Who doesn’t like to be asked their opinion at work? Turns out, plenty of us! When the boss has just finished explaining the newest company initiative and inevitably asks “Does anyone have any feedback?”, the vast majority of us will keep our heads down, or surreptitiously glance from face to face, wondering if anyone will dare to speak up.
Usually it’s just a flurry of head-nodding, a scraping of chairs and a procession back to desks, internally panicking and wondering how what you’ve just been told is going to affect you. God forbid we actually respond when asked our opinions.
So, what changes could be made to encourage employees to give their opinions, and for employers to gain valuable insight that they wouldn’t previously have had?
Swap ‘feedback’ for ‘advice’
Constructive feedback can be even more valuable than positive feedback, but while we’re on the subject, the word ‘feedback’ can be a little scary in itself.
In her blog, ‘Unlock honest feedback with this one word’, Claire Lew suggests that bosses substitute the word ‘feedback’ for ‘advice’. She says, ‘The word “feedback’” carries a lot of baggage. To some, they automatically associate it with a “critique” or something negative. […] But “advice” is a much more welcoming word. […] When someone gives you advice, they’re just looking out for you.’
This more inclusive way of asking employees’ opinions taps into that feeling of collaborative working, that you, as an employee, are valued and that your boss understands that you may have insight into the issue being discussed that will add value to it. Everybody wins.
Set aside some time
The idea of an open door policy is always a good one, but in practice it can sometimes not have the desired effect because it doesn’t have enough focus. Implementing one-to-one sessions where employers meet with employees will create the desired level of focus and although informal, will encourage employees to really think about what they’ like to bring up.
Get rid of anonymous feedback
Thinking that you can say what you like to your employer in a suggestion box without fear of reprisal doesn’t make for a healthy office environment. The risk of it turning into an outlet for employees to have a moan about work life doesn’t promote empowerment, or encourage anyone to take ownership of resolving the issues.
Instead, introducing a more transparent method of feedback, such as putting a chart on the wall, demonstrates to employees that their opinions are valued, and the public placement of the chart encourages everyone to take a look at it and offer their thoughts on the newest suggestions.
Regardless of what technique employers use to gather feedback from employees, if is isn’t followed up then the whole process becomes irrelevant. Nothing gives an employee a bigger dose of motivation than seeing their suggestions applied, or at least examined, but likewise, nobody is going to feel particularly valued if they took the time to offer feedback and it is seemingly totally ignored.
Of course, it may be that some suggestions don’t have any traction, but the relatively small amount of effort it takes to speak to that employee and letting them know that their feedback is always welcomed and encouraged will pay long-term dividends.