Employee feedback is important if you are running a business. Feedback lets you refine how you treat your employees, as well as sort out how to motivate them better. The more feedback you get, the better your office will run. Unfortunately, the nature of a boss-employee relationship makes it difficult to gather genuine employee feedback. The good news is that getting honest and insightful responses is far from impossible. Here are nine ways you can achieve that goal:
- Make It Clear You Want Feedback. Before getting genuine feedback, you must first make your employees know and understand you want feedback. Make it abundantly clear to them that you want to hear their opinions not just on how they are treated, but on how projects and the company as a whole are going. Their experience with your company is unique – no one else can provide you with the insights they have. Let them know that you understand that fact, and you will have taken the first step towards gathering genuine employee feedback.
- Exchange Roles. One way of getting feedback involves making the act not feel like feedback, but like advice. Exchanging roles with your employees can make them more prone to giving honest responses. For example, you can ask an employee how they would handle a situation or a project. Do it right, and you will not only get a response that indicates how aligned they are with the company's process, you may also find a potential new manager to train.
- Take It Outside. It can be hard for employees to be honest with you at the office, which is not necessarily your fault. That difficulty is part of functioning at the office due to the power structure inherent in many companies. The solution to this barrier is relatively simple – take it outside. Have lunch out with a few employees and take the opportunity to ask them for their opinions.
- Make Feedback Count. Nothing makes employees shy away from feedback as much as the idea that their opinions don't matter. If they give feedback and you do not follow through on whatever you promise, your workers will be far less likely to speak with you candidly again. Whenever you ask for or receive feedback, make it clear what and when your employees can expect with regards to your response. Make workers feel heard and they will become eager to speak up.
- Make Giving Feedback Easy. If you want to get genuine feedback from your employees, you need to make it as easy for them as possible to give you their thoughts. Put effort into removing friction from the process. Have suggestion boxes available for employees to drop ideas into. Have regular surveys that ask important questions. Hold monthly meetings where you can have face-to-face discussions. The fewer barriers there are, the more frequently your workers will share their opinions.
- Focus on Creating a Culture of Trust. One of the biggest fears an employee has when they give feedback is reprisal. Not all their opinions will be positive or agree with company policy, and the potential for negative consequences can cause employees to bite their tongues. You need your employees to believe that you can listen to their feedback with a professional ear, and that belief is founded in trust. Create an atmosphere of trust at the office, and your employees will respond accordingly.
- Go First. If you want employees to give you genuine feedback, you will need to lead by example. Giving them helpful feedback on a regular basis gives them an example to follow, and can help emphasize a company culture that includes open and free opinion and thought sharing.
- Use an Outsider to Collect Feedback. Despite your best efforts, some employees may find it difficult to speak up honestly. Some people simply have trouble speaking up to people with authority over them, and that is okay. In those situations, bring in a third party to manage discussions that get employees to open up. That third party will collect any and all data from that meeting, and then condense it into a report for you.
- Allow for Anonymity. In some cases, the best way to allow employees to speak freely is to give them the mask of anonymity. Anonymity does not have to be mandatory or required, but it should be an option. That may make it feel safer for employees to voice more controversial or seemingly dangerous opinions, which is critical if you want to collect as much useful feedback as possible.
Getting employee feedback may sometimes feel like pulling teeth, but it is well worth the effort if you want to run a successful business. No one can provide you with the kind of in-depth and unique input an employee can. The sooner you get your team to open up, the better off your company will be.