This is an excerpt of a post that originally appeared on SmartBrief on Sept. 30, 2015.
Seeking honest feedback from employees isn’t for cowards. Honesty in the workplace can be daunting, especially for managers or leaders who haven’t always been open to feedback.
But you’ll find that the results are worth it. Here are five tips to help you get the feedback you’re looking for from your employees.
Be What You Want to Get
If your company culture has been marked by suspicion or a lack of transparency, that needs to change before you can expect useful feedback. Employees won’t be honest if they were punished for it the past, or if they feel like you aren’t honest with them.
Even if you do feel that you have a culture of transparency at your organization, check to see if leaders and employees are really on the same page. Leaders may feel they’re being transparent, but information may be delivered in such a way that employees are cynical about its intentions.
For example, I once worked with a manager who talked the talk of openness and transparency, but her actions had an opposite effect. She often used employee feedback to bully and punish other employees. This behavior created an environment where employees became reluctant to share their true thoughts about the work, team and environment.
Share the Strategy
You’re much more likely to get honest feedback if you’re clear about what you’re going to do with it. Have a specific strategy for acting on the information you get from employees — and share that with them so they can hold you accountable. This accountability can make leaders nervous, but it’s vital to commit to respecting the answers you get when you ask people to be honest.
One of the best employee engagement campaigns I led in my career was at ING (Voya). What made it great was working with the CEO to develop a survey campaign plan. His commitment to stating why we were doing a survey, what he hoped to learn and what he planned to do after getting the feedback resulted in an over 90 percent response rate.
Stop the Spin
We’ve all participated in employee surveys that deliver results that don’t seem to reflect the reality around us. When leaders take the information from surveys and use them to bolster actions they were going to do anyway, that only boost cynicism among employees. Leaders must be ready to accept the honest feedback they get and not look for ways to diminish or dismiss it if it turns out to be something they didn’t want to hear in the first place.
I once worked on an employee survey campaigns in which the C-suite only wanted to communicate the positive results and ignore the clear and perceived opportunity areas for the company. Employees talk. and most of them knew there were some big opportunity areas– but to spin up only good news demonstrates a culture and leadership not willing to own the good and the bad.
Want to know my other two tips for getting honest feedback from employees? Visit SmartBrief to read the rest of this post.
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