You’ve heard me say before that one of the worst things organizations can do is ask employees for feedback and then not do anything with it. This HR Bartender reader knows it’s true and is wondering what to do about it.
About four months ago, I incorporated ‘Feedback Friday’ at my organization, and have received very positive comments. However, I still struggle on what to do with the results, besides just sharing them.
Now I’m getting feedback like ‘Is there anything that will be done with these results?’. Even though their concerns are being addressed, employees can’t really see what is happening internally, so they’re not seeing the change.
Last year, I worked with our friends at Readex Research on a post about “HOW TO: Turn Your Employee Engagement Survey Results into Action”. So, I asked Readex CEO Jack Semler if he would help me answer this reader’s note. Thankfully, he said “yes”.
Jack, we don’t know exactly the structure of this company’s “Feedback Friday” sessions, but in general, why are feedback sessions a good idea?
[Semler] Individuals within an organization want to feel that they contribute in more than just one way, more than just doing work. Another means to do this is sharing ideas and feedback. So, listening to what employees have to say gives them another path to contribute to the organization. Of course, it makes good business sense to listen anyway. Management doesn’t have all the good ideas.
Why should organizations care about making sure employees see the results of their concerns being addressed?
[Semler] When employees take the time, make the efforts, and in some cases muster up the courage, to offer feedback, they do so with hopes something will happen. This isn’t to say something will always happen after offering feedback, but they hope to make a difference in some way. This said, organizations need to close the loop. They need to share results to let employees know they have been heard.
I believe this reader is doing the right thing by sharing results. However, we don’t know how they are sharing results. Name 1-2 things that HR departments need to consider when sharing employee feedback.
[Semler] I’ll give you three things to consider:
- Keep the feedback general in nature to protect confidentiality. This means ‘aggregating’ what has been heard.
- If you have numbers (like percentages), use charts, pictures and graphs to tell your story. Good visuals help communicate quickly. Assuming the information will be broadly shared or disseminated, using visuals can help tell the story without you being there.
- If you have a lot of feedback in the form of comments, spend time going through a coding process to turn those comments into numbers.
For example, let’s say you receive the following comment: ‘I really like my manager and she does a great job, but management really hasn’t given me a clear picture on where we are going.’ This comment can be ‘coded’ into two themes: Manager does a good job, management needs to share the vision. By coding comments, you can more easily share with others and track numerically the key ideas that are being brought forward.
How can organizations communicate that they’ve done something with employee feedback, even if they aren’t ready to work on the issues?
[Semler] This is really simple and dovetails with the last question. Organizations need to carefully review what has been learned through employee feedback, then analyze, tabulate and be as transparent as possible. Transparency and honesty must prevail. If there are issues that have come up through feedback that need attention, but must wait for whatever reason, say so! Employees will be patient if they have the straight story.
Last question. If a company receives feedback that they just can’t implement – maybe it’s too expensive or just doesn’t make sense for the business – how can they tell employees that they’re listened but they’re not going to do it?
[Semler] Well, preparing for this possibility starts at the start. Before implementing a feedback/listening process, tell employees that:
1) The organization does care and does want to listen but,
2) May not be able to act on everything.
There really are ideas and suggestions that come through via feedback that don’t make business sense for many reasons. You can also set a rule, the rule being that employees that make suggestions or offer feedback can follow-up. If someone has offered an idea and nothing has happened, let employees know they can ask their manager or other designated person why nothing has happened and get an explanation. This takes us back to honesty and transparency.
A huge thanks to Jack for sharing his expertise with us. If you want to learn more about sharing employee feedback, check out the Readex Research white paper on “3 Tips for Presenting Employee Survey Results”.
Employees have a lot of great ideas to improve the workplace. Organizations would benefit from their knowledge. But if you want employees to give their ideas freely, then they need to see that the company is going to take them seriously.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby somewhere off the coast of Miami, FL17