If feedback is ignored or unappreciated what is the motivation for employees to trust their honest feedback to you in the first place?
Many years ago, as a technical consultant, I accompanied the research director of a well known HR agency to the HQ of a large UK corporation. The plan was to pivot the process towards an online methodology. First up on the agenda was the issue of re-branding the employee survey. Because nothing had been done with the previous year’s result, employees weren’t exactly ‘on board’.
Nevertheless, everybody went through the motions, and the general feedback was that new branding should no longer mention the name of the consultancy involved. Fair enough but that particular agency prided itself on the name and charged a premium for the surveys to use it. Naturally, this didn’t go down well with the research director at the time, but it illustrates an important point …
Don’t ask me if you are going to ignore me
If there is no commitment or ability to act on feedback, don’t ask for it in the first place. I believe we often seek feedback as a way of seeking positive re-enforcement. If my daughter asks me how I like the picture she painted for me, she is not looking for unsparing criticism or constructive feedback. She wants to be praised and that’s fine (and of course I appreciate her effort as much as the result!).
Companies are no different and HR departments, and indeed all department managers, take pride in receiving high engagement scores. But if feedback is ignored or not appreciated, encouraged, or rewarded – what is the motivation for employees to trust their honest feedback to you in the first place?
Make trust possible
And that’s it. Trust. If you can create it, so that your people know you are listening not just to tick a box on your administrative checklist, but for the purpose of hearing their insight and using their ideas, you will get meaningful feedback from engaged participants.
5 Ways to build trust in the feedback process
As a HR manager, you know how important and elusive employee engagement is.
But when HR managers can create trust, or contribute to conditions that foster it, the improved engagement can spread and improve the company as a whole. Here's some things you can do to develop trust in the feedback process:
1. Intentionally Develop Talent
When you intentionally and strategically develop talent within HR, you not only end up with higher-caliber employees, but your employees get the benefit of seeing how this is done first-hand – which sets them up to better develop talent within other organizations.
Be a talent-development mentor to help your team achieve their potential.
2. Be a Change Agent
Change is inevitable within any company and any organization. Your HR employees are charged with leading departments through change – so show them how it’s done.
Help your employees learn how to navigate change by enacting change. Stay open to new and different points of view and don’t be afraid to try new strategies. Guide your HR reps through the change process so they can in turn guide others.
3. Share Your Secrets
Communicate openly with your employees whenever possible. Share your insights on situations that are occurring within your department and encourage people to have open conversations with you about them.
In cases where you cannot yet divulge company strategy, tell your employees what you can and then let them know you will share more as you are able to. If at all possible, let them know when they can expect to get that information from you.
Most importantly, don’t avoid talking to people just because you have information you can’t share – or your employees will start to assume it’s bad news.
4. Confront Hard Situations With Diplomacy
Confrontations of any kind are difficult, but they can be especially challenging when you are a leader because jobs often hang in the balance. Care enough to confront anyway.
Whether you are delivering bad news or mitigating office politics, do so with diplomacy. Take individuals’ feelings and unique situations into consideration. Have conversations in private – never scold an employee publicly, even in an email.
Teach your HR representatives how to handle difficult conversations with grace by doing so yourself.
5. Boost Morale
Especially during times of change, keep employee morale at the top of your priority list. Remember that your team will be leading other organizations through change. They will need positive examples of how to help others:
- Adapt to new organizational priorities
- Improve working conditions
- Open the lines of communication
- Use creative approaches
- Recognize employee and team achievements
There's no one size fits all approach when it comes to employee engagement feedback, but if you take the elements described above and incorporate them into your HR evaluation and feedback processes you should notice improved engagement.
Because trust matters. The more valued people feel, the more engaged they become. There is always room for more engagement, for building more trust and collecting better feedback. Employee engagement is an on-going open-ended activity, there is always room to improve.
Do you have any recommendations on how to improve employee trust in the feedback process?