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employee feedback

Millennials and Their Desire for Always-On Feedback

The millennial generation is changing the nature of the American workplace, and as a manager you need to be tuned in. Millennials make up more than half the workforce as of 2015, and by 2025 they will account for 75 percent of it. Every workforce brings unique attributes to the business arena and this is the first that grew up in a technological world that has virtually always provided opportunities for real-time feedback. That reality has had a fundamental impact on the ways in which millennials work today. If you yourself belong to this generation, the information below may feel familiar to you. But regardless of your own experience, as a leader it is critically important to ensure that you are transforming your approach to feedback in order to meet the needs of your millennial employee base.  Let’s take a look at “why” and “how”:

This Generation Is Different

One big change, brought about by the digital revolution, is that millennials do not tend to separate work from the rest of their lives in the same manner as previous generations. The omnipresence of technology means that they are rarely disconnected from work or home, regardless of location or time of day. In fact, this segment of employees is accustomed to an “always-on” connection to every part of their lives. So, just as they stay in regular contact with friends and family around the globe through messaging and their social media network, this generation also feels most at ease when they are directly connected with their manager. It’s no surprise that the Millenial experience of being able to check in, ask questions, and get feedback in real-time in their personal life would be mirrored in their desire to have similar access and input in their professional lives. The question facing people leaders then is, how best to meet those feedback needs? Especially when no one is actively asking.

They Don’t Necessarily Ask for the Feedback They Need

It’s true. Even though thousands of words are spread all over the internet about how much millennials want regular feedback, a curious fact is that they themselves don’t tend to ask for it. Gallup research reports that only 15 percent of millennial workers “strongly agree” that they ask for routine feedback. This tendency to keep their requests muted is pervasive: Gallup found that only one-third of millennial employees state they’ve even told their manager “the one thing they need most to get their work done and why.” In light of this absence of active solicitation for feedback, the Gallup researchers offer the following advice: “Managers also need to take initiative and increase the amount of feedback they provide — regardless of what their millennial workers may or may not request.” Ok, but how?

Feedback Is a Social Act

For a generation raised on social media, using the same type of interactive, social tool for employee feedback makes sense. Some may not at first see the point of a social feedback platform, but once it’s instituted, they will likely appreciate the sense of connectedness it offers. An always-on, intelligent channel is also a great way for managers to stay in touch with their whole department and gather feedback.

Two-Way Feedback Is Vital for Engagement

That open channel between you and your team should allow information to flow in both directions. Providing the ability to ask questions and offer opinions is one of the key drivers of employee engagement. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) highlights “constant feedback from employees” as one of the ways in which managers and HR departments can build a culture of engaged workers. SHRM particularly notes that employee feedback and recognition technology can help to facilitate essential two-way communication – but it must be integrated into how you do business.

Active Listening As Part of Your Workflow

Today’s workflow often relies on technological platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, and so forth. These platforms have the opportunity to integrate an active interface for listening alongside those task-related communications. The two types of conversation that exist in work — supportive and logistical — no longer need to be tackled separately. Through active listening technology, questions and ideas can flow freely between employees and managers as part of the collaboration process. Furthermore, keeping an open listening channel is a reliable way for you to stay checked-in with how each of your team members is feeling on a day-to-day basis. You no longer have to leave yourself sticky notes or alerts reminding you to ask one person if they need time off for their son’s surgery and to check in with someone else about whether their new project idea is working out. With an active listening interface, like Achievers Listen, you stay directly connected with employees by using an always-on, open channel to hear and understand what matters to each individual.

The New Era of Feedback

Comprehensive feedback practices translate directly into employee engagement and companies with highly engaged workers outperform other companies by as much as 202 percent. Gallup researchers have dug even deeper into employees’ need for feedback and have confirmed the relationship between feedback and engagement. Millennials who have regular meetings with their manager are twice as likely to be engaged at work, while engagement is at its highest among those who meet with their manager at least once a week. Unfortunately, though, fewer than half of the Gallup survey respondents reported being able to get feedback from their managers even as often as once a month, leaving those employees at risk for becoming disengaged.

The good news is that making a few simple changes to the way your company gives and receives employee feedback can ensure that your millennial employees – and all of your people – will get the input they need, placing your employer brand ahead of the competition. To learn more about engaging your workforce through active listening, download our Achievers Listen brochure and white paper: “The New Engagement Conversation: Workplace Chatbots and the Science Behind Achievers’ Allie.”

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About Dr. Natalie Baumgartner

Natalie Baumgartner is the Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers. She has spent her career advising companies of all sizes, from entrepreneurial startups to Fortune 500 firms, on issues related to company culture. Specifically tackling key hire assessment and portfolio due diligence issues, she’s found success analyzing what most overlook – the human element. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a specific focus on assessment and additional training in strength-based psychology. Natalie serves on the board of the Consulting Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. She is a popular speaker on culture and recently did a TEDx talk on the importance of culture fit. Natalie is a culture evangelist and is passionate about the power that culture fit has to revolutionize how we work. As an avid Boot Camp aficionado, if you can’t find Natalie in the office odds are good you’ll bump into her sprinting up mountains in her hometown of Denver, CO.

