When it comes to driving employee engagement we can no longer assume the old way of doing things will continue to deliver what organisations require at a time of increased competition and constant change. Most businesses therefore realise they need to adapt how they collect and act on employee feedback with technology playing a strong role. This is not dissimilar to how customer engagement has evolved, with digital tools now used to analyse and transform the customer experience.

Businesses are now looking to improve their understanding of what makes employees tick in order to boost engagement and ultimately create a better performing organisation.

The crux of all this is about improving how you collect and use employee feedback. Relying on the annual employee survey alone will no longer cut it. There are many more methods that can draw out more granular insights, faster than ever.

Always-on feedback allows employees to fill in online surveys and make suggestions at any time, while employee communities allow staff to raise topics and launch discussions with their peers and the wider organisation. Event-driven surveys deliver staff insight into the impact of specific changes (such as a company move) or at key points within the employee lifecycle, such as after joining, promotion, training or return from leave.

The benefits of these new feedback methods are clear – but they require a major cultural shift. Rather than being a distinct, scheduled activity carried out periodically, feedback becomes central to the organisation, requiring a more open, integrated approach. Employees can give feedback at any time, on any subject, meaning that management strategy and decisions will be under greater scrutiny than ever before. While delivering huge benefits, this can be challenging for both staff and managers.

Continuous feedback – a real life example

At Questback we’ve been through the changes ourselves. We’ve transformed how we listen to staff using a simple to use, mobile friendly software platform to enable always-on, continuous feedback. It has empowered staff to voice their ideas on any subject with nothing off limits. Every comment is visible to everyone within the company, with no anonymity for staff or managers. Making feedback naked in this way did cause some initial misgivings but once people understood that they were not being judged, that everyone was equal and that this new approach gave them an opportunity to contribute to company direction and strategy, the pace of feedback submissions increased dramatically. More than 3,800 dialogues took place in the first six months, an average of over 12 per employee. 10-15% of these have resulted in immediate changes, with improvements felt in business growth, staff onboarding, new products, a modified go to market strategy, cultural change and better staff retention.

What we’ve learned is that there are four key points to make sure continuous feedback benefits your staff and wider organisation:

1. Join up your feedback

With a greater volume and variety of inputs you’ll need to work to create a holistic, joined-up picture of employee feedback. Data needs to be integrated to deliver a real-time view of what staff are saying and feeling if you want to benefit from meaningful, actionable insight. For example, by integrating continuous feedback and other feedback methods you can spot trends within your workforce, such as retention, and then act to retain talent before it is too late.

2. Lean towards more qualitative feedback

Companies are used to dealing with quantitative data from annual employee surveys but a constant feedback dialogue will boost the volume of qualitative feedback coming in. This requires more in-depth analysis so you have to be prepared to put in the time to understand and act on this.

3. Make speed of response a priority

Continuous feedback is a conversation between employee and employer, so needs to be much faster than the old annual survey approach. Ensure you have the resources in place to respond quickly to concerns, and to act on real-time insights, in order to reap maximum benefits from this approach.

4. Simplicity is best

Adding new feedback channels can be confusing for staff, especially if they are used to the old approach of the annual, paper-based employee survey. Make sure that any new ways of providing feedback, such as always-on, are straightforward and easy to use, whatever device staff are using, and that you cater for the preferences (mobile, PC, pen and paper) of the whole workforce.

Opening up a continuous dialogue with staff will require some major changes in the way you manage employee feedback and interaction. However, the positive benefits definitely outweigh the challenges, leading to more engaged and productive employees, who contribute more to helping your business succeed.

This blog was first posted on HR Zone on 25th April, 2016

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