Acting on feedback is vital for employee engagement. Here’s how to do it right

Paul Burrin
Published on 18th July 2018
3 min read

Have you ever been asked your opinion and then ignored completely?

That’s what so many employers are unwittingly doing when asking workers for feedback, and then not acting on it.

It is a well-known fact that engaged workers are more productive and loyal workers. Part of engaging with employees is listening to them when they give you feedback. It shows you are open to new ideas from everyone at every level of the organization, and that you respect employees by having a two-way dialogue with them.

Here are some considerations on how you can listen to your employees and act on their feedback appropriately.

Ask your employees for their opinion regularly

Asking workers what they think at one point in time is fine, but it’s not an accurate representation of your employees’ sentiments all year long, and it only gives people a chance to feedback once a year.

People Companies have ditched the annual engagement survey for regular pulse surveys.

Progressive organizations understand that it’s important to have a continuous dialogue with employees, whether they set up more regular feedback sessions like a ‘feedback Fridays’, have a dedicated feedback email address, or ask managers to regularly talk to their teams and record their feedback.

Companies who do this well also ensure that part of a manager’s job is to gauge employee sentiments and feedback to the leadership teams.

Ask the right questions

If you are asking your employees for their feedback, make sure you ask them the right questions. Really think about what you want to get out of your surveys and limit your questions appropriately.

Business software company HubSpot keeps their employee net promoter score surveys short and sweet at three questions long, which take no longer than 10 minutes to complete. The logic is to ensure that it’s as easy and as painless as possible for employees to make their voices heard.

Unilever takes a similar view. Employee feedback from it’s biennial survey of 170,000 global employees was taking on average eight months to act on, which was too long, so the company shifted its focus to simplifying the survey and allowing employees to share comments, ideas, solutions and opinions alongside the survey data.

Fully understand your data

It is easy to fall into the analysis paralysis trap when looking at the data from employee surveys.

Having shorter surveys with carefully selected questions can help. However, it is important that those analyzing the results know what they are looking for and how to translate feedback into action.

Implement a process that allocates enough time with a dedicated team to work on this and ensure that the leadership team are involved. This is an important project, which requires the correct allocation of expertise and time.

Communicate your results fully

If you are asking people to take the time out to fill out surveys, then you need to take the time to communicate the results with them. Think about how you present the results. This is a big deal, so sending out an email is not enough.

Have someone from the leadership team present the results using digestible information in person. Give people a chance, there and then, to ask questions and provide comments or even more feedback that can be fed back into the organization.

Be transparent with all the results. Whilst it’s great to highlight successes, simply ignoring negative feedback is equally frustrating for employees who are clearly looking for change.

Act on the feedback

Tell your employees what you’re going to do. There may be some quick wins and changes that can be made immediately, and there may be some that require a longer time.

Provide a plan and keep your employees updated of milestones through company apps, portals, emails and meetings.

There may be some feedback that you cannot act upon, so you need to tell your employees why. Demonstrate that you have really considered the feedback and explain why you cannot act on that request, or provide an alternative, to show your employees that you are actively listening.

The importance of creating a listening culture

Engagement is not all about surveys. It is about encouraging your employees to speak up. When employees feel valued, they won’t just complain about what is not working, they will also provide innovative ideas and solutions, which could be beneficial to your organization.

It also avoids the trap of just presuming you know what your employees want, and how they feel.

Liz Ellis, HR director at Danone UK and Ireland elaborates: ‘One trap that businesses can easily fall into is that they make assumptions about what their employees think, want and need… It seems like an obvious truth that, to really understand what matters to your staff, you have to have a continuous dialogue, ask questions and be prepared to really listen to the answers.’

‘This is a simple insight, but it can get lost in the busy-ness of everyday life.’

It is not easy to capture every idea or opinion, but if you create an environment in which employees feel comfortable speaking up and managers can identify good ideas and know what to do with them, then you are valuing and nurturing your company’s biggest asset for growth: your people.

What do your employees really want? We asked 3,500 workers – with surprising results. Download the findings now.


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