There are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles out there that emphasize the importance of employee reviews and performance tracking. We even have a few of our own that discuss how employee evaluations are critical to improving work, how professional growth unites generations at work, and how to create an employee development plan. At the center of these articles is the importance of employee feedback. However, one often overlooked topic is why employees should regularly deliver feedback to management.
Managers need feedback just as badly as employees do. The manager-employee relationship is a two-way street; one can’t exist without the other, and employees don’t often get the opportunity to express to their managers how they would like to be managed.
Think about it: how many businesses actually empower employees to deliver feedback to their managers? And of those businesses, how many managers actually internalize this feedback and change their behavior accordingly?
Strong managers are always open to feedback. In fact, managers who received feedback on their strengths showed 8.9% greater profitability according to Gallup. Let’s explore why employee feedback matters, how to solicit feedback from your employees, and what to do with that feedback after you receive it.
Why Employee Feedback Matters
The way your company functions hinges on the effectiveness of your managers. If your managers are resistant to employee feedback, they can get stuck in the same habits for years — habits that can increase turnover, damage employee relationships, and slow projects. For example, a manager might see their style as hands-off, but employees might feel like they are micromanaged. Without employee feedback, this manager will continue to practice the same management style, resulting in a team of unhappy and unmotivated employees.
Having regular employee feedback incorporated into your company culture leads to a myriad of positive business results, including:
- A decrease in turnover: companies that regularly incorporate employee feedback see turnover decrease by an average of 14.9%
- An increase in happiness: 68% of employees who receive meaningful feedback feel fulfilled at their jobs
- An increase in employee satisfaction: managers who give and receive consistent feedback earned an average score or 8.6/10 from employees
Understanding the importance of employee feedback doesn’t happen overnight. Managers need to be trained to be receptive to feedback (more on this below), which should start from day one. It can be challenging to accept feedback from employees who work under you, but it’s important to note that these employees have a unique experience that is essential to understanding how your business works. This feedback helps you identify areas for improvement throughout your organization, resulting in optimal growth.
Ask yourself: am I the manager I perceive myself to be? Do I truly understand my own management style, and would my employees say the same things I would about myself? If you don’t have a clear answer to this question, it’s time to gather employee feedback.
How to Gather Employee Feedback
There are several ways you can gather employee feedback, the most common being administering a survey to your team. The way this survey is structured will be critical to getting meaningful feedback, so be sure to spend plenty of time on drafting the right questions, which we will discuss in-depth below.
First, notify your HR team that you will be conducting this survey. Be sure to get their input throughout the process to make sure your survey is by the book.
We recommend making the survey anonymous so employees have a safe space to share their thoughts without fear of retaliation. One thing to keep in mind when deploying an employee feedback survey is the power structure, which is often referred to as the parent-child dynamic, that occurs between employees and management. Providing feedback to managers is a daunting task — one that many employees fear since their jobs could potentially be on the line and reversing that established hierarchy feels unnatural. As a manager, your job is to facilitate a safe environment for employees to share their genuine thoughts without fear of retribution.
If you feel like employees won’t provide honest feedback to managers at your organization, you may be facing a bigger, more systemic problem. If you think this is the case, consider addressing it with HR, especially if your company has a history of retaliation against employees who offer managers feedback.
Questions to Include in Your Employee Feedback Survey
The questions you include in your employee feedback survey are critical to getting the results you need. They need to inquire about specific ways you, as a manager, can improve. Ask questions like:
- What are three ways this manager is succeeding in leading the team? Please provide examples.
- What are three ways this manager could improve their leadership skills? Please provide examples.
- When were you in a situation where you wanted to provide feedback to this manager but did not? What was the feedback?
- What can this manager better help you with? This week? This month? This year?
- What about your job causes frustration, and how can this manager help to alleviate it?
- Do you feel unclear about what you should be working on? If so, what can your manager do to clarify?
- Looking back on the year, what’s one thing this manager could have done differently?
- Do you feel rewarded and recognized by this manager? If not, please explain.
Let your team know in advance that you will be deploying this survey and that the purpose is to gather feedback on how you can be the best manager to them possible. We recommend giving them at least a 30 day notice so they have plenty of time to gather their thoughts and prepare their answers.
