January 13, 2021

To Find Out What Your Employees are Thinking, You Have to Ask!

“I have asked hundreds of managers the question: If you engage in behaviors that create problems for the people who work with you, would you like to know what these behaviors are? More than 90% respond that they would like to know.  But less than 25% indicate that they have any process for getting such feedback.” – William Dyer, Contemporary Issues in Management and Organization Development.

Staying connected to your employees is critical in the midst of the current global health crisis. But asking employees for feedback in order to identify emerging problems, evaluate the success of initiatives and build support for upcoming changes requires an ongoing commitment. Like temperature checks in the COVID era, it is important to be proactive – and then pay attention to the feedback that you receive, whether it is critical or positive.

There are many ways to gather input from employees. A curious manager who talks to employees every day is ideal, but ongoing tracking and measurement of progress and communicating progress back to employees on problem resolution is something that often gets missed. Here are some additional ways to secure feedback in a more formal way. 

Engagement Surveys

“By asking someone for their opinion–whether it’s about work or what they’d like for dinner–you imply that you care about it and create an expectation that you’ll do something based on what they have to say. At the very least, when you ask for feedback, you make an implicit promise to acknowledge it,” says Laszlo Bock, quoted in a recent Fast Company article. Engagement surveys often meet with resistance from employees due to fear that their responses will not be confidential. Using a third party to conduct the survey may help reassure them. And although many companies survey employees once/year, shorter “rapid pulse” surveys on specific issue may be more useful. A company-wide engagement survey is useful only if ongoing follow-up surveys to measure progress are conducted afterwards.  Follow up meetings with employees and a plan for improvement should be launched in conjunction with the survey.  It is also critical to share a version of the results with participants and allow time in group meetings to discuss and digest the findings. A survey that is only shared with management or that only focuses on positive findings can erode trust in management and fuel dissatisfaction. Employees need to believe that their input matters.

Exit Interviews

Employees are often willing to share their insight as they leave a company.  Whether or not and how and when this input is shared with management depends on the culture and the industry in which the employee operates.  but exit interviews can be source of valuable information on t key issues for HR. Create a short, (five questions is a good rule of thumb) questionnaire and scoring metric and store the data online so that you can evaluate trends. Make a consistent rule with regards to sharing information. (Don’t promise confidentiality unless you truly are not sharing it; state your position clearly on this issue and stick to it.). And always follow up with a one-on-one exit interview to gather more in-depth information about employee statements.  

Exit interviews serve a dual purpose – they allow employees to express themselves as they leave a job, smoothing a transition to their next opportunity and encouraging them to “vent” in a way that does not harm the company’s reputation like an online posting does. Exit interviews also provide valuable insight for management into issues that need attention.

Stay Surveys

Stay surveys, conducted after three months, six months, or a year on the job, can help managers evaluate whether the person they hired is satisfied in the job that they were hired into. Employees express both areas of dissatisfaction and pride in achievement to help managers understand gaps in training, inaccurate job documentation, and potential upcoming turnover. Stay surveys can be conducted by HR but often it is managers who can most benefit from the information. Consider a formal questionnaire provided by HR followed up by a discussion with the manager.

The professionals at HR/AA can help you regularly reach out to your employees.  Call us for assistance if you would like some ideas.  

Source: Fast Company, "Your Engagement Survey is Destroying your Company’s Culture"

The views and opinions expressed in the article represent the view of the author and not necessarily the official view of Clark Hill PLC. Nothing in this article constitutes professional legal advice nor is intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice.
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