Employee feedback? Isn’t that the same as the office suggestion box, you say? Crikey!! If this is your idea of employee feedback, we encourage you to read on.
As a small business owner, you could be forgiven for reducing employee feedback to its lowest common denominator—or overlooking it altogether. After all, there are just so many hours in the day. But at the same time, you might be missing out on some terrific benefits.
At its best, employee feedback isn’t just a single channel. In fact, the more channels you use, the better, because you’ll get a richer composite of information. You just need to be thoughtful and genuine in your questions and process; consistent across channels; and prepared to address and/or take action on all feedback.
Why is this so important? Well, we coach people who work for us to be thinkers and problem solvers, not order takers. So they expect, especially in smaller, less formal settings, to be valued for their opinions and ideas, as well as for their skills and expertise. And rightly so. If you’re not getting feedback from them, you’re in a sense not fulfilling an important part of an implied employment “contract.” Fully engaged employees—those who feel they have input into the business that will help shape perks and benefits, policies and procedures, goals and objectives —are the most satisfied and least likely to leave.
The advantages of employee feedback for you and the business are many and unique, according to smallbusiness.chron.com. Most of the time you just can’t get this information any other way. In addition to increasing job satisfaction among employees, soliciting their comments and observations will help you better understand the dynamics of the workplace… dynamics that can be subtle (or not-so-subtle) indicators of what’s really going on beneath the surface of the day-to-day.
You’ll get snapshots of other important issues, too. You’ll be better able to determine compliance rates for rules and regulations, along with the effectiveness of training in compliance areas. Such feedback can also provide some real insight into staff issues, such as turnover, low productivity and problem departments.
Time.com says that leveraging your employees’ full range of expertise and creativity through feedback can directly affect the growth of your business. Think about it: Top-down thinking is awfully limiting in that it excludes a pretty big pool of ideas and opinions. The next big idea or solution to a problem can come from anywhere.
It’s up to you, as owner-manager-leader, to not only accept feedback but also encourage it. Time lists five steps and advice (from smallbusinesscomputing.com) on how to do this most effectively:
- Have a structure. Using a software feedback system is one method for gathering ideas in a structured way and staying on top of issues as they develop.
- Have a brief weekly status update. This can easily turn into a regular brainstorming session that employees look forward to.
- Have a regular ‘check-in’ routine. This goes back to structure and predictability and can be weekly reminders, quarterly surveys. Employees can see you’re serious about this, and they will be, too.
- Don’t mix employee reviews and feedback. Regardless of how secure and comfortable employees may feel, most will want the assurance of anonymity to be able to open up and give honest feedback.
- Share the information—and the glory. Reward and celebrate good ideas and problem-solving. Keep reinforcing with employees how important their feedback is to the business.
Making employee feedback a priority doesn’t have to be difficult but does require commitment and consistency. Inc.com says the methods you use will depend on the kinds of issues and information you want to target. Believe it or not, full-scale employee surveys are still the most recommended method for gathering actionable employee feedback (key word: actionable). Surveys should be short (15-20 minutes), and easy to do on company time. And they should be done frequently to stay current and track progress.
Inc. also says that, contrary to popular opinion, some of the older, more low-tech methods are still great tools—just don’t make them the centerpiece of your program or the only method you use. These include the much-maligned suggestion box (!), as well as town hall meetings and online portals, where employees can comment—positively and negatively—and of course, always anonymously.
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