Is Now the Right Time to Survey Your Employees?

by Doug Claffey

In the last episode, we learned about the Three Steps to Productive Employee Feedback. Today, we talk with Doug Claffey, Energage founder and chief strategy officer, about the importance of capturing feedback and finding the right time to survey your employees.

In times of change, when is it best to solicit employee feedback?

Start by asking yourself – and your leadership team – two questions:
  1. Do you care what your employees think?
  2. Does it matter what your employees think?
The first is a heart question and the second is a head question. Do you, as a leadership team, care what your employees think? Does it matter what they think? How you answer these two critical questions will determine if and when to survey your employees. Don’t do it if your leadership team isn’t ready to take on that feedback.

Should you be concerned about getting negative feedback from employees?

Realize you’re always going to get negative feedback. And in a time of great challenge, you will probably get more of it. But you’re also likely to receive some really inspiring positive feedback. People will step up to great challenges as a team. Negative feedback is part of the human condition. You’re going to get some entrenched negative folks who are going to provide that feedback. They’re going to see this challenge as an opportunity to turn up the volume. As a leadership team, your job is to parse through the employee feedback, particularly around unstructured comment feedback. Pick from that what is constructive negative feedback. Also, choose inspiring positive or constructive positive feedback. Then use it to make informed people decisions that factor into your strategy. The negative feedback is always going to be there. You get to choose whether you ignore it or look at it in the proper context.

How do you communicate about the feedback you receive?

First, it is important that you share the context. Share the areas where your organization scores highest, and also share where you have the greatest opportunities and challenges. You can do it by simply listing out the factors or using a heat map of the organization. Second, it’s really good practice to pick a representative positive comment (or two) that channel the positive energy in the organization and then share it verbatim. Offer one action you’re going to take as a result of that feedback. Choose an action that has company‑wide benefits.

What are some examples of mission-critical insights you can gain from employee feedback?

Example 1
Uncovering technology challenges is an example of a relevant insight you can gain through employee feedback. Often, employees on the front line know where there are struggles, but the information doesn’t get up through normal channels. An employee survey surfaces things like this right away.

Example 2
In a time of great challenge and crisis like we’re experiencing right now, the pressures on new managers are going to be really significant. Often, they don’t want to share that they’re struggling, but the people on the team are aware of it. An employee survey will bring it to light.

Example 3
Existing managers who work well in less stressful times but are crumbling under the weight of pressure is another example. Use a survey to get that surfaced so that management can take action before it turns into a truly difficult problem. Employee feedback gives you that early warning.

Take the first step in making an impact on your culture today.