 

 

employee feedback

5 Startling Facts: Why Employee Feedback is Essential

If you were on a quiz show for managers, you could easily recite a list of critical elements of business success: strong financial management, a solid customer service strategy, and so on. But would employee feedback be on your list? If not, you are missing a key business driver. Below are five reasons why listening to your employees is central to your company’s success:

  1. Failure to Listen is Expensive

As a matter of fact, “Millions of dollars are lost every day in organizations simply because of poor listening,” according to leadership training expert Dan Bobinski. He explains that these lost dollars trickle away due to errors, ineffective decisions, and eroded teamwork.

Interestingly, the chief obstacle to obtaining employee feedback is fear, in Bobinski’s analysis. He notes that managers are often afraid to listen because they worry they might give the impression of agreeing with something they don’t actually support. Other reasons that leaders may not listen well is that they don’t want to hear feedback that may force them to reconsider their own perspective or they may simply fear that they won’t have a chance to convey their own viewpoint during the discussion.

Do any of these reasons sound uncomfortably familiar? If so, you’re not alone. However, it is critical that you don’t allow these fears to wall you off from employee input. Feedback you miss out on due to any or all of these fears could be feedback that has the power to positively impact the performance of your organization.

Fear of listening can be overcome. To that end, Bobinski offers a bit of reassurance: “Truly understanding someone else’s point of view does not come naturally. It’s a learned skill that always requires effort.”

  1. Employees Value a Listening Culture Higher Than Compensation

According to Deloitte research, employees value “culture” and “career growth” almost twice as much as they value “compensation and benefits,” when selecting an employer. Deloitte’s research notes that ideal work cultures focus on an environment of listening. They point out, “The world of employee engagement and feedback is exploding. Annual engagement surveys are being replaced by “employee listening” tools such as pulse surveys, anonymous social tools, and regular feedback check-ins by managers. All these new approaches have given rise to the “employee listening” officer, an important new role for HR.”

Encouraging employee feedback is a way of granting your workers power that doesn’t require adding to their salary or granting promotions. Research published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes that 70% of employees rank being empowered to take action at work when a problem or opportunity arises as having a critical impact on their engagement.

  1. Supervisors Listen More to Employees with Higher Status or Longer Tenure

Even with the best of intentions, “supervisors develop selective hearing when it comes to feedback,” according to research published by the University of Texas at Austin. The study goes on to explain that managers tend to listen to employees with whom they are more personally comfortable or who have been on the job longer. Perhaps not surprisingly, the outcome from this bias is that the less-listened-to workers end up with lower performance reviews and ultimately diversity of team composition is eroded.

The solution to this, according to the researchers, is for managers to become aware of their unconscious biases and to intentionally connect with their team members in a systematic way. Another method for reducing unconscious bias is to include anonymized employee feedback through surveys, so that a person’s status doesn’t give their words extra weight.

  1. Employee Listening is Essential to Strong Leadership

An interesting analysis published in the Harvard Business Review describes an all-too-common mindset among leaders and managers that equates listening with weakness. The article noted that some leaders think of themselves as leaders in a dogmatic sense, a person who tells their subordinates what’s what. However, the article counters this by saying, “…it’s equally important for managers to stand down and listen up. Yet many leaders struggle to do this, in part because they’ve become more accustomed to speaking than listening.”

The key to translating listening skills to effective management lies in taking what you learn from your employees’ feedback and translating it into direct action. Everything your employees report can lead to an active response and it is essential that it does – particularly if the feedback reflects existing issues. Taking action to remedy a problematic situation becomes a win-win feedback cycle, because it allows you to build trust with your team that will likely result in greater transparency on their part, moving forward. Over time, your employees will have confidence in the fact that bringing an issue up with you is the first step to solving it.

  1. Being Unheard Will Damage Your Employees’ Motivation

If you’re focused on building a strong sense of employee engagement, listening is one of your most important tools. Put all the perks like catered snacks and bring-your-dog-to-work policies on the back burner. None of those are as vital as simply reaching out for employee feedback. Leadership expert Brian Tracy puts it bluntly: “Every time you fail to use listening skills and withhold your close attention from another person when they are talking, you make them feel valueless and unimportant. You start to create a negative downward spiral that can lead to unhappiness and disaffection in a workplace.”

Establish a direct line to hearing your employees by initiating a policy of employee check-ins. Using this systematic approach will help to ensure that you don’t lose track of any employee. Engagement must be nurtured proactively across all employees, even those who appear to be doing well on their own. Those individuals who are quietly productive can just as quietly fall into a pit of despair and start searching for a job where their diligence is recognized.

Always-on employee feedback empowers employees and managers – and has an immediate impact on employee engagement. For more information on staying tuned in to your workforce, download our white paper on “Taking the Pulse of Employee Engagement”. You can also visit Achievers Listen, and learn how your company can benefit from a new climate of transparency.

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Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.

