When people receive ongoing feedback - no matter their level of seniority at a company - they’re able to grow and develop faster. We’ve previously talked about how one-on-one employee feedback is most effective when it happens more than once a year, and what it means to build a culture of feedback within a company.
It’s this broad view - building a culture of feedback - that we’re covering in this article. A culture of feedback is built on a comprehensive employee feedback strategy. This strategy encompasses many different components, like company-wide feedback, developmental feedback, and employee experience feedback.
Whether you’re just exploring what it means to create an employee feedback strategy, looking to experiment with something new, or you’ve been collecting employee feedback for a while, this guide can help you.
What is feedback?
Before we dive into the overall strategy, let’s look at the specific definition of feedback and what makes it most effective.
We define feedback as:
Information about past actions that is given to a person (or group) to be used as a guide for future improvement.
What matters when giving feedback?
It’s given to the person or entity (e.g., organization or team) that can utilize the feedback in a timely manner
It’s used for improvement (I.e. to modify a future action)
It’s part of a process
These three factors apply within any context of feedback - workplace or otherwise.
So, why is the concept of feedback becoming so important at work? Simply put, it helps people and organizations improve. Companies that adopt a culture of feedback are agile - they can learn faster and do more for their customers. The backbone of building that culture is a solid employee feedback strategy that utilizes employee surveys.
Basic employee feedback strategy
There are many different types of employee surveys you can use to build your employee feedback strategy.
That’s why we’ve put together a basic employee feedback strategy (including recommended surveys) any organization can implement in six, simple steps. We’ll go through each one, and later on, you’ll learn more about how to customize this strategy for your organization’s unique needs.
For a basic feedback strategy, we suggest these six steps:
1. Gather baseline data through an employee engagement survey
Company results: Present to all employees in an inclusive forum like an all-company meeting.
Leader-level reports: Share with senior leaders early on and provide company (and external, if possible) benchmarking
Manager: Leaders are asked to trickle results down to managers, including manager feedback from their direct reports, when available.
2. Connect the employee journey
Understand how people perceive their workplace at various stages of the employee journey through experience surveys such as candidate, onboarding, and exit surveys.
Candidate Survey. Often a shorter survey, collecting candidate feedback will help you understand their experience during recruitment and their feelings about the organization so far. You can also share engagement data during the recruiting process to show potential hires that you value feedback.
Onboarding survey.Creating a great onboarding experience for employees is incredibly important, and an onboarding survey is an important piece. This feedback will provide you with information on how employees are feeling about the company and their role so far.
Exit Survey. With an exit survey, you’ll know more about why people are leaving, where they're headed, and what their experience was like. Exit surveys provide you with quantitative data that can be used for comparison over time, and you can use survey results to guide the in-person exit interview process.
Employee experience surveys will help you:
Understand how your recruitment approach is perceived by candidates
Identify any gaps in your onboarding process
See trends in the perceptions of people leaving your organization
Gain an overall view of the experience of employees throughout their time at your organization
Ready to get started on your employee feedback strategy?
Review any actions taken from your baseline engagement survey, and use employee experience feedback collected to improve processes like recruiting and onboarding. You can also link your engagement and experience surveys together, to see what’s impacting retention or attrition.
Move deeper from organizational level feedback to the team, manager, and individual level. Once people at your organization have had experience with employee surveys as part of their onboarding, as well as participating in company-wide surveys like engagement, they’re primed to participate in surveys for individual and team development.
Individual Feedback (360 Feedback). People want to know how they’re performing at work, and gathering feedback from peers and managers is a great way for people to learn and grow. When employees participate in their own 360 feedback surveys, they can compare their self-assessment with the feedback and perceptions of their peers.
Team Effectiveness. Team-based projects at work, and flatter workplace structures leading to more teams, make gathering this type of feedback incredibly important. When teams participate in effectiveness surveys, they gain a deeper understanding of how productivity, cohesion, and alignment are driving their success.
