibility might look different for each staff member - some may prefer to work from home on certain days each week, while others might need to fit their hours around childcare plans. Either way, if you help staff to balance their lives by allowing them to work flexibly, studies show they’ll repay you with boosted commitment and top-quality work.

4: Think of the future

Employee feedback isn’t just a chance to troubleshoot - it’s also an opportunity to encourage your employees to think about their future at your business. For example, you might want to include a question such as: ‘What would you like to be working on in six months that you’ve never worked on before?’ This lets your staff know that you’re thinking of their career progression and general happiness over the long term.

A question like this also gives you a chance to discuss any training staff might need to take their role to the next level - again, a useful way to keep your team happy and motivated by reminding them that you’re invested in their professional development.

And remember: even when your staff don’t have a form to fill in, they’re still subtly feeding back to you every day. The way your team behaves and the quality of their work can paint a very clear picture of how happy, productive and committed they are. So keep communication channels open, and watch closely.

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