In considering ways to get more employees to provide feedback on an internal corporate site, as a client recently asked, it’s good to remember that feedback is provided when there is an assurance that the worker’s voice will be heard, considered and acted upon. This is a cultural issue, really. Companies modeling a consensual decision-making style will have no problem gathering employee feedback—since the culture is not risk-averse, but transparent and inclusive.
Contests or incentives are ill-advised, since they cut against the grain of the discretionary effort (engagement) and self-motivation required to capture authentic feedback.
Direct appeal from a senior leader: A straightforward, honest and sincere appeal from a senior leader with skin in the game is the best way to approach this issue—and a senior leader blog is an appropriate channel. It may be pertinent to acknowledge the mistakes of the past—or at least a failure to emphasize the importance of gathering direct, unfiltered employee feedback, if this is, in fact, the case.
The senior leader post could be titled, “the gift of feedback,” and lay out in the clearest terms why she requires employee feedback; namely, to guide her decision-making process, to keep an ear to the ground and make decisions based on the facts as they really are. In the clearest terms, the request for feedback should be described as an essential requirement of a servant-leadership model, not a nice-to-have after-thought of old school command-and-control leadership. It should include examples of how feedback has changed her thinking in the past.
Ask for feedback on relevant topics: It stands to reason that the senior leader blog/message topic must be relevant to the work people do every day. The senior leader should inquire about which topics would resonate most with the workforce readership. Toby Ward speaks of a using a CFO Blog with a particular client, where the CFO solicited innovative ideas to save money from the front-line workers. It was a topic within their purview, something they could speak about comfortably. The response was overwhelming.
Offer more than one way to provide feedback: Employees should be able to provide feedback in a number of ways—by liking posts on the site, by having an option to share posts on the site with colleagues via email (or social media, if applicable), and through comments after each post or message. The frequency and quality of this interaction is an important success metric. This capability for two-way interaction should exist after every post/message, not only in a dedicated area for feedback on the page (as was the case with this client). People are accustomed to weighing in on the post they are reading—not in a general feedback area, unless it is a customer service page.
Provide a feedback mechanism for every communication: Every email and corporate message should have an option for workforce feedback, or link to the full story on the intranet, where an option for feedback can be provided.
Build a culture of feedback: Feedback should be ingrained into the culture, encouraged not only at town halls and annual engagement surveys, but also during 1-on-1 meetings, staff meetings, skip-level meetings, web chats and Twitter town halls, and manager walk-arounds. It should also be a vibrant tenet of the performance management process, where a mid-year employee stay interview or career-development discussion should occur.
Once ingrained in the culture, feedback will flow.
What best practices have you come across to encourage feedback?
- Eight tips for getting employees to comment on CEO intranet blogs (holtz.com)
- Daily Thought 12/1/11: Feedback (leadershipstudy.wordpress.com)