Employee Feedback: A Two-Way Street August 28 2015

Employee feedback is essential to the success, sustainability and productivity of an organization. In an ideal world all feedback would be optimistic and positive, but this is not generally the case.  Positive and negative feedback are both extremely useful and can be helpful indicators of both successes and areas of improvement within an organization. Not only is giving employees feedback crucial, but allowing employees the opportunity to provide their own constructive feedback about the company and current practices can have a positive impact itself.

Giving Employee Feedback

Through discussions with numerous employees in various organizations and conducting exit interviews upon employment termination, it has become evident to me that a significant number of employees feel that they lack regular feedback and support from management. 

Some organizations may administer performance reviews annually, while others may perform these evaluations less frequently.  Some organizations do not conduct performance reviews at all.  These reviews attempt to cover the employee‘s overall performance and accomplishments, but many employees feel that the ‘few and formal’ performance meetings are not sufficient on their own. This is not to suggest that monthly or bi-weekly reviews are required, but rather that other discussions can be had that can provide employees with the support and feedback that they need. Even if these are less-formal, casual discussions, it is evident that employees want, perhaps even need, this sort of dialogue on a more consistent basis.

The reasoning we provide regular feedback is not simply to improve employee performance, but to provide opportunities for communication. It affords workers a chance to feel valued, incorporated, and ultimately to boost their level of engagement.

Receiving Feedback from Employees

Just as valuable as administering feedback is the ability to receive it. Not only is the information essential for organizational improvement, but it can contribute to employee engagement and retention.

There are two approaches for receiving employee feedback: proactive and reactive. Obvious definitions aside, it is crucial for organizations to be proactive when collecting this information so that necessary processes and practices, identified by employees, can be improved or justified.

Being proactive refers to initiating the necessary change before a problem negatively impacts an organization.  A great method for pursuing this is through the use of employee surveys. Technology has made conducting such surveys very efficient.  They can be sent out via email, or through easily navigated websites such as SurveyMonkey.com for anonymity and easy data analysis.  You may choose to have open-ended questions, but multiple choice questions can be just as informative and have the additional benefit of being easily organized and interpreted. 

For example:

Question: "Do I have the tools, resources and support necessary to do my job well?"

Strongly Disagree

Somewhat Disagree

Neither Agree nor Disagree

Somewhat Agree

Strongly Agree

Conducting employee surveys is a great way of compiling valuable information which can support effective processes and identify those with issues or that require improvement.

The reactive-approach to employee feedback is collecting information after there has been a significant impact.  Most commonly, this occurs after an employee voluntarily quits or resigns from the organization, or after they are terminated due to lack of engagement and workplace morale.  Such information is usually attained through a discussion with the employee during, or shortly after, their resignation/termination. A more formal and very useful technique for acquiring this information is an exit interview.

Asking terminated employees to complete an exit interview is a good way for employers to gain honest and valuable feedback about their workplace. Feedback can be requested about a variety of issues, including operations, managerial style, workplace ethics, morale and health and safety issues. Positive feedback will validate current processes and practices, while other feedback can be used to identify areas for improvement and help employers understand why employees are leaving the organization.  These interviews can be conducted face-to-face or anonymously, depending on the comfort of the relationship between the employee and employer.  One thing to consider with exit interviews is that the employee may be upset or resentful and consequently present malicious feedback.  At the very minimum, this will allow the employee to vent and perhaps rid themselves of any negative feelings towards the organization.  Ideally, employees will offer a combination of positive and negative feedback, so that an assessment can be made as to the effectiveness and success of specific practices.

Overall, a proactive approach to acquiring employee feedback is preferred, but important information can also be gained from employees upon termination or resignation that can truly help your organization. Providing employees with feedback can improve performance, aid in developing working relationships and expedite employee development.  Receiving feedback from employees will not only benefit the organization, but will also make employees feel valued, resulting in increased engagement and retention.    Organizations must be aware of the benefits associated with giving and receiving feedback and should engage in communication and practices which encourages this dialogue.

A customizable exit interview survey and employee performance appraisal form can be found on our website under the Resource Centre.