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Employee Engagement

Employee Feedback: Are You Really Listening?

Unless you’re Angela Martin from “The Office”, opening yourself up to criticism about your shortcomings probably falls somewhere between picking up your dry cleaning and getting a colonoscopy on your list of favorite things to do.

While administering employee feedback surveys can feel like you’re putting both your company and your performance as a leader and manager in front of the firing squad, it also happens to be one of the most efficient and effective ways to understand the internal workings of your organization. Consider the following benefits to employee surveys (and take the ‘evil’ out of ‘necessary evil’).

Five Benefits of Employee Feedback

  1. Turning lemons into lemonade (or lemonade vodkas, if you prefer). Yes, the chances you’ll receive some negative feedback are about as good as the chances E! will soon create yet another Kardashian-focused reality show, but negative feedback provides the opportunity to change things at your organization for the better.
  2. Winning over new fans. If your organization were a television network, employee feedback time would be sweeps week for you. Just by virtue of taking an interest in your employees, you’re likely to see an increase in morale and productivity; however, those effects may only be short-term. If you want to retain those new fans (i.e. foster long-term employee morale), you must continue to meet the expectations you’ve now set forth (see #5 from the checklist below).
  3. Reigniting that old feeling. Instead of just asking employees what they would change about the company or their jobs, ask them to vocalize what they love about these things, as well. Chances are they don’t often stop to think about these things, and it serves as a good reminder as to why they come to work each day, again boosting morale. Bonus: You can use this feedback to enhance your current employer brand message.
  4. Saving money. Employee feedback can also give you better insight into how to better allocate your resources and enhance your benefits package. Be sure to ask about the benefits or employee-focused programs they take advantage of, which ones they don’t (you might find you’re wasting money on programs employees don’t want) and which benefits you should consider implementing to make them happier and more productive (and more likely to recommend you to prospective candidates).
  5. Bring out the Steve Jobs in everyone. In addition to the above, employee surveys can build your bottom line by generating business ideas. Because they work closely with customers, your employees have a much closer pulse on customer needs. Thus, they’re likely to have suggestions for how to improve certain aspects of the business, services or products to meet these needs.

Administering Employee Surveys | A Six-Step Checklist
In order to get the best return out of your employee survey, the following actions are a must:

  1. Ensure anonymity. If your employees think there’s any chance their feedback will be held against them later on, they might not be completely honest in their answers. In the end, that won’t help anyone.
  2. Clarify your goals. Explain your reasoning behind administering the survey, what you hope to get out of it, and why your employees’ participation is important. Be sure to emphasize how these surveys will benefit them.
  3. Get buy-in from all levels of leadership. From the CEO to your employees’ direct managers, everyone should be encouraging participation in the survey to reiterate the importance of participation.
  4. Make it easy. The easier you make it for employees to give feedback, the more likely they are to participate. Keep the survey brief (according to Inc.com, the ideal length of an employee survey is between 35 to 55 questions and takes only 15 to 25 minutes to complete), and easily accessible. If possible, create an online survey that can pre-populate data such as name, department and title to save your employees time filling out these fields. Also, be sure to include a direct link to the survey through email invitations and reminders, as well as the homepage of the company intranet.
  5. Live up to your promises. The most important part of the employee feedback process is also, unfortunately, one of the most underutilized. Don’t let your time and efforts to gather feedback amount to nothing. Follow up with your employees to go over the results of the survey, reiterate your goals and outline the next steps. Not only does failing to follow up mean you’ve essentially wasted everybody’s time, it’s also huge blow to morale, because it sends the message that you really don’t care about your employees’ wants and needs.
  6. End on a high note: Remember, employee surveys are also a chance for you to reaffirm what’s great about your organization.  Take this opportunity to recognize those things that make working for your organization great. Use the follow-up meetings as a chance to say, “This is what you said you love about working here, and we take pride in that. Let’s celebrate this.”

How do you solicit employee feedback? What methods do you recommend?

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
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