Some managers are uncomfortable with the idea of inviting comments as part of their employee engagement surveys. They’re frightened of opening up issues they won’t be able to deal with or of creating friction and confrontation.
That could be a risk, but they need to recognise that we now live in a feedback culture. They wouldn’t question the value of customer feedback. Indeed an increasing number of companies conduct ongoing customer surveys and use social media platforms like Reputation.com to get a regular flow of feedback from multiple sources. That feedback and the dialogue that follows play a vital role in those companies’ efforts to engage their customers and build their brands.
Outside of work, their employees, the same people who are often denied the opportunity to make their comments known, are used to giving and receiving feedback every single day - when they book a holiday, eat out at a restaurant or go shopping. And they share their experiences with family and friends, and the world at large, on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp.
So, if companies are serious about retaining and motivating their employees and attracting the best they can, they need to start thinking seriously about building the same kind of relationship they have with your customers – one based on continuous feedback and ongoing dialogue. They need to start thinking about giving their people the opportunity to provide feedback in their own words. If they don’t, engagement will fall, their employees will walk and business performance will suffer.
If the case for encouraging people to give feedback in their own words is compelling, how should the process be managed in order to maximise value while at the same time dealing with managers’ legitimate concerns about creating difficulties?
Here are a few suggestions:
Don’t be led by the comments. Analysis of the survey feedback should start with a focus on scores, trends, and benchmark comparisons together with more detailed key driver and, where appropriate, linkage analyses. It is these analyses that should determine priorities and post-survey actions. The role of the comments should be to bring conclusions to life and to provide supporting evidence for proposed actions.
Sort the comments by subject matter and sentiment and see how they illustrate the scores and trends you’ve identified. Use them to flag up the issues that are currently being talked about the most, especially those that risk undermining engagement.
When feeding back the results of the survey to the company as a whole make sure you reference a number of comments to support your quantitative analyses and proposed post-survey actions. It will assure people that you really are listening to them rather than just looking at the numbers. It will go a long way towards building trust in the feedback process.
But when sharing the feedback with individual teams think carefully before including comments. At that level there’s a danger they could be attributed (rightly or wrongly) to specific individuals and therefore help to realise managers’ concerns about creating friction and confrontation. And remember that most employees will react more emotionally to a single controversial comments that they would to a volume of quantitative data.
A word about the process of collecting, collating and analysing comments: For companies that conduct a once-only annual survey and have a relatively low headcount the challenge should not be too great. But for those that are moving towards multiple surveys across the entire employee lifecycle or already have an always-on approach and thousands or tens of thousands of employees it will be much greater. They will need to partner with a survey/platform provider that can process a large volume of comments and report by subject matter and sentiment in real time.
In summary, we live in a culture where, increasingly, feedback is being sought and given. Companies need to recognise that and embrace the idea of a continual dialogue with their people. The benefits will be a heightened sense of inclusion and engagement and, ultimately, improved productivity. However, the process of managing large volumes of comments and the dialogue that follows will need to be managed carefully.
More blogs that may interest you.