Beyond the Suggestion Box: 7 Novel Ways to Collect Employee Feedback

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Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement
Savvy organizations are finding novel ways to hear from their employees and then acting on this feedback.

Engaged employees are a necessity for an organization to thrive and business leaders are recognizing the importance of a highly engaged workforce and its impact on customers as well as the company's bottom line.

In fact, according to The Temkin Group, companies with strong employee engagement efforts have above average customer experience, financial results than those with weaker efforts.

However, one study after another paints a bleak picture of the state of employee engagement, which still worries many organizations. The State of Employee Engagement Activities, 2013 report, published by the Temkin Group earlier this summer, notes that only a quarter of employees at large companies are highly engaged.

This figure is troublesome especially in the context of the recently launched State of the American Workplace report, where Gallup highlights that 18 percent of full-time workers in the U.S. are actively disengaged in their work and a further 52 percent are not involved in, enthusiastic about, or committed to their work.

As 1to1 Media highlights in this article, listening to employees is one of the main drivers of employee engagement. The next step is to turn this feedback into action. However, the Temkin Group's research among more than 200 customer experience professionals found that although most firms measure employee engagement, less than half place a high priority on taking action based on employee feedback.

In fact, the recently published benchmark study about performance management by NICE also found that only 12 percent of organizations have a program in place to invite ideas from frontline workers.

The majority of organizations use an annual survey as their main-and sometimes only-way to collect employee feedback. While, as Elizabeth Mayes, executive director for corporate human capital, mergers, and acquisitions at TeleTech, notes, formal surveys are helpful because they are highly quantifiable, the best organizations are trying to find novel ways to collect feedback from their employees, including leveraging technology. Here are seven ways to supplement the annual survey with additional feedback collection strategies:

  • Conduct focus groups with employees: Organizations often carry out focus groups to get qualitative information from their customers. Mayes recommends extending this strategy to employees. Focus groups allow employees to engage in a discussion and build on each others' ideas. Mayes notes that focus group feedback tends to be very accurate because employees feel safe in the focus group environment.

    • Make employee feedback public within the organization: "In today's culture, openness is the key," notes Diane Berry, Coveo's senior vice president for marketing and communications. She recommends providing a dashboard that allows employees to see their colleagues' feedback. This, Berry admits, might be risky if people are complaining about the same thing and the company isn't addressing the problems, but would also allow employees to see what others are saying and encourage them to contribute their feedback.

      • Introduce gamification: According to the NICE study, gaming techniques are infrequently used and less than one-third of companies are exploring some form of digital rewards. The organization notes that while gamification is often equated to fun and entertainment, gaming mechanics also work as a powerful way to measure and motivate performance. Matt Storm, director for innovation and solutions within NICE's corporate marketing, suggests leveraging gaming techniques to encourage employees to provide feedback. Storm notes that some organizations are implementing tools that allow employees to make recommendations about particular work practices, for example overcoming an objection from a customer while trying to make a sale. Other agents can like specific tips.

      • Encourage managers to collect feedback: The relationship between employees and their managers can be a very valuable source of information. "Conversations are very important and can lead to a lot of information," Mayes says. She notes that companies which are really committed to employee engagement tend to organize manager forums where they share what their direct reports are telling them. TeleTech, for example, is conducting manager roundtables, where supervisors are encouraged to discuss what they're hearing from employees, giving the company essential feedback.

      • Provide a space for ongoing feedback: Forward-thinking business leaders understand that employee feedback is crucial for their organizations and want staff members to provide employee insights to them regularly. Stacey Nevel, Confirmit's VoC program design director, suggests creating a permanent online space where employees can go and leave their feedback. "The information is timely," Nevel notes. In fact, this system is very similar to how organizations are constantly soliciting customer feedback. One way of doing this would be through a permanent link on the company's Intranet. "Employees are providing feedback about something that just happened rather than waiting months until it's no longer relevant or they'd forgotten," she says. Further, such a system will allow organizations to identify any problems and nip them in the bud. If done properly, such a system encourages engagement since employees will recognize that someone is responding to their feedback on a constant basis.

      • Understand employees' goals: Daniel Debow, cofounder of Work.com, notes that managers should look at their reports' goals and leverage this insight to better understand employees' needs. Debow explains that through their goals, employees might be giving important feedback to the organization, outlining what they would like to learn more about or specialize in. Managers should use this insight to start a conversation with their employees, allowing them to gather more feedback.

      • Invest in thorough exit interviews: An employee's insight into the company doesn't become less valuable when he's leaving the company. Mayes notes that exit interviews can be a great way to collect feedback. "It's a very valuable tool," she says. Demographics can play a part on the effectiveness of exit interviews as information-gathering solutions. Mayes says while employees in the United States tend to be very candid, others have tried to be too conservative because they want to leave on good terms with the company.

        Finally, Confirmit's Nevel recommends steering clear of surveys that aren't anonymous since this might skew the data if employees don't want to be totally honest out of fear of repercussions. TeleTech's Mayes suggests avoiding gathering feedback on individuals. "Don't ask for feedback about colleagues or a direct boss, but gather this in one-to-one discussions," she says.

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