Why is requesting feedback important for your company?
We spend A LOT of time at work, therefore working in a place which provides great experience is something we all dream of.
Nowadays, people are interested not only in big salaries, medical insurances, job titles, or team building but also in the environment the company provides. A poor work environment could bring negative results like low employee morale, high turnover, and bad social media feedback which will impact the number of people applying for jobs at those companies.
Many companies today pay attention to the work environment they provide for their employees. Some good examples are Google or Apple. As they are so visible, these companies realize that the environment employees work in is crucial for their well being, productivity, and innovation. With all the great benefits they offer, can you imagine why people dream about working for them?
You might think that these 2 companies have a lot of money that can be invested in providing the best work environment, but there are plenty of things that can be done with a smaller budget.There are small companies that take this seriously and they have happy employees that will stay longer with the company and will perform better. Any company can improve with a small budget if they care enough about their employees. In the end, it's a matter of choice.
What is the Work Environment?
In order to have a clear picture of what needs to be done, we need to understand what the term "work-environment" means, today because it has a broad understanding. Here is a list that sums up the most relevant aspects to be taken into consideration:
1. Workplace physical environment. Here I am referring to the actual workplace design, medical provisioning, food provisioning, relaxation rooms, coffee machines, TV screens, green places and so on;
2. How far is the office from each one's home? Is it in the city center, near the highway, or in the suburbs?
3. Do your employees feel safe at work?
4. How easy is it to walk around and find relevant facilities, such as kitchen and restrooms?
5. What do the surroundings provide (parks, lake views, restaurants, malls, etc);
6. How good is the internet connectivity? If not so good, people won't be able to perform well and will get frustrated;
7. Everyone works with apps/tools. Are they happy with those apps performance? Like internet connectivity, this can affect productivity and people will get frustrated.
8. How well do employees collaborate? What is their relationship with their managers?
9. What kind of benefits does the company provide outside of work?
10. As everyone turns nowadays into a more digitalized world, what kind of gadgets does your company provide?
The list goes on, but if you focus just on these 10 ideas, you'll see you have a lot of work to do. Point number 8 especially can reveal some of the most difficult and intangible issues in the workplace.
Improving your work environment
It's obvious to say that companies without a proper program in place to improve the workplace will have problems in retaining their key employees. How long would you work for a company that pays well, but has poor workplace environment?
For example, let's say you work at a job with a commute time of 2 hours/one way (4 hours/day in total) where you have to take several transportation options to reach the office. As a coffee lover, have no options to get a hot coffee when you arrive because the company has no coffee machines and no coffee shops nearby. Moreover, your manager is in a bad mood all the time, always asking for results, and sets up insane deadlines.
Can you relate? You might be able to resolve the problems on your own (read a book during travel, take coffee from home, drive directly to the office in your car, try to understand your manager's requirements) but I believe this won't make you happy in the long run.
I usually don't have high expectations when it comes to workplace and as I like my job, I try to find workarounds for things that my company cannot provide, but let's face it - nowadays, people would rather have a good environment in place instead of finding workarounds on their own. I really appreciate companies that take this topic very seriously and constantly try to improve their work-environment, based on their employees' feedback.
There are many ways to start working on and improving the environment you have already built. One way could be to directly copy some of the best practices from other companies. Another way is to find out from your employees what they really want from your company and what kind of improvements will make them happier and more productive.
I believe the second option is better because in this way you will be sure that you are spending money on things that will be appreciated instead of spending money on things that might be great, but not a good fit for your employees.
How do you start implementing this? Regularly ask your employees what they want, show them your progress, and announce the changes in a proper way.
Ways to ask for feedback
There are many ways to ask for feedback, but first, it is important to mention that this exercise should include the entire company. From your part-time employees all the way to the CEO.
Gathering feedback can go from something very simple to something complex, depending on the budget that you have and time to invest in this. Moreover, it depends on the company exact needs.
There are specialized companies that can offer professional feedback forms and also manage the feedback. In the end, they will send the results to you based on what you need to see as well as provide relevant reports, charts, and lists of burning issues raised.
Another way is to find a tool (web-app most likely) to implement the feedback requests. Or if you have allocated budget you can ask your IT guys to set up a tool for this.
