Soliciting employee feedback and input should be part of every company’s normal business process. For small businesses, this responsibility may fall directly on the owner, director, or manager, while larger organizations hand this off to the HR department. Regardless of the size of your company, however, eliciting honest and valuable information from employees is extremely difficult, and requires a strategic plan. Here are some tips to help make sure your employees are giving you the feedback you need to help your organization grow:
- Start Out Small
Whether you’re rolling out a new employee feedback process, or modifying an existing one, make your next survey extremely short and easy to complete. Think of this process as re-training how your employees view and respond to employee surveys. You’ll achieve long term success in your employee feedback program by taking the time to help your staff become comfortable with the process. Create 3 to 4 surveys that can be completed in under 5 minutes (under two minutes is even better), send them out at varying intervals, and provide immediate feedback once you’ve received the results of each, and be sure to never share any data or comments that could be identifiable to a specific employee. As you do this, your employees will overcome the most common concern with employee surveys- the anonymity of the responses. If you are consistent with this practice, employees will develop a sense of motivation to complete the forms quickly, so that they can find out the results.
- Provide Anonymity… And Own that Responsibility
The number one employee concern with surveys is that their information won’t be anonymous. This, more than anything else, contributes to generic and useless feedback provided in your surveys. Not only do you need to stress the security and integrity of the survey, but you’ll also want to provide a detailed explanation of how the system is set up to ensure anonymity. The last piece, which is crucial to developing trust within your staff, is to take personal ownership for the security of everyone’s confidentiality. Let them know that you take that responsibility seriously, and that you are ultimately responsible to make sure no one’s information can be traced back to them without their consent. Using an online survey tool is a great way to manage this process.
- Include Every Employee
Be sure to have every employee, from all departments and all shifts, participate in your feedback process. You never know where great ideas or useful insight will come from. Whether you choose to include managers in this process should be based on your business culture and the content of the specific survey. This is another way that you can demonstrate how serious you are about getting genuine feedback, rather than just taking a sample.
- Share All Results And Do It As Quickly As Possible
In order to develop and support trust within your staff, it’s imperative that you ALWAYS share the results of your surveys. Sometimes, and maybe more often than that, the employee feedback may not paint your organization in a positive light. Your willingness to share the results even when they can be construed as negative, shows your employees that you are open and honest, and will serve to help you gain valuable feedback in the future. When sending out your surveys, provide a deadline for completing them, and set a date for when the results will be shared. Make sure to never miss that deadline. When employees share their personal opinions, they are very interested in finding out how their perspective relates to others, and will become anxious and disengaged if you don’t provide that information in a timely manner.
- Ask Open-Ended and Closed-Ended Questions
Open–ended questions- questions that allow respondents to write out answers based on their opinions- will generate great qualitative data. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to analyze that data, as the information is in prose format. Closed-ended questions- questions where respondents select from a predetermined list of responses- will yield far less valuable qualitative results, but will be much better to analyze, as you can group the data by the responses and see patterns. A good practice is to provide at least one closed- and one-ended question for each piece of information you’re seeking feedback on.
If you follow these guidelines, the value and quality of your employee feedback with increase over time. The other steps in this process are determining what you wish to survey for, and how you plan on acting on the results. These are two steps you’ll want to have mapped out before sending out any employee feedback surveys. Once your employees feel comfortable sharing their input, they’ll want to know what the organization is planning to do with the information, and will be looking forward to seeing what changes occur as a result. If you’re not committed to acting on the employee feedback, it’s best not to request it in the first place.