You have an office full of people who would love to tell you their ideas for improving the workplace. They range from the superficial (“Paint the break room yellow”) to the complex (“Our ‘Widget5000’ line will be obsolete within the next decade unless we make the following changes in the next 24 months”). The trick is to get the information out of them the right way and distill it down into actionable chunks.
Employee feedback can be every bit as powerful as customer feedback. It’s the kind of communication that helps people and businesses grow. Yet, you’re not sure why your employees hesitate to share their opinions. Here are four ways you can draw honest employee feedback from your workers:
The biggest mistake you can make when trying to solicit ideas from people is not giving them anonymity. Despite the best intentions of your HR department and federal anti-retaliation laws, most employees believe making negative comments will result in poorer treatment in the future. So, instead of contributing, they simply shelve the issue.
To avoid this problem, distribute anonymous surveys for gathering opinions to all employees and then share the results with everyone. Furthermore, provide fixes for the simpler issues (“The break room will be repainted ‘Lemon Chiffon’ next month”) and promise further action on the more complex ones. Offer up chances for employees to brainstorm on certain issues on how to fix problems. This engages your workforce and gives them a feeling of ownership in the business.
2. Create a pool of feedback coaches
Group sessions, like town hall meetings, often result in comments that are fully candid. To spur employee input, Entrepreneur.com suggests forming a group of respected advisors who are available to listen to employees’ constructive criticism. Giving feedback directly to bosses can cause anxiety for some employees, resulting in the lack of truthful comments. Feedback coaches offer workers a more peer-based outlet and remove fear and stress from the equation.
3. Ask the right questions
Did you ever think that you just weren’t asking the right questions? Probably not, according to Business News Daily, which says that there is an art to developing thoughtful inquiries. Asking the right questions is the difference between making your employees feel empowered rather than interrogated. In addition, the right questions will provide insight management may not have thought about, which can lead to positive changes within the workplace.
4. Share criticism and feedback about management too
Transparency is necessary when building a trusting workplace. Company leaders should also ask employees about their managers as well as the company in general. Furthermore, unless there is an outside issue that prevents it, this information should be made accessible to employees so they know their input is valued. It shows everyone that your company wants to lead by example and is willing to distribute constructive feedback about managers in an effort to make a real change.
To summarize, it’s hard for employees to share their thoughts even under the best of circumstances. However, if you’ve put communication practices in place that encourages honest feedback, you will get it sooner rather than later … or never. It may take some time to change attitudes from both the worker and management side, but the results can be worth it.