Whatever industry they are in, companies understand the importance of listening to employees, and acting on their feedback. This insight can boost engagement, improve retention, increase productivity, enable better decision making and increase organisational effectiveness.

Essentially by putting feedback at the heart of how they operate, and by linking the Voice of the Employee to customer insight and other business data, organisations are able to compete more effectively and improve their bottom line. 

However, organisations can find it difficult to know where to start when it comes to employee feedback. This is due to three main reasons:

  1. For many, the annual employee survey (AES) is their main focus, taking up a huge amount of time and budget. This means there aren’t the resources available to move beyond the annual cycle and extend feedback to other areas.
  2. A large number of organisations routinely over rely on external consultants as they believe they don’t have the in-house skills to manage feedback and engagement projects.
  3. The annual budget cycle dictates that teams take a short-term view, running one-off projects rather than putting in place a single feedback platform that they own for the long term.

Take a staged approach

How can organisations overcome these challenges? To start, it is important to realise that you need to take a gradual approach to changing how you collect and use employee feedback. Essentially it is a journey with four distinct stages:

  1. Tactical – carrying out a single, annual employee survey.
  2. Engaged – adding new types of feedback, such as around events and the employee lifecycle, and strengthening the feedback loop so that staff see that what they say makes a difference.
  3. Mobilised -making feedback a central part of business operations, through a two way, constant dialogue built around always-on feedback.
  4. Ahead – moving from being reactive to proactive, using feedback insight to drive the business forward, predict trends and spot opportunities.

Moving up this maturity curve takes time, and requires organisations to build up their skills and knowledge in order to take control of their employee feedback, both on a strategic and tactical level. They need a central technology platform that makes it easy to collect, analyse and share feedback of all types, as well as to provide best practice to managers across the organisation.

The simplest way to do this is to bring in a partner that can help, both with technology, but also with knowledge transfer to build up internal skills so that over time you can take full control of your feedback programme.

The feedback maturity curve in practice

In my experience, organisations can achieve self-sufficiency in three years, and we have worked with a number of companies to successfully deliver this.

Year 1:
The central technology platform is implemented, and the partner runs the existing annual survey using it. Not only does this boost efficiency and reduce time and cost, with results available faster, it also means the platform is available for other feedback initiatives such as communities, touchpoint-based feedback and surveys. All insight is in a single place, and can be easily analysed and shared across the organisation, both through traditional reports and dashboards that can be tailored to the needs of individual managers.

Year 2:
Through knowledge transfer from the partner in-house skills are strengthened, increasing control and putting the organisation very much in control of feedback strategy and tactics. Managers are empowered to run their own feedback initiatives, through the simple to use, intuitive platform. Activities are split equally between partner and the internal team, with continual advice and support as part of this.

Year 3:
Now that it has moved up the maturity curve, the organisation takes the lead on all feedback initiatives, including running the annual survey, with minor involvement from the partner to overcome any anonymity concerns. The company has a central feedback platform that it controls, but that can be used throughout the organisation to run surveys of all types. This is supported and co-ordinated by a feedback centre of excellence that spans the organisation and provides advice and best practice on maximising the effectiveness of employee insight.

The benefits of self-sufficiency

By the end of the process, the organisation is in complete control of its employee feedback and insight strategy, with a flexible platform and the skills to do what it wants, when it wants. Costs are lower, as there is no need to bring in external consultancy support, leading to a greater return on investment for feedback. The wider range of feedback types (from communities, and portals to always-on), drives better response rates and consequently greater engagement.

Essentially feedback has become central to the organisation, with the entire company empowered to gather and use feedback, but within corporate guidelines. Faster analysis and powerful dashboard-based reporting dramatically reduces the time between feedback collection and meaningful results, allowing quicker decision making by managers across the organisation. These dashboards can be easily tailored by the organisation to provide the right insight to particular managers or departments and combine feedback with other data sources, such as customer or business information to give a holistic, actionable picture. Employee and customer feedback can be linked directly to business metrics to increase the level of insight within the organisation, reinforcing its value.

Moving up the feedback maturity curve can appear daunting, but taking a staged approach and working with the right partner enables organisations to achieve self-sufficiency, creating responsive, feedback-driven businesses that can thrive in today’s competitive markets.