Coping with constant employee dialogue
As we move to an increasingly knowledge-driven economy, employee engagement is going through major change as companies realise that they need to modify how they listen to staff and act on their feedback.
In many ways this is similar to the transformation of customer engagement that happened a few years ago, with digital technology used to understand and enhance the customer experience, rather than just deliver self-service to cut costs. In HR, technology can also help to drive this necessary change.
Central to this is the idea of putting employees at the heart of your business, and maintaining a constant dialogue to improve engagement, insight and overall business performance. This involves radically changing how you collect and use feedback – simply relying on the annual employee survey is no longer enough.
Organisations now need to use a wide variety of ways to interact with employees. These include always-on feedback, where employees can fill in online surveys and make suggestions at any time, or employee communities where staff can raise subjects and launch discussions with their peers and the wider organisation.
Additionally, event-driven surveys (such as after reorganisation or training courses), provide insight into the impact of particular activities or at key points within the employee lifecycle, such as after joining, promotion or return from leave.
The benefits of adopting this approach are clear – but it does require a major cultural change. Rather than being a distinct, scheduled activity carried out periodically, feedback is now at the heart of the business, requiring a more open, integrated approach.
Employees can give feedback at any time, on any subject, meaning that management strategy and decisions are open to much more scrutiny than ever before. This can be challenging for many people, both staff and managers, but delivers enormous benefits.
Always-on feedback in action
At Questback we’ve been through this process, transforming how we listen to employees by introducing always-on, continuous feedback through a simple to use, mobile friendly software platform.
It links directly to our Purpose, helping ensure that employees are mobilised and feel empowered to give their ideas on any subject they want, from the largest to the smallest. No topic is off limits. Every comment, and all feedback, is visible to everyone within the company.
There is no anonymity for staff or managers – essentially all feedback is naked, which caused some initial misgivings amongst employees. However, once they understood that they were not being judged, that everyone was equal on the platform, and in fact this was an opportunity to contribute to the company direction and strategy, the pace of feedback submissions increased dramatically.
More than 3,800 dialogues took place in the first six months of always-on feedback, an average of over 12 per employee. Of these, 10-15% have resulted in immediate changes, with improvements felt in business growth, staff onboarding, new products, an adapted go to market strategy, cultural change and improved staff retention.
What we’ve learned is that there are four key points to make sure continuous dialogue benefits your staff and wider organisation:
1. Integrate feedback
With a greater volume and variety of inputs it is important that management has a holistic, joined-up picture of employee feedback. Data needs to be integrated to deliver a real-time view of what staff are saying and feeling if you are to successfully benefit from this insight. For example, by integrating always-on and other feedback you can spot trends within your workforce, such as retention, and then act to retain talent before it is too late.
2. Increase qualitative feedback
Companies are used to dealing with quantitative data from annual employee surveys but constant dialogue will increase the amount of qualitative feedback you receive. This requires greater time to analyse and act on, so companies have to be prepared to put in the time to understand what people are saying.
3. Speed of response
Continuous dialogue is a conversation between employee and employer, so needs to be much faster than traditional annual surveys. Ensure you have the resources in place to respond quickly to concerns, and to act on real-time insights in order to grasp potential opportunities before the competition.
4. Make it simple
Adding new feedback channels can be confusing for staff, particularly if they are used to just completing an annual employee survey. Make sure that any new ways of providing feedback, such as always-on, are straightforward and easy to use, whatever device staff are using, and that you cater for the preferences (mobile, PC, pen and paper) of the whole workforce.
Opening a continuous dialogue with staff does require organisations to change how they handle feedback, and interact with employees. However, the numerous positive benefits of unparalleled insight outweigh the challenges, aiding employee engagement, business performance and overall company success, now and in the future.
You might also be interested in
An experienced software leader, Paul Barnes has proven expertise in growing technology businesses, with a particular focus on the customer experience market. He is currently UK Country Manager of enterprise feedback management (EFM) leader QuestBack. Prior to this he was VP Operations at multichannel customer interaction management software...