You don't need a fancy tool if you run or work for a small company. You can "be creative" and prepare something very basic, but there some things to be considered regardless of the way you decide to implement this:
1. Keep it confidential and make sure that employees know this when accessing the questionnaire;
2. The recommendation is to keep it anonymous. Let the employees decide whether or not they want to share their names along with their answers;
3. Run it at least once per year;
4. You won't be able to resolve all the requests in the first fiscal year, therefore it's recommended to inform your employees about what will be implemented and what will take a longer time.
Tools that can help
Depending on what each company needs these forms and ideas can be mixed or adjusted in order to be as relevant as possible.
1. This site provides many types of forms. The forms are free and they also have a tool with lots of features for an annual/monthly fee;
2. Wufoo provides a tool with a free trial that can be either embedded on the company’s website or deployed through email. Moreover, once signed up, the tool provides access to a library of forms;
3. With Survey Monkey, you can be as general or as specific as you’d like. The samples can be used as they are, or can be customized to fit your needs.
Who is responsible to ask for feedback
In my opinion, the job of setting up a feedback request system stays with HR department, no matter the size of the company.
HR needs to initiate and develop the feedback form. They are the ones responsible for collecting feedback and gathering the responses. As this is a recurrent activity, you will end up with a big list of ideas and requests,
They also have to make sure improvements are made based on the feedback received. Changes must be carried out or it can actually damage employee relationships. However, this cannot be done without proper support from leadership. If the higher-ups do not support HR, the given feedback becomes useless.
Even if your company outsources HR to a 3rd party, this task still remains within the department. If your HR currently does not do this role, you should think about adding it in the future.
What to do with the feedback
Once you have the raw results of the feedback, analyze it and then:
1. Thank everyone for their involvement. This is an exercise where you ask the employees to say what they like or dislike about their workplace. They are asked to be open and honest. Not everyone is willing to answer those questions, but those who actually took the time to provide the feedback should receive at least a thank you note and the promise that they didn't waste their time with it (in a polite and diplomatic way, of course);
2. Extract the most burning issues. If people are complaining that the toilets are not as clean as should be or there is no proper eating area, these are priority problems that need to be resolved as soon as possible;
3. Bulk similar issues/requested raised. Count how many asked for it and then decide if that problem/recommendation needs to be taken into consideration or not. Should it be implemented immediately or can it wait? In other words, list them based on importance and priority. For example, a coffee machine was requested by 70% of your employees, whereas 40% complained about the water quality in the workplace. I believe it's clear which should go first;
4. Create a clear action plan and present it to leadership. It could be in a form of a report and should contain implementation suggestions, or ways to act on each request, timelines and, very important, where leadership involvement is needed (such as approving the needed funds, supplies needed, etc);
5. Communicate the results to all employees. Once the leadership approves the action plan, be as transparent as possible with the results.
6. Make sure the action plan is properly implemented. Provide regular updates to all the parties involved.
Repeat the exercise in 6 months or no later than 1 year.
What if you have a 100% work from home, company? Is the feedback still relevant?
The simple answer is YES, but it should contain other types of questions. There is no need to ask the employees about the actual workplace environment or about their commute time, but there are a lot of questions that can be tailored to working from home.
I believe that in this particular case, more emphasis should be put on the employees inter-relations and how well are they treated by their line managers. Are they happy with how they collaborate, are their results visible, and do they receive regular feedback from their managers?
Working and managing a team remotely is much more difficult than face to face interactions. Moreover, the team could be culturally diverse, which raises the bar for difficulty. Therefore, asking the right questions about collaboration is crucial.
Another topic relevant to this kind of company is related to employee hardware, internet connectivity, and the apps they use. Even though employees may use their own laptop and Internet service provider, there are other ways the company can help them improve, if any complaints are raised.
No matter the size of the company or its activities, an employee feedback form has to be in place. The company is alive through its employees and its success is very much dependent on them. You might have a brilliant leadership team, but the actual work is performed by the employees. Make sure to keep them happy.
Livia is the founder of the Work Ethics Blog which is mainly focusing on career performance, best practices to be applied at work, development and managerial tips. She has more than 10 years of working experience, currently being a project manager at a big telecom company. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.