Do you know how your employees feel about the job you’re doing? Or the tasks they’re being given? Do you know what they view as the biggest challenges facing your team? Or what they believe the larger agency goals to be? I’m guessing that every manager reading this has a varying level of knowledge regarding employee opinions. But knowing what your employees are thinking is undeniably important. It helps to reduce conflict within your agency or team, increases understanding of agency mission and the individual worker’s place in working toward that goal, and can be a catalyst for money- and time-saving ideas.
A key to creating this open dialogue between management and employees is preventing feedback phobia on both levels. Below are nine tips on how to do just that:
- Keep the lines of communication open at all times: Soliciting employee feedback isn’t simply about putting out a suggestion box or holding a one-time all-staff feedback session. Have both an open door and an open door policy, and let your employees know that they are welcome to approach you at any time to address a concern or discuss an idea. Don’t force everyone to wait until a team meeting or until the annual performance review.
- Make communication a daily priority: Don’t flood email inboxes or hand out memos six times a day. Instead, pick a time each day to send an email, post a memo in the break room, or hold a brief stand-up meeting to keep your team informed of the goings on in the larger agency, within the team, etc. Timely updates invite relevant discussions and ideas that have the potential to create better projects. It also serves the purpose of continuing to inform your employees of how their work is impacting the agency or department as a whole.
- Graciously accept feedback: If you are defensive or closed minded when hearing recommendations from your employees, you risk cutting off the flow of feedback. Actively listen to what your employees are saying, thank them, and take action as necessary. Consider taking this Free Assessment to learn how well you deal with criticism.
- Take action on the issues you hear about/implement team suggestions: If you only collect suggestions but take no action on them, your employees won’t see your commitment to their opinions, and they’ll likely stop sharing their ideas.
- Share successes: When you act on employee feedback, share the successes that result. Not only does this let your employees know that they are being heard, it also encourages them to continue providing feedback and helps them to feel like an important part of the larger organization.
- Repeatedly ask for feedback and ideas: You don’t need to do this daily, but as regularly as feels appropriate ask your employees how their work is going, what you could be doing better, what is working well, what the employees need to do their jobs better, etc. This extends to following up on feedback and asking employees if you are meeting their needs and expectations that were previously discussed.
- Offer a comfortable forum for everyone: Some staff prefer one-on-one interactions, others prefer to speak their minds in a group, and some just want to avoid confrontation altogether and like to anonymously submit an idea or send a written suggestion. The Department of Transportation, for example, created an online submission forum to collect worker ideas and feedback.
- Care for your employees: If you show your employees that you care (by offering kind words, bringing in donuts, allowing everyone to wear jeans on Friday, sending a sympathy note to someone who needs it, etc.) they are more likely to believe that their feedback will be heard and appreciated.
- Link feedback to a specific issue or goal: Yes, you should keep the lines of communication open at all times, but it’s also a good idea to solicit feedback on something specific. For example, if your team is getting ready to begin a new project, send out an email or hold a meeting to ask your team the best ways to go about this, what problems they believe might arise, etc.
How do you seek feedback in your office? What techniques have you used to keep communication free flowing?
This is a super helpful post, Heather! Thanks for writing!
I think that agencies should set up a free employer account of GlassDoor (http://www.glassdoor.com/) to encourage employees to provide frank feedback. Check it out! I’m betting that your agency is already there and you are already receiving ratings, whether you want them or not.