Staff feedback can improve your effectiveness as a leader and your firm’s profitability. However, most people running their own professional firm fear it, or assume that staff will give it “if there’s a problem”, rather than seek feedback from staff in a proactive, structured way. This article is about pro-actively looking for staff feedback and using it. If you’re looking for tips on how to give staff feedback , you might prefer to read constructive feedback to improve staff performance.
People fearing receiving feedback?
Many business owners fear having feedback from their staff. They are afraid of the answers and worry that something they’re passionate about will have to change.
I spend lots of time scuba diving, I spend time with people for whom scuba diving is a real passion. Three letters spell fear to any passionate diver, “PFO”. PFO (commonly called a hole in the heart) is a big problem to divers. 20-30% of people have a hole in the heart, although most don’t know it, and it doesn’t cause them a problem. Divers suspected of having PFO need testing, and then (if they’re to dive again) an operation to close the hole.
This recently happened to a friend, leading to much discussion. Many divers avoid the test as they don’t want to know the answer (divers: yes I’ve simplified this true story)!
Having your passion taken away because of a test is not a reason for not having the test. Avoiding feedback from your staff, because you’re afraid of the result doesn’t make sense either.
What is staff feedback?
Simple feedback is them telling you honestly how they feel about your firm. This almost certainly will include you and the way you run it! A simple way to get feedback is to informally ask. A more complex way may be a short (and anonymous) staff survey about specific issues.
Why get staff feedback?
- who knows your firm, warts and all, and what clients really say?
- how you manage staff in your small firm. Who knows what your management style is like and what might make your team work more productively?
- who interacts with clients more than you? Your team may know more about making your clients go “WOW” than you.
With that staff feedback you could improve your team, client offering, and processes in your firm.
How to get staff feedback.
The easiest way is to ask, the simplest option is normally the best one. A good question to ask staff on a regular basis, is “how can I help you to do your job more easily”. It’s not directly asking for feedback, but done with sincerity can elicit great replies. Do be aware that the first time(s) they may be reticent, as you need to build trust.
Some firms use anonymous surveys, the better ones then follow up the results with an open discussion. How might you go about it?
Staff may be afraid to complain and unwilling to discuss problems that might get others (or themselves) in trouble. Objections like this can make it difficult to really understand how your employees feel.
- Be clear what you’re looking for: Why are you doing it, what will you do with the results?
- State the objectives up front: Tell them why you’re doing it, the purpose, and how you’ll use the results. To encourage participation, be open about the goals and promote a collaborative environment. If you’re using a survey, ensure they know before sending it to them! You might like to download our free report “Tips for briefing a team”, it's free and waiting for you to download right now. Click here for instant access (email address required)..
- Ensure and communicate commitment: If staff think their opinions will be pushed to the side, they won’t bother and morale will drop. It’s important to encourage employees to offer their feedback and ensure the results are treated as valuable.
- Simplicity goes a long way: If you use a survey, keep it short, concise and simple. A good rule of thumb is to keep the response time to 5 minutes. This will ensure that you get in depth information but also that your team don’t get discouraged by the length.
- Open ended questions are good, but need to used sparingly. One or two are valuable so respondents can offer additional thoughts, but they’re hard to quantify and take longer to complete.
What to do with feedback from staff
Share the results! There’s nothing worse than an employer conducting a survey and not sharing the results. It looks like there’s something to hide. Present the good and “bad” results to your team. Follow up on areas of interest to get more detail, perhaps in a team meeting, to get more insight.
Take Action! Identify what your firm is doing well and what you need to get better at. Celebrate successes, but prioritise the improvement areas. Share your action plan with the team and give updates through the year. It’s a bit like a good team away day, the team should remember the actions more than the actual event.
What have you done with staff feedback and how do you get it?