Honesty is the best policy: Building a high-trust workforce

It's time to say goodbye to anonymous feedback

Honesty is the best policy: Building a high-trust workforce

Now more than ever, it’s imperative that HR leaders have their finger on the pulse of how their staff are feeling. With dispersed teams and many employees finding themselves in lockdown once again, it’s easy for a disconnect between staff and leaders to develop.

It's why feedback mechanisms are a powerful tool – especially for a remote or hybrid workforce –  but what if your organisation lacks the key ingredient: Trust?

Speaking to HRD, Kai Crow, Head of Marketing at Joyous, said for too long, employee feedback tools have relied on anonymous answers. But a lack of action on the part of the employer and the inability to really pinpoint where the issues lie means the power of anonymous feedback tools has eroded over time.

“You can’t create trust and transparency if you continue to perpetuate the idea that the only time it is safe to give feedback is when it’s anonymous,” he said.

Read more: Four in five employees don't feel heard – here’s why

Employees quickly lose faith in the process if feedback opportunities aren’t followed by action. Similarly, employers struggle to follow up with individuals or ask for suggestions when responses are anonymous. All in all, it’s an ineffective cycle that leads to disengaged employees and frustrated managers. So, what needs to change?

“First, you focus on getting feedback to the people that can act on it the quickest. That means you give feedback directly to team leads and managers,” Crow said.

“Then, you make sure those managers can act on that feedback, which they need to know who it has come from. This enables them to follow-up on feedback, ask for more detail, offer help and make changes where necessary.

“Once you do that, rather than trying to drive change from HR at the centre of the organisation, you create continuous change at the “edge” of the organisation. Small improvements start to happen every day as the result of regular feedback.”

At an upcoming webinar, Joyous will be joined by Ceri Rowland, HRD at Douglas Pharmaceuticals, who was faced with this very challenge when she joined the company. With employees fed up with anonymous feedback surveys and managers frustrated by the process too, she knew something needed to change.

Read more: How to lead a courageous team

In the free, virtual session hosted by HRD, Rowland will discuss the changes she implemented to rethink how the company sought employee feedback, empowered managers to take action and encouraged individuals to own their feedback. She will share her insight and learnings, from encouraging buy-in from the board to navigating the journey to better employee engagement.

Crow said moving away from anonymous feedback and towards a more dynamic process is key to increasing engagement – and has been a standout lesson from the last 12 months.

“When people give feedback and then see immediate improvement as a result, they tend to become more engaged in the process. This means that response rates actually go up over time, compared to traditional engagement surveys, which almost always have diminishing response rates over time,” he said.

“People also tend to give much more thoughtful feedback when they know it will have their name attached to it, and know who it will be going to. So, you end up not just getting more feedback, but better-quality feedback too.”

Research shows a significant portion of Australian employees are disengaged and with a tight talent market, it’s critical for employers to hold onto their staff. According to data from ADP, only one in ten Australian employees felt fully engaged in the workplace last year. Engagement levels dropped from 16% in 2018 to just 13% in 2020 in what should be a red flag for many employers.

To save your place for the upcoming webinar, click here to register.           

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