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Lead Your Team Strategy

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Employee Feedback

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Employee Feedback
Credit: Popov/Shutterstock

While getting feedback from employees on the ways things are being run in the workplace can be valuable, not all opinions carry the same weight, research finds.

The key to getting helpful feedback is creating an environment that not only invites employees to speak up, but also encourages thoughtful and well-formed ideas, said professors at Wake Forest University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

John Sumanth, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Wake Forest University School of Business, said businesses gain a lot of benefits from fostering workplaces where employees feel comfortable sharing their opinions. Among the largest are higher employee engagement and job satisfaction, enhanced innovation and creativity, fewer accidents, and safer workplaces.

The key, however, is ensuring the feedback provides actual value. [Honest Employee Feedback Starts At the Top ]

"But reviewing open-ended comments on an employee survey or ideas in a suggestion box, it quickly becomes clear that not all voice is created equal," Sumanth said in a statement. "Simply put, not all voice is good voice, and merely increasing the frequency and volume of speaking up is not enough."

To help make sure the feedback is helpful, Sumanth and David Hofmann, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, developed five tips for getting more useful employee responses:

  • Put limits on supportiveness: Being understanding can backfire, especially when managers unintentionally send the message that all feedback is equal. "Make clear that you value thoughtful input more than just any input," Sumanth said.
  • Demand high accountability: While leaders should make efforts to hear individual suggestions, they also must reinforce that input is taken seriously and therefore needs to be fully formed.
  • Help people see biases: In general, most workers view certain policies or processes from a narrow, functional perspective and don't recognize that they have a biased view of the situation. "You'll get better input if you help employees understand the bigger picture before proposing a solution," Sumanth said.
  • Find informants: Rather than just sitting back and waiting for opinions from everyone, ask for regular input from a select few employees as a way to help filter and aggregate feedback to make sure you're getting the best information.
  • Close the loop: Be sure to explain to employees who do bring feedback why you did or did not act on their suggestions. 

Sumanth and Hofmann said following these strategies will not only encourage more employees to speak up, but also show them that their voices have a meaningful and positive impact.

Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.