Listening to employees, and acting on their feedback delivers major benefits when it comes to engagement, productivity and business improvements. Companies understand this, but have traditionally struggled to manage the complexity and large-scale resources needed to successfully carry out feedback projects. The result? Listening has tended to become an annual survey, due to the sheer amount of time, money and manpower required to run it.

Businesses today operate in fast-moving, ultra-competitive markets and the insight from annual exercises is simply not delivered quickly enough to make a real difference. There are other issues too. The top-down nature of such projects means middle managers are disengaged from the process – seeing it as something that does not involve them or help them to improve how they or their teams operate. Equally if they don’t see any action on their feedback, staff can swiftly become cynical and disillusioned by the whole annual survey, undermining the very reason it is carried out.

To solve these issues and to cut the time and complexity of listening to employees many organisations are embracing a new approach – democratising feedback by adding new ways of putting it at the heart of how everyone in the organisation operates. This helps create an insight-driven culture that is open, innovative and continually looks to improve.

How can companies achieve this democratisation? Essentially it requires them to bring together three different approaches:

1. A central backbone

Becoming more democratic doesn’t mean stopping collecting feedback from the whole company. But this needs to be managed more efficiently, with new ways of listening added to the existing annual employee survey. Switching to a single technology platform for all feedback means it can be made faster, less resource-intensive and linked closely to action planning. Removing any lag between listening and action will make the results more real-time and useful, while moving from paper to digital channels (such as mobile), will significantly reduce costs.

Using the same platform, companies can also add in new feedback methods. These include pulse surveys with specific groups of staff (such as countries or departments), which provide an up to the minute snapshot of their concerns. HR can engage with employees across their journey, collecting feedback at key touchpoints, such as after joining or onboarding, and following events such as training sessions.

It is vital that this data is quickly turned into actionable insight that benefits the business. This means delivering reports in ways that are easy for business managers to understand and act upon, such as through interactive, real-time dashboards linked to action planning.

Overall implementing a central feedback platform boosts efficiency and therefore reduces costs. Beyond this it allows organisations to introduce new ways of listening, helping them to create an open, insight-led culture where there is a tangible link between employee feedback and the bottom line.

2. Empowering managers to collect feedback

Running surveys centrally through a single platform allows companies to collect feedback across the organisation, providing vital information at a business-wide level. However, feedback can deliver much more. Managers need the ability to collect feedback on a local level, whether that is on changes they have made, on how they are performing or around specific meetings or initiatives. Rather than go to the time and trouble of asking the central feedback team to collect this information, many managers currently do it themselves, using low cost or free tools. While this gives them some results, it stores up problems for the future. Data is siloed and cannot be shared across the company, ways of collecting feedback may well be inconsistent, and there is a risk of over-surveying (leading to the dreaded ‘survey fatigue’).

The solution is to make it easy for managers to collect feedback on-demand, using the same platform that underpins regular surveys. By allowing them to launch surveys when they want, without needing to wait or involve the central team, on-demand makes it easy for managers to quickly benefit from creating their own surveys, while following corporate templates and guidelines. This empowers managers, ensures best practice is always followed and means that any insight is shared across the organisation.

3. Giving employees a voice, when they want, how they want

Employees today want the ability to share their views at a time that suits them. Introducing always-on feedback meets this need, allowing staff, whatever their role or level, to give their opinions when and how they want. As well as improving the organisation through employee suggestions and feedback, this enables you to build an open, transparent organisation that continually listens to its people.

Demonstrating the effectiveness of always-on, Questback has introduced it internally through our Employee Insight platform. This lets every person within the company give their feedback and ideas through an easy to use, mobile friendly software platform. The platform helps ensure that employees are mobilised and feel empowered to give their ideas on any subject they want. Staff just log on, select a topic and then rate how they believe the company is performing in that area while also making suggestions for improvement. All comments are automatically logged, followed up and responded to.

In the first six months alone, over 3,800 dialogues took place – over 12 per employee on average. Showing their effectiveness, 10-15% have resulted in immediate changes, while others are being actioned in the future. Every suggestion leads to a dialogue between staff and relevant senior managers – nothing is ignored, demonstrating the democratisation of feedback in action. The results give Questback a real-time picture of engagement and mobilisation, both across the company and by department and at a country level.

The old, top-down model of collecting and acting on feedback is no longer fit for purpose. By adopting the democratising feedback approach organisations can extend the value of listening to employees across the organisation. This allows all levels to benefit from insight, while a single platform delivers consistency and greater efficiency. It gives everyone a voice, contributing to creating a feedback-driven organisation that makes better, faster decisions; has more committed, engaged, aligned and loyal staff, and is more competitive, flexible and agile.

A version of this post first appeared on HR Zone on 24 April 2017.

  • Author

    Luke Talbot
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