Effective leadership requires the ability to proactively seek employee feedback. In order to know the affects of policy, behavior of superiors toward the workforce, and the overall feelings of the organization, holding employee feedback sessions at least annually is a great exercise to identify potential issues that may cause harm to the company and/or its workforce.
In an effort to become a proactive leadership team rather than reactive, management needs to develop listening skills that not only hear, but sincerely listen to the opinions, feelings, attitudes and perceptions of the workforce.
Active listening skills are a learned technique. Few people possess the true listening skills that define a great leader. Conducting employee feedback sessions, sometimes mistaken for 360 Feedback ( a multi-rater feedback system typically used for management and leadership). The process varies from business to business, but traditionally, employee feedback session programs work in the following manner:
- An independent authority should handle the entire process, whether it is a service company that specializes in such procedures, or a consultant hired specifically to facilitate the process.
- Depending on the size of the organization, employees are typically grouped by hourly workers, front line supervisors, managers, and executive leaders. Each group is divided into manageable groups of no more than 20 individuals, by department.
- A series of questions are formulated to test for sensitivities of fairness, wage competitiveness, representation, loyalty, and attitudes toward policy, supervision, and other pertinent information seeking. This written survey should be easily measurable with a one through 10 rating system.
- Meetings of each group are scheduled in advance, held in privacy, and the surveys completed and sealed in an envelope. Names are intentionally left off, so as to protect the privacy of the individual. The only notation is department, so that when tallied, that same group can be called back for the next step in the process. The envelope is mailed or taken off site for the facilitator’s compilation.
- Once all groups are met with and surveys completed and the surveys tabulated, the second round of meetings are held, giving attendees to verbalize what was actually meant by their particular scoring of each question. The facilitator objectively documents on a flip chart to ensure that what is heard is what the group means. The facilitator should encourage openness and candor. There are no wrong statements; the facilitator is merely to document the statements of the groups.
- At the conclusion of all meetings, the facilitator prepares a report of findings to management, and along with management, the findings are presented to the groups, one at a time. Management sincerely listens (actively) so that an action plan can be created addressing the findings.
- The final meeting is the entire staff, supervision and leadership. The owner/GM, or top line executive reports on the findings, and the solutions or reasoning she/he plans to complete to improve any deficient conditions. Hopefully, through consistent effort, the organization’s satisfaction rating will constantly improve year over year.
While no feedback survey system is perfect, the sincere application of this format will provide true working knowledge of how employees at every level of an organization feels about the workings of the business in which they dedicate their time and effort.