How to collect honest employee feedback

Despite regular surveys, are your employees holding back on their responses?

How to collect honest employee feedback

Listening to employees is an essential part of employee engagement and many HR leaders have turned to tools like pulse surveys to allow staff a chance to share their concerns and feedback.

Despite the regular outreach initiatives, are employees sharing their most honest and genuine responses or are they holding back?

The tricky thing is you’ll never know. But Chee Tung Leong, CEO and co-founder at EngageRocket, who has vast HR-related experience told us that it’s possible your employees in Asia may have tendency to do the latter.

“For most Asian organisations, the level of trust in management isn’t high enough to get sincere responses from employees,” Chee told HRD.

Trust in leadership, be it in their ability to be open-minded or to genuinely listen and follow up on feedback, is crucial to motivate employees to speak up in the first place.

READ MORE: Do your staff feel like they're being heard?

This is why you should work on improving the organisation’s company culture, even as you send out employee surveys, or encourage leaders to engage in regular check-ins or management one-on-ones with the team to retrieve feedback.

“The first step to listen to people would be to provide a safe environment where employees will be more likely to openly share their thoughts,” he said.

“It’s also vital to close the loop and share survey results to demonstrate the company’s commitment to open communication and to help the employee feel that their voice mattered.”

READ MORE: Almost all employees reject a return to the ‘old normal’

Top HR mistakes when collecting employee feedback
Many experience leaders like Chee have cited failure to close a feedback loop as a top mistake when collecting feedback. Some have even said that if you fail to take action, or show that you’re working on it, asking for employee feedback could actually be detrimental to the company.

Employees can soon become disengaged if they felt that their employers hadn’t acknowledged or reacted to the responses. From then on, even if employees filled in company pulse surveys regularly, they may do so without much thought or consideration.

READ MORE: Are today's leaders 'out of step' with reality?

Other mistakes cited by leaders include:

  • Looking for someone to blame

Sometimes honest feedback may come across as negative. One common mistake when dealing with this is going on a witch hunt to find out the source of the feedback, just to ‘call them out’. A better way to deal with such situations is to focus on the ‘what’ instead of the ‘who’ – leaders should focus on the content of the complaint and figure out a solution to the issue.

While it could feel unwarranted, the complaint likely comes from a frustrated employee and should be looked into sooner rather than later.

  • Avoiding tough issues

Another unhelpful reaction to negative feedback is avoiding it completely. Some employers may choose to delay tackling tough issues and opting for quick wins.

While there is nothing wrong with prioritising issues, leaders should remember that sometimes addressing the more challenging gaps in the workplace may lead to the most gains in terms of engagement, and thereby productivity.

  • Asking the wrong questions

This mistake can also help address any worries around getting the ‘wrong’ answers. Experienced leaders keep in mind that employee feedback is not an exercise in curiosity. The questions asked can help serve as a communication tool as well as set expectations for the company’s values.

Leaders should thus curate a survey that’s purposeful and contextualised to their needs as an organisation.

READ MORE: Your employees are craving a transparent culture

Tips for HR to get genuine feedback
To help HR improve their feedback systems, Chee shared some valuable advice – most of which focused on the top leadership team.

“Support from the executive team is critical,” he told HRD. “I suggest having the most senior person in the company communicate a strategic view of what you’re trying to accomplish and why employees should care.”

It’s also crucial to enforce that the level of anonymity and confidentiality when receiving feedback, whether you’re collecting input through surveys or in person. This can give employees more confident in sharing their ideas and opinions.

“Keep emphasising the confidentiality of responses in each of your communication,” he said. “The less employees feel they can be identified by their answers, the better.

“[Also] make it easy for employees. Ask questions that all respondents can understand and try to keep your survey under two to three minutes or 30 questions. Ensure a frictionless experience and make the surveys accessible on mobile and other channels.

“The last tip: make it a habit. Run feedback surveys regularly to encourage employee participation and create an open culture.”

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