When employees feel heard at work, good things happen. Research by The Workforce Institute at UKG revealed that highly engaged employees are three times more likely to feel listened to at their workplace (92%) than highly disengaged employees (just 30%). And feeling listened to affects the company’s financial performance, too.
But conducting engagement surveys and asking for employee feedback isn’t enough. For employees to feel heard, leadership needs to translate that feedback into action and implement tangible changes. After you’ve gathered employee feedback, what’s the next step?
Step back: Create a feedback culture.
The first step (and maybe the hardest) is fostering a feedback culture — a work environment where employees are willing to share their honest opinions. Do employees feel supported when they share an idea in your organization?
If they don’t feel comfortable, it’s essential to foster psychological safety (i.e., the belief that an employee won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes). The psychological safety or lack thereof will dictate whether or not employees share their candid thoughts.
What to do before you gather employee feedback
- Offer multiple feedback channels. Communication preferences differ by generation and the employee journey. Similarly, employees prefer to provide feedback in different ways. Given your end goal and employee population, is it better to solicit attributed or anonymous feedback? One-on-one or 360? Individual or group? And should the process be face-to-face or written?
- Test your questions. Before you conduct a survey, ask a small, diverse group of employees (representative of your target audience) to review your questions. At this stage, it’s helpful to identify and resolve any confusing language or bias in your question set.
- Do the math. For feedback and opinion surveys to be reliable, they must be representative and statistically valid. If your audience is 25-50 years old, but you only receive answers from people who are 40+, you do not have a representative sample. Likewise, if you have 10,000 employees but only 32 provide feedback, you do not have a statistically-valid sample. In both cases, you must collect more responses before analyzing the data.
What to do after you gather employee feedback
- Publish the results. Let responders know where they stand by publishing the feedback results. Outline your next steps, possible outcomes, and timeframes for action.
- Create multiple feedback loops. Before you roll out any changes based on the data, it is helpful to ask for additional feedback. “You said ‘X.’ So we plan to do ‘Y.’” Highlight the ‘Why’ and how it addresses the issue. And present this information to the entire original audience, not just the responders. These layered feedback loops help prevent situations where an early and vocal minority — or an influential leader — push for change, only to have a silent majority push back when that change is executed.
- Highlight feedback-driven changes. Beyond acknowledging their contribution, a key to employees feeling heard is seeing the resulting action. Let employees know when you make decisions based on employee feedback.
Best Practice: Build feedback into your daily operations.
Despite the benefits to employee engagement and the bottom line, most employees (86%) feel that people at their workplace are not heard fairly or equally. To avoid this, make feedback an ongoing process. When input and response become operationalized, employees get better at giving and receiving it.
Feedback can be a gift to your organization when given constructively and respectfully. Creating a feedback culture depends on leadership’s ability to respond to and act on employee feedback, along with communications’ role in explaining why a change or decision is being made. When employees believe it’s worth their time to share their opinions, their feedback can foster the organization’s growth.