Manager Effectiveness. Manager feedback surveys are similar to individual feedback and should allow managers to participate in a self-assessment. They can provide organizational-wide context when viewed in the aggregate, showcasing the strengths and areas for improvement across your company.
Developmental feedback surveys will help you:
Understand how effective each of your managers is in their roles and how you can support their development
Help individual employees understand the areas where they’re doing great, and identify opportunities for improvement
Now that you’ve collected company-wide feedback, employee experience feedback, and developmental feedback, take the time to go deeper on a particular issue. This could be by running another company-wide survey, like the benefits survey, or perhaps a survey related to one of your drivers of engagement, like learning and development. This can give you insight into how to best direct your resources and tackle more complex issues.
Inclusion surveys. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are important to building a world-class company. However, DEI can be difficult to measure. This challenge hasn’t stopped companies from trying (which is a good thing) but often we find that traditional diversity metrics don’t work. A well-made inclusion survey measures the employee experience of all groups and identifies areas for action to improve that experience.
Values surveys.Company values provide guidelines for day-to-day behaviors and differentiate one company from the next. A values survey is used to assess if employees see the stated values being lived in practice and what values matter most to people.
Benefits surveys. We know that perks (like ping pong tables or free lunches) aren’t the end-all-be-all, but core benefits (like health care) do matter. A benefits survey collects feedback on how people feel about existing benefits, while also asking about preference for future benefits (from 401ks to medical benefits).
After your first year or so building out your employee feedback strategy, take a step back to see how all of the pieces are fitting together. Decide if you want to survey more often, introduce more individual surveys, or perhaps scale back or regroup on a certain element.
Create an employee feedback strategy that is sustainable for your organization, and don’t be afraid to redefine what that looks like over time. This leads to one of the biggest considerations when crafting your strategy - survey cadence.
Employee survey cadence
When to launch your first survey
The right time to gather employee feedback depends on your resources and capabilities, and the level of support for your employee feedback strategy throughout the organization. You likely already have a full calendar of people programs, so use that plan for the next year to build out your survey timings.
Consider the following for choosing the timing of your surveys:
Management or leadership training. Are these all taking place at the same time of the year? Perhaps plan your manager and individual effectiveness surveys to take place at a different time. You could also choose to survey pre and post-training to measure any changes.
Seasonal hiring. Does your organization bring on a lot of people at a certain time of year? Ensure that your onboarding survey is set up to gather feedback before this time, so you can provide the best experience possible. Run your full engagement survey once people have had some time to settle in.
When it’s time to plan your next surveys, think about:
The way you action plan. Centralized action planning (like when your HR team creates an action plan), can often be executed more quickly than decentralized action planning (involving a larger group). Decide whether speed in an action plan is the most important factor and if so, if there are ways you can still involve your employees in the process.
Your focus area. Some focus areas can be acted on quickly while others take longer. For example, an unlimited leave policy can be implemented almost immediately while improving feedback from managers to employees could take months to move the needle.
Your resources. The fewer people that you have on your team, the longer action will take. Additionally, the more concurrent initiatives you have going on, the longer action will take.
Your readiness to receive and act. You shouldn’t survey until you’re ready to do it all over again.
Expectations. Overarching all of this is the cadence you’ve used in the past because it sets expectations for employees. It doesn’t mean you can’t change your cadence but will require a bit more communication upfront around why.
Craft a culture of feedback
Your employee feedback strategy is the backbone of a culture of feedback. Employee surveys allow you to collect feedback at scale so you can learn fast and take action. This process takes place at the individual, team, and company levels throughout many types of surveys.
That said, a successful employee feedback strategy also depends on candid in-person conversations between people. Anonymous feedback shouldn’t replace these important firsthand conversations but can be used to guide those conversations. When employees see that their feedback is heard through surveys, and they also find a receptive audience among their peers and leaders - a true culture of feedback is created.
Enable your people to do their best work
Empower your people to better understand their skills and behaviors with valuable, continuous feedback from the people they actually work with.
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