About the Author

Natalie Baumgartner is the Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers. She has spent her career advising companies of all sizes, from entrepreneurial startups to Fortune 500 firms, on issues related to company culture. Specifically tackling key hire assessment and portfolio due diligence issues, she’s found success analyzing what most overlook – the human element. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a specific focus on assessment and additional training in strength-based psychology. Natalie serves on the board of the Consulting Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. She is a popular speaker on culture and recently did a TEDx talk on the importance of culture fit. Natalie is a culture evangelist and is passionate about the power that culture fit has to revolutionize how we work. As an avid Boot Camp aficionado, if you can’t find Natalie in the office odds are good you’ll bump into her sprinting up mountains in her hometown of Denver, CO.

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Employee Listening and Feedback

How to Show Your Workforce That You’re Really Listening

It’s no secret that the majority (87 percent) of today’s workers feel disengaged in the workplace. While there are many reasons for this high level of disengagement, employee complaints about employers not listening to them certainly ranks high on the list. In fact, a recent study revealed that more than one-third of the workforce believes that their employers do not listen to their ideas.

This is a staggering number and one that employers should not overlook. Not only can showing your workforce that you are really listening to them improve employee engagement levels, but it also can boost workplace morale, job satisfaction rates and overall retention. The good news is that listening to your employees is not as difficult as you might think. Here are some tips to get you started.

Let Employees Speak

The first step to really listening to your employees is to pave the way for them to speak. If your employees already feel like you’re not listening, you cannot expect them to spontaneously come to you with ideas or concerns. According to a recent study, more than 40 percent of junior-level workers state that they are afraid to bring ideas or concerns to upper management. Your employees will never feel heard if they don’t feel comfortable speaking up in the first place.

You can overcome this barrier by developing a platform for them to speak. Pulse surveys can be an extremely effective platform, especially when using an anonymous and easy-to-use interface, such as single-click surveys. Offering a fast and secure way for employees to voice their opinion can improve day-to-day engagement with your team and provide you with candid feedback.

Make Listening a Priority

It is not enough to simply say that you’re going to start listening to your workers, you must make listening to them a priority. It’s important to develop active listening skills, so your team knows that you are really listening to what they have to say. Improving your listening skills will make you a better leader and enable you to better manage your team.

Look for and create opportunities to listen to your team. For example, set time aside when conducting both individual and group meetings for your employees to discuss their work experience and provide constructive feedback. Once your team discovers that they are able to provide honest feedback without negative results from management, they will start to look forward to these opportunities to share their ideas with you.

Prepare to Hear the Good and the Bad

Don’t make a commitment to listen to your employees if you’re not ready to hear what they have to say. You must prepare yourself to hear both positive and negative feedback. How you respond to your employees, regardless of how you feel about the input, will have a direct impact on their willingness to give their opinions in the future. Remember that the goal is to show your employees that you are really listening to them, whether you like what they have to say or not.

Make Engagement Part of the Process

Listening is the starting point for boosting employee engagement in the workplace. When your employees express an opinion, it is important to actively listen to what they have to say by taking the time to ask questions, gather feedback and encourage them to elaborate more on their input so you have a rich understanding of what they’re trying to communicate.

Ensure that you’ve heard them fully by repeating back what you’ve heard, giving them an opportunity to clarify their points if necessary. Engaging with your people in this way will let them know that you are listening to them and it will reduce potential miscommunication between you and your team.

Take Action

Listening is only the first step. You must also take action. This doesn’t mean that you have to act on every suggestion or concern that your team has, but you should always closely evaluate what they have to say. Then, when you come across employee suggestions or concerns that call for more attention, don’t stop at just listening – take action.

Develop a plan that will put your employee’s idea into action. Technology can help with this by delivering bite-sized, personalized actions to employees and managers so that everyone is empowered to impact engagement right away. When your employees know that you are willing to make changes based on ideas or issues they have shared, they will know that you not only want to listen to them – but that you truly care about what they have to say.

Follow-Up Is Vital

Listening is not a point-in-time activity, it is ongoing. If you fail to follow up on the input you’ve received, your efforts to show your employees that you are really listening to them will be for naught. For example, take the time to thank your employees for providing honest feedback, let your employees know what actions, if any, are being taken, and use communication tools (i.e., the company newsletter) to share survey results and follow on action. It’s critical that your employees know you’ve heard them, even if immediate change is not possible.

Listening to your employees boosts employee engagement and job satisfaction. It inspires positive change in the workplace and has an equally positive impact on the performance of your business. Take the first step in really listening to your employees by downloading Achievers’ white paper, “Taking the Pulse of Employee Engagement.”

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Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.

About the Author
Natalie Baumgartner is the Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers. She has spent her career advising companies of all sizes, from entrepreneurial startups to Fortune 500 firms, on issues related to company culture. Specifically tackling key hire assessment and portfolio due diligence issues, she’s found success analyzing what most overlook – the human element. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a specific focus on assessment and additional training in strength-based psychology. Natalie serves on the board of the Consulting Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. She is a popular speaker on culture and recently did a TEDx talk on the importance of culture fit. Natalie is a culture evangelist and is passionate about the power that culture fit has to revolutionize how we work. As an avid Boot Camp aficionado, if you can’t find Natalie in the office odds are good you’ll bump into her sprinting up mountains in her hometown of Denver, CO.

 

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