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How To Act on Employee Feedback and Drive Real Change

When you step up to a live microphone, you probably don't want to hear feedback. But when you step up to lead a team or company, you really should.

There are many avenues for soliciting feedback from your employees, both active and passive, including:

  • annual surveys
  • 360 reviews
  • suggestion outlets such as a dedicated email inbox or physical comment box
  • regular meetings and feedback sessions
  • asking questions and openly listening during annual reviews, new employee assessments, and exit interviews

But asking for feedback, and accepting unsolicited feedback, is only step one. What you do with that input will determine how engaged and satisfied your staff will be.

If employees feel like their feedback is being ignored or that the act of soliciting it is just lip service, they will lose trust in your company.

Here's how to take action on your team's suggestions in order to boost loyalty, improve your company and strengthen your culture:

1. Consider feedback preventative.

You never want to be caught off guard by a resignation or major employee conflict. Having a system for feedback solicitation, acceptance, and analysis will keep your fingers on the pulse of your workforce and make it less likely that dissatisfaction, turnover, or other problems will arise unsuspectingly and leave you wondering what went wrong.

2. Show appreciation.

Let employees know their feedback is not going unheard into the void and the company values their time and input. If there is an inbox where they send comments or ideas, make sure all emails are acknowledged and replied to. When staff surveys are collected, thank employees for taking the time to complete them. Let them know the anticipated timeline for the results to be analyzed and shared.

3. Ask specific questions.

Before soliciting feedback, determine what you most need to know or want to understand better. Asking specific questions will allow the process to remain manageable and not become overburdened by information overload that's impossible to distill into key takeaways. Streamlining feedback is important to keep the process actionable, even as you provide the opportunity for additional opinions, ideas, and comments.

4. Assign an analysis team with an agenda and checklist.

Analyzing feedback should be systematic. Make sure that whoever is analyzing the data has a clear idea of what to look for in survey results and data points, so they don't get lost in the details or overwhelmed. Imposing a to-do list structure will help keep the results analysis timely. Taking too long to evaluate feedback inhibits your ability to respond with impactful change. Long delays will also undermine employee engagement with the process.

5. Use technology to drill down.

Software-based tools can help extrapolate the essential takeaways from a mountain of information by applying tactics like heat mapping, analytics, and segmenting to accurately understand data. Comprehensive programs like Workify's Engagement Intelligence Platform may be right for your business. Research what technological tools may improve the productivity of the feedback analysis process for your company.

6. Share and discuss.

Data is helpful, but feedback results can best be translated into meaningful action once you have discussed the findings, evaluated what they truly mean, and identified ways to move forward with these new insights. Such interpersonal collaboration will help you process the information and then use it to generate an action plan.

7. Communicate findings and tell the story.

When it comes time to share the results of feedback analysis with the staff, provide context to the data, clearly showing the details and explaining what steps will be taken to address them. Don't simply regurgitate statistics without a narrative that describes the insights gleaned and what, if anything, will be done to address them and when.

8. Make the changes you can.

Follow-through is essential. Asking or providing avenues for feedback but then doing nothing with it may be more counter-productive than not being open at all. Employees need to know your interest is genuine and their insights will be heard and taken seriously. If there are actions the company cannot take in response to feedback, explain why. Transparency will mitigate any frustration with changes not made and affirm the company was actively listening and not selectively ignoring feedback.

Gathering ideas, opinions, and comments can be daunting, especially in larger or more structurally complex organizations. However, the benefits of a functional feedback system are worth the commitment:

  • An employee who feels heard and valued is a happy employee.
  • It's smart business to make changes based on real insight from your stakeholders and not from blind assumptions.
  • Having open communication channels and converting information to action helps your company thrive.

So, when you're next at the mic, strategically and authentically utilize feedback. Hear your employees, seek the information you most need, analyze the results and appropriately act. Doing so will decrease staff turnover, increase employee engagement, and build a more effective organization.

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