how to get honest feedback from your employees

When you’re in management, getting honest feedback from employees can be tough. It can even seem impossible.

No one wants to offend the boss, so suggestions and complaints may be whispered and talked about among the employees. But, they rarely see the light of day in the manager’s office.

The problem is, those things need to be discussed. Managers need to hear about good things and about the things that need improvement.

Getting Honest Feedback From Your Employees

Your business needs constructive feedback. It’s what will help your business grow, and finding ways to encourage honest, open feedback within your organization is essential.

Below, you’ll find some best practices for getting truly honest feedback from your employees – without them heading out the door afterwards. 

Create a Culture of Open Communication

Many companies claim to have an open door policy, but that doesn’t guarantee that employees will feel comfortable enough to walk through that door. All too often, the open door claim is stated, but is not communicated elsewhere in the organization – there is not a culture of open communication.

If you want employees to feel comfortable providing honest feedback, it has to extend beyond the management office. Adding an open discussion item to the agenda for your staff meetings is a great place to start.

Develop a Collaborative Process

Collaboration is a great way to encourage transparency and you can get a jump on that by taking a page from the playbook of a marketing agency called Mirum (formerly Quirk).

They created a flow chart that allows employees the opportunity to make suggestions and share ideas, get other employees to sign on to the idea to show support, and possibly even see them implemented within the organization. This is the ultimate in transparency since everyone sees the ideas, plus it can spark creative, productive discussions.

This is a great empowerment tool because it encourages employees to take ownership of their position and the company. They feel engaged and valued, knowing that their ideas matter. Everything is displayed on a bulletin board.

Everyone can see the ideas, what’s working, what ideas have been implemented, and which ones didn’t make it (and why).

Take Time to Meet Face to Face

One of the common problems in companies is that the employees feel like the managers are out of touch with what’s going on in the trenches. Sun Tzu wrote about this in Art of War regarding the military, but those principles have been applied to business for years.

When the leaders are separated from the employees, the employees feel distant and disconnected. This leaves them feeling like they are not heard and not understood by those above them.

Taking the time to have face to face meetings with your employees will draw them back in. It’s important that your employees see you not only in the trenches with them, but also interacting with them. The more approachable and personable you are, the more likely your employees will perceive you as someone they can trust and open up to.

Ask the Right Questions (in the right way)

Having an open door policy, being present, and having face to face interactions make for a great start when you’re trying to get your employees to open up, but those things don’t often motivate them to actually speak up with suggestions, comments, or concerns.

If you really want honest feedback, you need to take time with them. Meet with them one-on-one and ask the right, insightful questions, such as:

  • If you were in my position, what things would you change right now? Why?
  • What do you like most about your job? Why?
  • What do you like the least about your job? Why?
  • What could be changed to correct those things you don’t enjoy about your job?
  • What do you hear our customers saying about our company?
  • What do you think we can do to improve customer/employee perception of our company?
  • What can I do to help you be more successful?

Use Feedback Coaches

Employees may be more willing to open up to a feedback coach than they would a manager. Feedback coaches are specifically trained to work with employees, handle grievances, and get honest feedback. They sit down with the employees, usually one-on-one, gather the feedback, and compile it to present to management. This takes a lot of the fear and anxiety out of the entire process.

These coaches can be employees in your section or in another section. They can either be assigned to certain staff members, or the employees can select them from a list. They will listen and discuss the feedback with the employee in order to get the clearest picture of the situation, then act as a middle man of sorts by reporting to the manager with the information.

Whether they elicit honest feedback on management issues, operations, staff issues, or business solutions, they will provide a sharing space where the employee feels safe and free to contribute. If you just can’t get your employees to open up, this may be a good way to go.

Utilize the 360 Degree Feedback

One of the best, most comprehensive ways to get honest feedback from employees is by using a 360 degree feedback program. It’s secure and anonymous, so employees don’t have to worry about being identified. They can be honest without fearing any backlash (real or perceived) for the information that they share.

These 360 assessments are focused and guided to garner the most helpful, constructive feedback, while being completely confidential. This gives employees peace of mind and they will be much more likely to respond truthfully.

The 360 feedback is also a great developmental tool for leaders as well as any member on your staff. It works at all levels. The survey is administered anonymously, and the information is compiled by a third party into a comprehensive report that is forwarded to management.

There are coaches who will go over the results with you to explain the information, so you never have to guess or wonder if you understood some feedback correctly. It is a powerful management tool and a way for you to empower your employees.

Click below to view a 360 assessment sample for free:

For more detailed information, contact us at Edge Training Systems, Inc. at (800) 305-2025 or email us here