Asking for feedback from anyone can be a daunting process, especially when you may not know what the response will be. However, feedback is crucial for the continued growth of any business, and for maintaining a good level of trust between employees and their leaders. But is there a right time to start gathering this feedback?
When and how should you ask for feedback?
There can be no denying that when asking for feedback, a leader wants a positive response. Yet the measure of a good leader isn’t someone who welcomes only positive responses, but instead someone who asks for feedback when they may be risking a negative response.
Any feedback process can’t be a one-off event for a leadership team. Annual surveys are out, continuous listening is in. Feedback needs to be a consistent and regular business process. It’s important to treat your feedback as a scientific hypothesis, where you track data before, during and after any changes.
Without a good baseline of data, how can you hope to track the success and improvement of these changes? Many leaders, in their desire for positive feedback, focus too much on only having ’good data’ in the form of positive responses or high scores. But when feedback is only collected after a change has been implemented, scores may well be higher, but what value does it really bring?
It’s important that you communicate your reasons for change, but remember that not all change is desirable. Use feedback, tracking positive trends along the way, to discover if you are going too far in some areas, or not far enough in others.
You must also gather data for both positive and negative changes. For example, perhaps your business is soon to be introducing a flexible working policy. Be sure to ask for feedback throughout this process, tracking employee engagement and satisfaction scores around factors such as autonomy and reward. If you begin to notice improvements, then you know the changes have had a positive impact on your organisation.
On the other side, it may be that your business is soon to undergo negative changes, perhaps redundancies or an office closing down. You must gather data in exactly the same way as with positive changes; before, during and after. Note engagement scores, how staff feel about the level of communication during these changes, and if they believe that their organisation cares about them.
With that in mind, it’s crucial that you don’t turn off your feedback tools during turbulent times. While it may feel like this must be done to avoid what you may see as predictable answers, this is the most important time for you to gather data. It could save people leaving the business, and by monitoring how scores change during these times, it will build your confidence in the feedback system that you use.
Feedback is about more than a number
When collecting feedback, it’s important to not only focus on your numbers or scores. Instead, focus on what you can learn. There’s no answer to “what’s a good score?”, and in some ways, a lower score can give you more insights by highlighting areas for improvement.
So, don’t treat lower scores as negatives. Treat them as tools for learning. Be sure to ask probing questions, as insightful questions draw insightful answers. Use these answers to be proactive with problems, rather than reactive. Place a focus on tracking participation rates too. A low rate is a good indicator of low engagement and trust within your organisation, and vice versa.
It’s important that you begin to see feedback as a useful tool, rather than as a vanity metric. This will allow you to build the right processes within your organisation to prevent problems before they arise. Rather than always having to mend the cycle, you can create the cycle.
Driving positive change within your business
Once you have collected the relevant data and feedback, how do you utilise it effectively? Use it to concentrate on the areas in which you can drive real change and build trust between your employees.
Are some areas of the organisation more engaged than others? Can the conditions that they are experiencing be replicated in other areas? If you ask a greater variety of questions on a more regular basis, you’ll have a greater pool of data from which to work with. Equally, if employees feel as though they are being listened to, they’re more likely to carry on providing you with useful feedback.
A great way to do this is by making use of tools like the comment acknowledge button in your feedback platform. While this may seem like a simple tool, for employees it can be the most important. While it’s crucial that these comments are actioned upon, for an employee to know that high-level executives have acknowledged their feedback can be highly empowering.
By listening to and acting upon the feedback that you receive from employees, you will begin to create a level of transparency and honesty within the organisation that allows for the real driving of change and engagement of employees at every level.
It can be daunting asking for feedback, but it’s important to remember that you and your employees are trying to build a successful business together. By asking for regular feedback and implementing the changes that they want to see, you will nurture the level of trust and engagement needed to make your business successful.