Over the past decade, employee feedback has evolved from a nice-to-have to a must-have for organizations of all shapes and sizes across the globe.
Employee feedback is a primary driver of employee engagement—providing tangible business value to those who collect, analyze, and act on feedback in an effective and meaningful way.
In this blog, I’ll share highlights from an interview I had with David Green, Director of Insight222, on the Digital HR Leaders podcast. We’ll discuss:
Employee feedback provides many benefits to the business. When organizations have strong feedback cultures, they are more engaged, aligned, and successful. They navigate change better and faster because leaders and teams are more aware and in sync. Leaders can proactively respond to issues before they become errors, poor decisions, or costly mistakes.
Employee feedback also benefits employees and teams. Research shows employees value culture and career growth almost twice as much as they value pay & benefits. And the best cultures are rooted in an environment of listening.
In a feedback culture, employees have a platform to voice their thoughts and concerns. Ongoing feedback between employees and managers helps build trust, fuel growth and development, and clarify expectations.
Teams benefit from increased understanding and alignments. When team members understand how others perceive them, they can become better teammates and leaders. Managers can use team feedback to understand and improve team dynamics and engagement.
Over the past 10 years, the landscape of employee feedback has changed drastically. The movement around the employee experience has helped transform feedback into a core component of every HR leader’s strategy.
10 years ago, only the most progressive, most attuned organizations had their ears to the ground. Employee feedback was seen as more of a luxury—and few leaders understood the return on investment of employee engagement and performance management.
Today, most leaders are well-educated on the benefits of employee engagement and feedback. Organizations understand the importance of creating an environment where employees feel engaged, equipped, and empowered to contribute to the success of the business.
Advances in technology have also made employee feedback much more accessible. A wide array of feedback, engagement, and performance technologies have made it much easier to:
10 years ago, employee feedback typically happened through massive annual research projects with hundreds of survey questions and a months-long analysis.
Today, feedback is more continuous and real-time. The feedback organizations collect and activate on needs to be aligned to business decision timeframes. Think monthly or quarterly or tied to the start and finish of various projects and initiatives on which you’re delivering.
Strategic organizations also look beyond employee surveys for feedback data. Feedback happens in 1-on-1 conversations, employee recognition, goal updates, talent reviews, and other employee touch points across the employee lifecycle.
"Your feedback cadence should weave into the rest of your business cycle. Just like we don’t monitor our financial success on an annual basis, we shouldn’t be monitoring employee feedback this way. People and circumstances change too frequently for this."
10 years ago, organizations approached employee feedback with the intent of collecting as much information as possible.
Today, organizations have gotten more targeted and strategic with their feedback initiatives. Leaders should focus on asking only the questions they know they can activate on. These questions should be tied to key employee engagement drivers that increase loyalty, advocacy, and discretionary effort within the organization.
10 years ago, HR solely owned employee feedback. The data was centralized and accessible only to a select few within the organization.
Today, enterprise feedback is owned by the entire organization, including leaders, HR teams, managers, and even employees.
"While HR should still be the quarterback of employee feedback, they should not own the data and the entire process. We don’t have the luxury of a single team or person sitting on this treasure of insight. It must get into the hands of the people that drive engagement and the employee experience—your managers."
Decentralized systems and data help businesses remain agile. Data can be shared and acted on by the people that need to make real-time decisions with their teams. This drives a better experience across work, team, and organization.
|Only the most progressive organizations valued employee feedback||Most all organizations understand the value & ROI of employee feedback|
|Employee feedback happened once a year, via annual survey||Employee feedback happens continuously, via multiple employee listening channels|
|Organizations used employee feedback for intensive information gathering||Organizations use employee feedback to prioritize & activate strategic change|
|Employee feedback was owned by HR||Employee feedback is owned by the entire organization|
Employee feedback shouldn’t be collected in a one-off initiative. Organizations need a strategic and comprehensive employee listening strategy.
"Continuous listening is the best way to capture and understand the reality of the employee experience. When leaders listen continuously, they can identify the strategies and programs that are (and are not) serving them—and the opportunities that exist to move the needle on what matters most to their employees."
Here is a three-part framework for effective employee listening:
The questions you ask your employees send a message about what you value. If you ask about trust in senior leadership, you’re sending a message that you value trust in senior leadership—and that you’re willing to do something to improve that trust.
To avoid mixed messages and breaches of trust, you should avoid asking questions you don’t need to know the answer to or don’t intend to do anything about.
Home in on the questions that are focused on what you’re trying to drive as an organization. And leave space for open-ended questions too. The more opportunities you provide for rich and detailed feedback, the more complete your understanding of any given topic will be.
Key Resources for the Ask Stage:
The "aha" stage is a chance for leaders to review the data and surface insights together. Your main stakeholders need to collectively understand the data the same way you would if you were trying to understand important customer data or financial data.
What is the story behind the voices you have collected? It’s important for everyone to be on the same page. Then, figure out the best way to tell that story.
One of the most exciting things happening in HR right now is the emergence and growth of people analytics. HR is now a data field—and HR leaders are expected to be data-based decision makers. Some HR leaders have shown up in this new reality. But many will need to become more skilled at analyzing, visualizing, and storytelling around their data.
The good news is, they don’t have to do it alone. Employee feedback, engagement, and performance platforms that offer sophisticated people analytics, dashboards, and filters make it much easier to connect the dots across your data.
And not just with big survey projects, but all types of employee feedback. Having data from your engagement surveys, exit surveys, employee recognition, goals, feedback, and 1-on-1s in one place helps leaders visualize, understand, and communicate the bigger picture.
Key Resources for the "Aha" Stage:
Before you even think about trying to solve a problem that has surfaced in your employee feedback, you must communicate what you’ve learned. This will set the stage for the solution, perceptions around that solution, and how you’ll measure success around the issue.
In the story you tell, focus on the handful of things that are most interesting and most actionable. It’s impossible to act on everything at once—you’ll have to start somewhere.
Again, technology comes to the rescue, making everything much easier through all three stages of employee listening.
With the right technology, we can capture meaningful feedback in real-time, prioritize the themes and insights we want to be looking at, and create a two-way conversation between employees and leadership that leads to action and solutions that move the needle.
Key Resources for the Act Stage:
Employee feedback offers many benefits to business, but it’s not just the voice of the employee that matters. It’s understanding the relationship between the voice of the employee and the engagement and performance of the team and organization.
Feedback drives engagement—and engaged employees tend to have stronger performance, stay longer, advocate for your company, and positively impact key business metrics.
Attaching employee feedback to the goals you’re tracking and the recognition that’s happening—that’s a valuable picture to paint. Managers can see all the data they need in one place and have effective conversations focused on engagement and performance.
Employee feedback, while evolved, is here to stay. The best talent wants to work for the best cultures—those that prioritize listening, performance, growth, and development. Organizations will continue to leverage feedback to build loyalty and engagement and performance, and they will live or die by the cultures they create.
Are you ready to improve your employee feedback process? Take a look at our guide for giving and receiving feedback for strategies to improve feedback and drive performance.