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Six ways to cultivate employee feedback

How to glean intelligence from staff to help leaders up their game

engaging employees

Employees are recognized as the heart of any company. As a result, the workforce needs a regular check-up just like a flesh-and-blood heart.

Using employee surveys instead of stethoscopes, an HR manager can identify issues before they threaten the health of the entire company. The results, obtained annually, can offer insights into morale and productivity and motivate management to adjust its communications practices. To get the most effective and honest feedback, it’s important to ensure anonymity and ask the same baseline questions every year to identify trends, says Antoinette Blunt, president of Ironside Consulting Services Inc. in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Blunt offers six suggestions on gathering meaningful employee feedback:

1. Ask the right questions

Don’t ask subjective questions such as, “Do you like your supervisor?” A more appropriate question would be to look at your supervisor’s role and responsibilities rather than personal traits by asking, “How effective do you believe your supervisor is at monitoring your performance?” Blunt recommends using a Likert scale with five response rankings (rather than yes or no answers).

To get the most effective and honest feedback, it’s important to ensure anonymity and ask the same baseline questions every year to identify trends

2. Expose workplace conflict

Problems in the workplace, such as harassment, often stay hidden. “People are hesitant to identify concerns, especially when it’s between an employee and manager. So you don’t want to wait until problems get significant to find out what’s going on,” says Blunt. She suggests asking these types of questions to determine if there is workplace conflict: Do you think we have the right policies and procedures to support your work? Do your colleagues treat each other with dignity and respect? Is your workplace comfortable and safe?

3. Engage and recognize

To be productive, employees need to feel engaged – so engrossed in their work that they are always looking for ways to further their organization’s interests. Today’s young workforce, in particular, is very mobile and always seeking opportunities to learn and grow, says Blunt. Ask questions like: Do you believe that the company values your work? Does your supervisor recognize your success appropriately?

4. Point in the same strategic direction

All employees play a role in a firm’s success and need to know how they can participate, says Blunt. “When people understand that and they feel valued, then they become more participatory.” Ask: Do you understand what the company’s goals are? Are you provided with opportunity for input into decision-making?

“When people understand … feel valued, then they become more participatory”

—Antoinette Blunt, president of Ironside Consulting Services Inc.

5. Watch for stress

Employee mental health will be the most significant issue facing employers in the next few years, says Blunt. Today, employees are getting emails and messages 24/7. Employers need to find out whether their expectations of employees are reasonable and how they are impacting performance, says Blunt. Questions could include: What do you believe causes stress in the workplace? Do you believe your company supports a work/life balance?

6. Follow through

Once a trend is identified make sure you plan for improvement, whether it’s better communication or extra training for managers. “Then ask the same questions again,” says Blunt. “The next annual survey will indicate whether or not your actions have made a difference.” ◊