What informs your company’s culture? Is it the way you work, the way you communicate, or the work you do? Is your culture formed by the people who work there, the policies you put in place, or the people you serve?

Culture is affected by all of these facets of business, but at its heart, culture is a product of the people.

Employees are the bricks that build your company, the builders of those bricks, and the residents that live under its roof, all at once. In order to build a better culture, it’s best to know what your employees want, what works for them, and how your company can serve its people better.

In order to know what your employees know about what goes on in your company, you need to ask them.

The benefits of feedback at work

Work contains multitudes: who we are, what we do, what we’re good at, how we see ourselves, how we serve others, what we give to the world.

It’s no surprise, then, that most of your employees take your company and their role very seriously.

Your newer employees have a perspective on your hiring processes, your onboarding, and what it’s like to start with you. Alternatively, your veteran crew has seen your company and team at their best and worst—for better or worse.

With such a wealth of information at your fingertips, you could learn:

  • How to hire smarter
  • Who to hire next
  • Who deserves an epic raise
  • Who’s ready for more responsibility
  • Which workflows work best
  • What types of technology are on the rise
  • How the consumers perceive you
  • What affiliates are saying
  • How the vendors are working out
  • Who was born to lead
  • What would really make the next candidate want to work there

Being more informed and gathering employee insight aren’t the only benefits of feedback – you’ll also gain valuable insight at the micro-level such as: 

  • What your employees like and don’t like about what they do 
  • What your employees want to do more of
  • Which team members work best together
  • What inspires or motivates your employees
  • Which roadblocks are stopping progress 
  • How various tools and tech affect the workday
  • What your employees aspire to next 
  • What questions have gone unanswered for too long
  • How decisions affect (or could affect) each employee

Choosing what to ask depends on the goals you have (which we’ll get into more later). However, with this wealth of insight, your leadership team can make smarter and faster decisions, prevent turnover and burnout, nip conflict before it erupts, and maintain a more positive culture.

Types of employee feedback

Generally, there are five types of feedback you might want to source from your employees. Depending on the ways that you plan to use feedback data, or what decisions you need to make, you might want to consider which one(s) are most important right now and leave the others for later. They are:

Organizational feedback

What do your employees perceive as things that are going well or poorly within the company? How do they feel about how they’re treated, what they witness and experience, what the company provides to consumers, the reputation of their employer, and more?

You might use this data to make cultural or organizational improvements, gain insights about morale and reputation, and improve your standing in the community.

Team and personnel feedback

Who do your employees want to praise or give credit to? Which colleagues work well together and which ones don’t vibe? How do different teams or departments interplay? Which leaders have the right ideas? Is there someone on a team who’s holding everyone else back?

This information is key if you plan on making structural or hierarchical changes, hiring and firing people, restructuring teams, or offering bonuses and promotions.

Role and growth feedback

Since they were hired, how do your employees feel about the trajectory of growth they’ve experienced? In what ways could your organization be providing more opportunities for that growth? Where does each employee hope to take her career next, and how?

70% of staff members would leave their current organizations to take a job with another company that’s known for investing in employee development and learning (The Harris Poll). The more you know about each employee’s path, the easier it will be to retain them and fit them into roles that feel snug and supportive.

Work and task feedback

One of the most actionable, fixable, and yet ignored types of feedback is the one that frustrates the highest amount of employees most frequently. Studies of employees report that unreasonable deadlines and unmanageable workloads are chief causes for burnout or frustration, far and above interpersonal or organizational concerns.

Burnout looming? Here’s how to have a constructive burnout talk with your managers and employees.

In short, nothing matters more to your team’s morale and output than how your employees view their work. If they don’t find value, impact, engagement, and pride at their own desks, your employees will find these things elsewhere; at the watercooler, on Slack, or in the arms of another company.

Use this data to inform project managers and leaders, retool workflows and processes, and make fulfilling work more possible for everyone.

Customer and industry feedback

Not every employee is client-facing or customer-facing, but the ones who are have a lot of valuable feedback to offer.

Your executives, customer service team, sales teams, support staff, and social media coordinators are on the front-lines dealing with customers, collaborators, competitors, and the media. They get the complaints and questions, they field the feedback from the wider public, and they’ve got mad insights. If you can acquire this kind of feedback, don’t waste time—this one can be used to improve product lines, change up services, affect pricing and prospecting, and move the revenue needle for your company. 

Types of employee feedback delivery

In order to garner the most useful feedback in the most noninvasive way, it’s smart to choose the right feedback delivery method. Which ones will help you get the insights you need most while putting the least amount of pressure on your team?

Qualitative vs. quantitative

Do you want to be able to mine and manipulate quantitative data or reach a mathematical consensus on an issue? Or are you more concerned about hearing stories, understanding feelings, and approaching resolutions? In any case, you’ll want to choose solutions that get you the data you need.

