Three Steps to Productive Employee Feedback

by Doug Claffey

We recently discussed the effectiveness of pulse surveying, particularly in times of crisis. Since then, leaders in our audience have asked about how best to capture productive employee feedback as part of a successful employee communications strategy.

How can leadership communicate most effectively
with employees – especially right now? 

The common wisdom around presentations is this: Tell your audience what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. When you’re preparing to launch an employee pulse survey, it’s a little different. In this case, it’s best to tell your employees you’re going to ask, ask them, and then thank them for their feedback.

Step one: Tell employees you’re going to ask for feedback.

There are two critical points here. First, be honest about the reality you’re living in. Don’t sugarcoat it. We’re in the midst of a pandemic. Make sure you’re clear about the current business context and some of the challenges you’re facing. Second, make sure you share why you’re asking for feedback. Explain that the survey feedback will inform executive decision making. Explain that senior leaders will be reading the responses and examining their feedback to identify blind spots within the organization. So, be clear about reality and communicate the why.

Step two: Ask your employees for feedback.

If you’re using a pulse survey to capture this feedback, limit the number of questions to a targeted handful and keep the response window short. I recommend asking four or five questions and limiting it 24 hours. If it’s an annual engagement survey you’re using to get feedback, don’t shy away from administering that right now. Most of us are transitioning to a “new normal,” and part of that new environment is getting employee feedback. Be clear about that upfront. You can also add questions to the survey that address the current situation.

Step three: Thank your employees for their feedback.

Summarize briefly what you heard, and consider highlighting an example comment or two. Choose those that are representative of the feedback. I can say from experience that this can be quite powerful.

How do pulse surveys fit into a communications strategy?

First, don’t rely on pulse surveys as your only employee communications strategy. Crisis communications are all about communicate, communicate, communicate. And communicating daily.

A successful employee communications strategy requires more than pulse surveys. At Energage, we hold virtual town-hall meetings (in fact, we just had one today with more than 150 people in attendance) and we communicate via email. We want to ensure we’re keeping employees well-informed of where we’re at and what changes they can expect.

At the team level, we recommend daily communication – team huddles, meetings, and one-to-ones are just a few examples. 

When it comes to pulse surveys, establish a regular cadence for capturing productive employee feedback. We recommend weekly. But remember the key steps: Get the word out, ask them to respond, and then close the loop.

Add pulse surveys to your new communications strategy.