Administer the survey early in the week and give employees at least seven days to complete it. Your team members will want to dedicate their full attention to the survey, so allowing them a week for completion helps them schedule time accordingly.
After the Survey is Deployed
After your team has completed the survey, pass the answers off to HR. It’s critical that a third-party has a chance to review the data before you and look for any red flags that might need to be addressed immediately.
Once the answers have been reviewed by HR, have a member of your HR team deliver the feedback. Bringing in an outside party to review and deliver the feedback is critical to maintain objectivity throughout the process. Going through feedback submitted anonymously on your own would be challenging because some employees might use this as an opportunity to vent their frustrations or submit feedback that isn’t particularly relevant or helpful. Your HR point of contact will help parse this feedback and identify what is meaningful.
What to Do With Employee Feedback
Once you have gathered employee feedback, you need to establish an action plan on how to incorporate it into your daily work life. Here’s an outline of the next steps to take after you get feedback.
1. Look for Patterns
After your HR team has reviewed your survey data, look for common themes. Group similar answers together and look for immediate changes you can make to your management style that will boost morale. For example, if employees feel like they aren’t recognized enough in the workplace, consider implementing a rewards and recognition platform as a quick win to fulfill this need. Lack of recognition is one of the most common pieces of feedback that employees deliver to managers. In fact, only 15% of employees currently feel recognized in the workplace, while 40% of employees believe that recognition would help improve their productivity. It’s a critical problem in the workplace and an easy fix with the right user-friendly platform.
2. Set Goals
After you’ve identified common themes within your feedback, the next step to incorporating it is setting professional goals. For example, if employees report that they feel under-appreciated at work, set clear goals around improving recognition for your team. Creating these goals establishes that you are taking employee feedback seriously and will take actionable steps to incorporate it.
3. Ask Follow-Up Questions
Some of your employee feedback might be nebulous and hard to understand at first. You might even struggle with specific feedback emotionally or logically. To get a better understanding of what has been asked of you, don’t be afraid to ask followup questions to your team. If you don’t understand anonymous feedback, reach out to your HR point of contact and ask them to follow up with your employee. If you have questions about feedback from a specific employee, schedule a 1:1 meeting to discuss with them further in lieu of sending an email. These conversations are best had verbally to avoid any confusion or miscommunication.
4. Create an Action Plan
Once you’ve clarified what goals and outcomes to pursue, create an action plan. Identify clear steps to address this feedback, look for any barriers that might impede incorporating employee feedback into your daily work, and outline steps to overcome them.
For example, by now, you might be looking into creating an action plan for incorporating more recognition into your workplace culture. This can range from exploring different employee recognition ideas to implementing a full rewards and recognition platform at your company. Outline the steps it would take to implement a rewards and recognition platform at your company, establish a timeline, and connect with your HR team to get the ball rolling.
5. Share Your Plan With Employees
Sharing your plan with your employees is critical to reinforcing that you take employee feedback seriously. If your team spends time providing thoughtful feedback but has no insight into the impact this feedback will have, employees are likely to feel frustrated and unclear about the changes moving forward. Additionally, once you share your plan, your team might have additional feedback to help you improve even more.
Once you have administered your survey, gathered the results, and created an action plan for incorporating this feedback into your management style, schedule 1:1 meetings with your employees. These meetings are not meant to discuss the feedback your employees submitted to the survey — that feedback is anonymous and should stay anonymous. However, it’s crucial to offer employees a variety of ways to provide feedback. Both anonymous and in-person feedback are equally important, and some employees might not feel comfortable submitting specific feedback in an anonymous survey. In these 1:1 meetings, ask employees if they have any additional feedback they would like to deliver not covered in the survey.
Remember that providing and receiving feedback should be an ongoing process, not limited to an annual review. Try to make asking for employee feedback a regular habit in 1:1 meetings to continuously improve your management skills. Your team will thank you for it in the long-run.
Erin Nelson is a Digital Marketing Manager at Fond with over six years of B2B SaaS marketing experience. Erin has authored dozens of articles on employee rewards and recognition and frequently researches new trends in R&R. In their spare time, you can find them playing music, reading about socioeconomic and gender-based politics, and listening to true crime podcasts.