Verbal vs. written

Are your people going to feel more comfortable writing their feedback analog-style or typing it into a form? Instead, perhaps they will feel more comfortable to emote face-to-face with a supervisor or peer?

Prompted vs. open

Do you have specific questions you’d like specific, finite answers to? Or would you prefer to ask open-ended questions and let your employees divulge what they want?

Instantaneous vs. reflective

Are you working on asking more in-the-moment questions to get feedback during meetings, in 1:1s, or while working in groups? Or is it more valuable for your team to have distance from the issue and time to reflect?

There are no right or wrong types of feedback and feedback delivery. However, it’s smart to get very clear about what you want your feedback to do for you and how to source the kind of quality feedback that will make those next steps possible.

We’ve broken the process down into six key steps: 

How to get better employee feedback in 6 steps

The benefits of feedback at work are clear. If you’re making a move to focus on employee feedback in 2020, the steps to acquiring it are simple:

  1. Build trust.
    Make sure that your employees feel safe to communicate their *real* observations, feelings, and concerns.
  2. Have a reason.
    When you start a campaign to collect employee feedback, make sure you’re clear about what feedback you want to collect, how you expect employees to provide their feedback, and what you’ll do with the results.
  3. Explain the reason.
    Make sure you communicate to employees what the benefits of feedback are along with why they’re being questioned so they understand the positive impact they could have.
  4. Make participation optional.
    Forcing your employees to participate in a feedback experience could result in resentment, discomfort, pressure, or ambiguity because people don’t feel calm, collected, and ready to respond. If it feels like work, it will be treated as work.
  5. Offer an anonymous option.
    If your employees feel pressured to share with people they don’t know well, publicly, or in an environment where they don’t feel comfortable, the feedback you receive will be diluted. However, anonymity can help.
  6. Optimize the process. 
    As you work through various tools, schedules, and expectations, refine it! You might even pull off an Inception moment and get feedback on the feedback-getting you’ve been doing. What’s frustrating? What takes too long? What feels redundant? Find out!

One of the easiest ways to optimize the employee feedback loop is to automate parts of it with technology tailor-made for this purpose, like these tools:

8 employee feedback tools 

Don’t you love it when technology makes things easier? Consider these tools to help you source, process, and react to valuable employee feedback:

Teambit

Teambit is a survey tool that empowers you to ask the questions you want, about the topics you’re prioritizing, with relative ease. What’s more, these surveys can be conducted anonymously or in a way that collects submissions by name and department at your discretion.

CultureAmp

You’ll enjoy not only direct feedback between employees and their managers, but also shared praise and collective feedback. CultureAmp allows you to aggregate quantitative data about qualitative things like moods and morale, plus the tool comes pre-loaded with a lot of questions and types of exercises to keep your team together.

Asana

Yes, you can use project management tools to get feedback! Ask for work-related feedback within each project module or set up a unique project to gain feedback and insights about other facets of work.

BetterWorks

When you’re focused on the work and processes type of feedback, BetterWorks can help. This robust tool will allow you to set KPIs or OKRs and map work and growth goals toward those. Different from a project management software, BetterWorks will allow you to explore the bigger picture of growth goals and performance experience of each employee.

Motivii

The 1:1 meeting between an employee and their supervisor is sacred, human, and sometimes vulnerable. However, there are tech stacks that can make these meetings more functional, better-documented, and thus, more effective for both parties. Motivii will guide, document, and digitize your 1:1 meetings effectively.

15Five

Like a daily scrum or standup meeting, you can use this software to collect updates from your team members on the less nitty-gritty things. In addition to a scrum-style update about projects and work, get the brief synopsis about how your people are feeling, what’s been frustrating, or what’s in the way.

Impraise

Use team-friendly apps like Impraise to get your people thinking about each other and working together harmoniously. These apps track praise, constructive criticism, support, and more between team members. Impraise also prompts your team to give more gratuitous feedback by providing gamification and incentives. 

Suggestion Ox

There’s nothing wrong with an old-fashioned, analog suggestion box and tiny slips of paper. However, if you want to encourage your team to actually use it, it’s better to go digital. Suggestion Ox offers a more robust, motivating, and guided way to provide feedback anonymously.

The ultimate employee feedback tip

If you retain one takeaway from this guide, make it this: Feedback is useless unless it is used. Make sure that the effort to set up an employee feedback loop is worthwhile. More importantly, celebrate the benefits of feedback along with the effort each of your employees put into providing detailed, honest, open feedback.

Overall, by showing that you hear your employees, that their feedback is valuable, and that change is forthcoming, you’ll transform your culture and improve the company in every way. 

Take it to the next level by making sure you’re not overdoing it on the positivity front.

Author

Kayla Naab (she/her) is a branding & content consultant and business journalist. She is also a remote work advocate who cares about workplace inclusivity and culture. When she isn’t doing digital things, Kayla can be found road tripping the US, taking nature photos, and making art.

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