Using Employee Feedback to Drive Breakthroughs

guy at concert .. armsLast week I teamed up with the folks at ClearPicture to present a webinar on “Using Employee Feedback for Business Improvement.”  As we were speaking to an HR audience we focused on what many in human resources are familiar with – gathering employee feedback as part of an employee engagement survey.

We who work in the HR sphere can scarcely turn around without hearing, reading and talking about employee engagement yet even though we discuss this topic ad nauseum we still struggle to come up with a common definition ourselves; for purposes of the webinar we opted to use a definition from author Kevin Kruse “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.”

While we used the employee engagement survey as an example our webinar was not about engagement. Rather we talked about how HR professionals should approach any feedback process with a goal of gaining insight that can lead to business breakthroughs. Desired results are organization specific of course and will depend upon one’s industry, customers and organizational strategies.  Organizational goals often include revenue growth or cost-savings but could just as easily be superior project performance, better decisions or even, for government entities or non-profits, how to solve problems that concern citizens/constituents.

Our goal as presenters was to ensure that HR professionals view an employee feedback process in a holistic and enterprise-wide way – whether they have 200, 2,000 or 20,000 employees.

Five Step Process

Clarifying the purpose – At this stage it’s important to set the context and clarify the purpose for gathering feedback.  Answer the when, why and for what reason questions at the outset; include the compelling needs for gathering the data and explain how those needs are tied to organizational goals.

Gathering feedback – Determining the manner in which feedback will be gathered is critical in order to meet the needs of the audience. Several things come into play at this stage including determining the mix/types of questions (i.e., open-ended vs. closed-ended) as well as encouraging employee participation by thinking ‘like a marketer’ – crafting the right message and going to where the employee audience gathers which may include mobile, social or via some sort of gamified technology.

Analyzing the data – For the most part HR practitioners are not trained statisticians but they must put on their statistician hat (or work with someone who can assist them) at this stage in order to accurately review quantitiave vs. qualitative data and also to ensure they don’t fall into traps around causation or correlation or making invalid comparisons between seemingly related pieces of information.

Correlating the data – Remember how we talked about this feedback process having an enterprise-wide focus?  This is the stage where it truly becomes one. HR professionals should look beyond their traditional sources of HR data (HRIS, ATS, LMS, etc.) and link not just HR data and the feedback data but also see how data gathered from other parts of the business fits into the whole.  Questions to ask may be: What are the sales numbers for the company and how does that match up to the organizational hierarchy? What about customer or service trends?  How is shipping of product handled?  Do we have a call center where number of calls per day, customer satisfaction and time-spent-on-calls is tracked?  HR practitioners know that in those functional areas the leaders are tracking it all and now is the perfect opportunity to dive into the human/people elements related to these business operations.

Taking action – The biggest complaint from employees is that whenever feedback is asked for nothing is ever done so this final step is where communication should go into hyper drive.  While taking action includes setting goals, monitoring progress and holding people accountable it also includes ensuring that employees get answers to:

  • “what do we (leaders) know now that we didn’t know before” and, most importantly
  • “Who will be responsible?  When will it happen?  How will we monitor it?  WHO will do WHAT by WHEN?”

Three Key Items

Throughout any feedback process (such as an employee engagement survey) it’s important to:

  1. Have a purpose that is aligned with organizational strategy
  2. Communicate and clarify
  3. Take action by following through and following up

You can check out the presentation slides here. As an HR professional you can guide and influence organizational leaders in meaningful ways that can lead to successful business outcomes, improvements and breakthroughs.

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