How to Ask Employees for Feedback (And Actually Get It)

how to ask employees for feedbackFeedback is essential to growth and development. Many organizations use structured employee feedback processes like 360 feedback, which is an important exercise. But managers should feel empowered to collect ongoing feedback from any employee, at any time.

Why? When managers are constantly listening to employees, it's easier for them to identify strengths and areas of growth—and to make real-time adjustments that have a big impact on their teams.

But getting meaningful and honest feedback isn’t always easy.

 

Need help prioritizing employee feedback? Download our Practical Guide for Giving and Receiving Feedback.

 

Employees may feel uncomfortable revealing their true thoughts. They may not want to hurt anyone’s feelings or face future repercussions for harsh critiques. These fears cause them to submit fluffy feedback or avoid the request completely.

Use these tips to better understand how to ask employees for feedback and increase the likelihood that they respond with helpful, actionable feedback.

 

1. Be intentional with your phrasing.

 

When asking for feedback, general and vague questions typically don't draw great responses. Consider these tips to move your questions from generic to strategic.

 

Broad to Specific

There are many layers to the employee experience. Asking about it broadly leaves a lot of room for filling in the gaps and beating around the bush. If you are looking for clarity about something specific, ask for it directly.

Ask this: "How can I improve our team's goal-setting process?"
Not that: "How am I doing as your manager?"

 

Traits to Behaviors

Focusing on personality traits or characteristics can make it seem like you're the victim of feedback and are unable to control the outcome. Instead, shift to asking questions about your behaviors so that you can make clear and meaningful changes.

Ask this: "What can I change about how I recognize your accomplishments?"
Not that: "Why do team members say I'm not good at recognizing them?"

 

Past to Future

It's important to ask for clarity around previous behaviors or actions, but you can't change the past. Center your questions around how you can improve as a manager in the future.

Ask this: "How would you like me to share company announcements?"
Not that: "Have I been communicating effectively?"

 

2. Take feedback seriously.

 

Make it clear that employee feedback isn't just a box you're checking to satisfy HR. You truly want to understand employee opinions and do what you can to make their work experience better. But, understand that giving feedback is difficult too. Use these tips to encourage your employees to provide honest, constructive, and actionable feedback.

 

Practice active listening.

Don't be defensive or immediately respond when employees speak. Remain calm, manage your emotions, and take in what they have to say. Demonstrate that you are carefully considering the feedback by practicing active listening with good eye contact and open body language—especially while remote.

 

Say thank you.

If employees believe you actually appreciate the feedback and will use it moving forward, they're more likely to be open and honest. Before asking for more information or moving straight into response or action, express gratitude for sharing the feedback with you. This will build trust and ultimately make giving (and receiving) feedback easier in the future.

 

Ask for clarifying examples or information.

Beyond listening and thanking employees for their feedback, it's important to actively engage in feedback conversations with confidence and curiosity. Ask your employees to pinpoint specific instances so you can truly understand how to change. But don't get defensive. Focus on what you can pull from the feedback to make a positive difference in your life and work.

 

Summarize what you heard and evaluate.

Repeating an employee's feedback out loud can help increase clarity and understanding. If an employee is struggling to be direct, summarizing what you've heard can help them clarify and add more context. Then, ask yourself these questions to evaluate your next steps:

  • Does this feedback seem true?
  • Is this information you already knew?
  • Does the feedback giver have the expertise or credibility to make the observation?
  • Have others said something similar?

Then, be deliberate and mindful, looking for opportunities to stop doing undesired behaviors or start doing desired behaviors.

 

Check in on progress.

There's nothing more disengaging than feedback that falls on deaf ears. Set goals for improvement so that when you do make changes based off employee suggestions, they'll feel heard and more comfortable submitting honest, constructive feedback moving forward.

 

3. Be patient and give it time.

 

Although it’s tempting to want instant results from your employees, patience is key. You have to build trust over time and understand that good feedback requires time and thought. Share some examples of good feedback you’ve received in the past and what made it useful. Ask continuously to make feedback a regular part of employees’ lives, and don’t put pressure on employees by putting them on the spot.

 


 

These tips will help put employees at ease and encourage honest feedback. To learn how to digest and act on employee feedback, get your copy of our ebook, A Practical Guide to Giving and Receiving Feedback.

Free ebook! A Practical Guide to Giving and Receiving Employee Feedback With a Growth Mindset!