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Jamie Lawrence

Wagestream

Insights Director

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5 viewpoints on anonymous employee feedback + 2 tools you can use

nico_campo

The business case for feedback is supported by lots of evidence (see here, for example), but there's uncertainty around whether anonymous feedback is the right way to go or whether you should encourage people to provide open and honest feedback.

Five viewpoints on anonymous feedback

Viewpoint 1: A mixed kettle of fish – but leader actions make all the difference

Writing in Harvard Business Review, organisational psychologist Roger Schwarz looks at the issue of trust in cultures that promote anonymous feedback mechanisms and asks whether the desire to drive anonymous feedback already points to an inherent problem in the organisation.

Along with some points to back this view, he also gives useful actions leaders can take to address poor levels of trust in their organisation.

Viewpoint 2: Why it does more harm than good – and the silent messages it sends people

This piece explores what the process of anonymous feedback can do to a culture by looking at the messages it leaves unsaid.

It looks at how you can build a better culture outside of anonymous feedback and how feedback generally needs a 'wider conversation' to be effective.

Viewpoint 3: Anonymous feedback has the potential to overhaul how we manage our organisations

From HR industry stalwart Josh Bersin, this piece in Forbes suggests employee experience can be overhauled using feedback, which has happened already to customer experience.

Bersin argues that the combination of more innovative technology,  low engagement scores and high investment in workplace culture not producing suitable ROI, are coming together to push organisations into directly connecting the employee view with the decision-making level.

Bersin also explores how we should re-frame feedback in terms of how we give and receive it.

Viewpoint 4: It depends on the circumstances – but there is best practice around both scenarios

This takes the view that anonymous feedback can be useful in some circumstances (when honesty is most important) and not so useful in others (where transparency is more important).

It also suggests anonymous feedback may be best suited to introverts who may not be comfortable speaking up or having feedback attributed.

But it does include a quote critical of anonymous feedback: that it teaches employees "how to avoid communicating with each other."

Viewpoint 5: It's the degrees of separation and the potential for misunderstanding that's the problem here

This piece criticises anonymous feedback for two main reasons: firstly, that "in the three degrees of separation from the author’s lips to the recipient’s ears, is a deep canyon of incomplete information and perceptions that may dilute the meaning of potentially helpful feedback."

Secondly, as in the article above, because of the demotivational aspect of anonymous feedback: instead of feedback creating the positive conditions for conflict resolution, it leans the team towards disillusion and creates a fear of conflict.

Anonymous feedback tools for HR

3sixty

The tool is in beta at the moment so it's free to sign up and use; any accounts created before they introduce a pricing model will be free forever.

It includes a long-term archive of your feedback so that after a specific period, you're able to look back over all feedback to spot patterns and see if any areas have improved or worsened.

Suggestion Ox

A web-based system that's easy to set up and can be branded with the look and feel of your company.

The company says in its FAQ they collect no identifying data. There's an interesting feature called Kiosk Mode which can be used in public spaces e.g. at events, so multiple people can provide feedback easily.

Packages range from free (1 box, maximum of 9 suggestions) to $99/month (25 boxes, unlimited suggestions, Excel support and – strangely – a postcard from their CEO).

3 Responses

  1. A good alternative to
    A good alternative to Suggestion Ox is Incogneato (www.incognea.to). It’s secure, anonymous, and lets you anonymously chat with your respondents in real-time. It includes lots of other features like a website widget, customizations, data exporting, voting and discussion, and box restrictions.

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence
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