Focus on Feedback
By Judith Stock, for Hostedware Corporation
In a perfect world, employers would understand exactly what
each employee needs to excel at their job, know how to save
the company lots of money, and be able to forecast the future.
Unfortunately, that perfect world doesn't exist; instead,
we have employee feedback.
No one knows the methods, systems, and procedures of the
organization better than the company employees. Why not ask
their opinions? You might find out some surprising answers
plus employees will feel like management is approachable if
they're asked to give their views on certain questions.
Information can be collected by an automated system that
includes online-based surveys, verbal collection methods,
or the old stand-by paper and pencil.
"Employees are the company," says Paul Davis, president
of Scanlon Leadership Network, East Lansing, MI. "You
can't possibly meet the needs of employees without getting
their feedback. All of our 28 member companies in the network
use some form of feedback."
When you seek feedback and act on those observations you're
sending a very strong message to employees that lets them
know they are important to the company.
Davis says he seeks employee feedback because he believes
every organization has at least three critical stakeholders;
employees, customers, and investors. With feedback you can
improve quality, productivity, and customer service.
When feedback responses are examined, employers might find
what's going right with the company and what things are going
astray. They might find opportunities to save money and ways
to increase their bottom line. Using feedback effectively,
companies can serve their customers better. They might also
learn some of their managers should not be managers and uncover
those employees who'd make great supervisors.
"In one company, employees told the owner that his hand-picked
successor was not a good fit for the company and he was removed,"
says Davis. "In another company, an employee offered
a suggestion that saved the company over one million dollars
And, in still another company, an employee originated a new
product idea that became a billion-dollar-a-year industry.
"Feedback goals need to be established at the beginning,"
says Cyndi Larson, assistant professor at National University,
San Diego, Ca. "That way you'll get more participation
from the employees. Employees need to understand the purpose
they are being asked for this information."
Larson says employers should clearly state their goals upfront
or face hesitancy by the employees to fully cooperate in the
information gathering process.
To know and to act on the views of employees is critical
to the success and continued growth of any organization.
"Research says that during the time of the survey employees
feel their opinion matters," says Larson. "However,
if nothing is done with the collected information it can create
resentment and feelings of being devalued."
Larson agrees that if the company doesn't set some expectations
upfront, the survey won't be of service to anyone.
Employees can share their opinions on the state of the organization
and identify challenges and problems that need to be addressed.
They can also provide useful suggestions and solutions that
will make the company stronger and more successful.
Magna Donnelly, co-founder of the Scanlon Leadership Network
came up with 10 creative and thought-provoking questions to
ask their employees:
1) What made you mad today?
2) What took too long?
3) What was the cause of complaints?
4) What was misunderstood?
5) What cost too much?
6) What was wasted?
7) What was too complicated?
8) What is just plain silly?
9) What job took too many people?
10) What job involved too many actions?
Larson's personal preference is online feedback surveys.
"As organizations continue to become more technically
savvy it will become easier to use automated tools."
Online surveys are more readily available as they can be
completed at work or home, mailing costs are eliminated, and
results are quicker-usually within 48 to 72 hours.
Employee feedback can be an effective and timely tool where
the outcome will benefit everyone if
1) the purpose is communicated upfront
2) the survey or employee questionnaire is well-planned
3) you ask thought provoking questions
4) the collected information is implemented.
Judith Stock (www.judithstock.com),
contributing editor for Freelance Success Newsletter and freelance
writer whose articles have appeared in regional, national,
and international publications both, online and print, for
the Chicago Tribune, Reader's Digest New Choices, WorkForce
Media, Women's eNews, Healthgate/NBCi, and BrassRing.
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