We’ve heard the phrase over and over again (and the numbers always seems to change): For every customer that complains, there’s 10 others who didn’t complain. Company’s develop customer support centers, customer service call in lines, and feedback evaluations to get the complaints and be able to do something with them. (Have you gotten a receipt that doesn’t have the “call into this number and do our survey…”?)
Businesses have learned that the more they hear from our customers – the better. They take this information analyze it and use it. Are you doing the same for your employees? Do you allow a medium for them to give you feedback? And above all, are you doing something with that feedback?
Let’s look at a few areas that are common for employee feedback:
For current employees and handled once or twice a year, a mass email or a paper packet asking employees to rate the business’ performance. It includes questions like “How satisfied were you with your job?” and “What bothers you about working for this company?” They are sent out to the masses with the hopes that a good return will come back. Then the data analysis begins. Hopefully they are tracked by breaking down department, job code, manager, pay scale, etc. This is good info, but what it done with the analysis is more important.
Post employment, employers traditionally send out a survey or call an ex-employee to ask them some questions about the company. Another opportunity to ask questions, companies ask past employees things like “Why did you leave?” or “What could we have done to make you stay?” Exit interviews are a good tool, but the responses can often be dismissed by management as a “disgruntled employee’s rant.”
More typically known as Employee Assistant Programs, companies spend a good deal of money on providing these call services for problems at home, substance abuse etc. Some EAPs offer work place relationship assistance, but employees are rarely aware of that, nor are EAPs knowledgeable or equipped to really problem-solve these issues. In some cases, businesses use anonymous reporting services where if an employee witnesses illegal or unsafe activity they can call in and it goes to an representative (usually in the legal or HR department). Highly recommended for any business as it allows the employee and outlet for seeking assistance to serious personal (and in some cases professional) problems.
Traditionally held once a year, employees and managers sit down knee to knee and discuss their performance. An opportunity to have feedback given up and down, it is the hope that employees gain a better understanding of how to improve their performance and managers capitalize on the opportunity to know how to better lead their team.
What You Should Be Doing
Find a Employer Assistance Program that supports professional development as well. Some of them can provide executive coaching and work with you on giving your company (without naming names ) feedback on which managers are in need of coaching.
Ask the right questions in your surveys! It’s worth the money to have a survey consultant come in and review your line of questioning. One of the earliest most important “customer satisfaction survey” question to ask is “Would you recommend us to a friend or family member?” Ask this question! In fact go a step further and ask for the names. Make it optional and track those who don’t give any names. This is a clear indicator of whether or not they really are satisfied (not to mention how it may help you with your recruitment efforts).
Do something with your data! If you receive back surveys (employee, exit interviews, performance evals, etc.) you had better be tracking them! If you’re using online tools (like SurveyMonkey) then spend the extra cash to get the upgraded access. Otherwise, something even as simple as an excel spreadsheet can help to really dig down into the responses and find the key indicators. Once you’ve identified the areas that need improvement – follow through.
Don’t use generic evaluations for everyone. If you pulled a generic performance evaluation from the internet and you’re using that for all your employees, stop. Each one needs to be tailored towards the specific job description and department/division the employee is employed. If you want similar line of questioning then create a portion that is generic, but be sure to include a job specific portion that allows feedback as it directly relates to their job role.
Do your performance evaluations on time! I’m not a fan of them in general, but my biggest gripe with performance evaluations is the follow through, and mainly as it relates to the employees. I’ve worked in many different businesses, for many different fields, and in every single one I’ve worked for they’ve had a “performance evaluation calendar” and not once, has it ever been conducted responsibly. Time after time I will get emails from employees asking “Can you tell me when my performance evaluation will be done… I’m still waiting?” Managers don’t take it seriously. Is it the paperwork, the time, the hassle? Perhaps. But that’s not what matters, what matters is the perception that is given to the employee. When we state that we will do something, in the employee manual or verbally, we better do it. Otherwise, the employee will feel under-valued. Regardless of our best intentions. Remember the saying “actions speak louder than words. “In many cases manager’s seem to chock up an employee fussing about performance evaluations to “They just want a raise.” And chances are, they’re right. But again, when you’ve created a system that only monetarily awards employees based on performance evaluations, then they expect it to be done. And be done timely.
Train your managers. Managers should be the first point of contact for employee feedback and they need to be prepared to know what to do. Train them on soft skills: active listening, counseling and coaching, etc. Teach a seminar on investigation tactics or how to give performance improvement tips. Invest in your managers being able to seek and receive employee feedback. However, reality is that sometimes the employee’s feedback is about their direct supervisor in those cases it’s best served to have a third-party involved.
Expand your HR department to handle employee relations. If your HR department isn’t capable of fielding employee issues, then hire more people (or get better people). When an employee has concerns and questions they need to be able to go to a person. Nothing replaces face to face discussion. Develop your HR professionals into a “employee service” department, but make sure they do so as a support to the already well-trained managers. Take a long hard look at your HR department, are they so busy pushing paperwork that they can’t hold their head up for a question? Outsource the administrative tasks and get your HR department in the role of problem-solver. They need to the people who are always available when a head pops in and says “Gotta minute?” (I may be biased in this regard.)
Regardless of what your business does to garner feedback from the employees, the most important thing to remember is that there are methods to give the feedback. Ideally it should allow for the isolated individual complaints/questions and broad stream of feedback to the masses.