A lot has changed in the past few years. Two major paradigms have shifted the power to the employee, and will have their influence on employee feedback going forward.
The first is the surge of companies in the news for wrongdoings. It seems that every day there’s a new company in the headlines, for employees uncovering the unresolved issues going on within its walls. Movements like #MeToo and BLM have shown employees that they’re not alone, and have encouraged them to speak up about issues at work — thus, an increase in feedback.
The second is the pandemic and the “Great Resignation,” a time unlike any other where employees are questioning what they truly want when it comes to careers and their work-life balance. This has resulted in more employees being vocal about what they want from their workplace, negotiating for better salary, asking for flexible work arrangements, and more. And they’re ready to leave a workplace that doesn’t take feedback seriously.
The question is whether HR departments and recruiters are prepared for the influx. Some may be, but others certainly aren’t, as our recent report on “The State of HR Departments and Employee Feedback” found. But gathering and processing employee feedback doesn’t have to be a challenge. Here are some ways HR departments and recruiters can survive and thrive.
Why Feedback is Feared
It’s no secret that HR departments are busy, pushed to the limit during the pandemic. One report found that 98% of HR professionals say their role changed because of the pandemic, and another report found that 90% of HR professionals experienced increased stress over the past year. A third report found that 42% are fighting burnout, and cite increased workloads as the majority of the issue.
In our report, we found that 29% of HR professionals want less feedback from their employees. Obviously, they don’t want to stop hearing about issues and incidents in the workplace. Not wanting feedback must mean that they don’t have the bandwidth to handle feedback currently. They may not have the staff, or their processes may be inefficient, adding more time and effort that’s unsustainable.
There’s reason to believe that the bottleneck is the processes. We found that the majority of HR departments are still using Word or Google docs to track reports that come in, or they’re tracking the reports and cases through spreadsheets. No wonder the biggest challenge to HR departments is managing employee feedback once it’s received.
Also, only 47% of HR professionals believe that their tools and methods are “very effective” at collecting open and honest feedback, with 25% seeing their methods as not very effective at all. This could be affecting HR morale as well, if they put in efforts to only see modest returns, and aren’t finding out the full story of what’s happening in the workplace.
Whether it be outdated processes, lack of HR bandwidth, lack of efficient digital tools, or other administrative or budgetary factors that keep HR departments from effectively managing and resolving feedback, employees are only aware that their feedback isn’t being properly addressed. That can lead to a decrease in engagement and productivity, or employees leaving altogether.
From Fear to Fix to Future
What can you do today to fix these concerns? Here are some key actions that can prepare you to not just handle feedback, but welcome it.
Implement a Digital Employee Feedback Platform
First, do away with the Word docs and spreadsheets, and get a centralized digital employee feedback platform. This will allow employees to submit reports into the platform, instead of submitting them through email attachments or Google forms. The platform also serves as a case manager, where reports can be assigned to various HR team members, and their progress and resolution can be easily viewed on a dashboard. Digital platforms also have encryption capabilities to ensure truly anonymous feedback. A centralized platform that tracks reports can give you data that you can use to improve efforts in the future, too.
Make Sure You Have Tools Employees Will Use
Our report found that 72% of HR professionals believe that they aren’t gathering feedback that’s truly informing HR about the serious issues going on in the workplace. Employees not giving honest feedback could be due to a fear of retaliation, knowing that if they spoke up and were found out, they could risk losing job duties, or be forced out altogether. They could also not be giving honest feedback because they’re not sure what’s serious enough to report, fear that they won’t be believed anyhow, or that the organization won’t do anything about it.
HR departments therefore need to evaluate their tools to see which ones employees will actually use and that are gaining honest feedback. Offering multiple options for reporting will help, too, but they have to be the right options. In fact, as we’ve found in past reports, upwards of 90% of employees say they’re more likely to report issues in the workplace if given truly anonymous channels through which to do so. So, offering anonymous channels will help mitigate much of the hesitancy to report.
Involve Employees for Increased Buy-In
Finally, listen to employees about what tools they would use, and how to streamline the system. The friction in gathering and resolving feedback might be due to misaligned viewpoints on how feedback should be collected. Getting employees involved in the process not only ensures that you’re rolling out the right tools, but gets employee buy-in, and can increase trust in the organization — which can lead to more honest reports.
Preparing for 2022
It’s certainly easy to say “Embrace employee feedback!” to HR departments who are spread thin already. But the first steps here are to work smarter, not harder: Get rid of old methods and feedback approaches, and implement new tools that will streamline and improve the end-to-end process. Even making simple adjustments for the better will send the clear message to employees that you’re devoted to their wellbeing.
Author’s bio: Claire Schmidt is the founder and CEO of AllVoices, an employee feedback management platform that enables anyone to anonymously report sexual harassment and workplace issues directly to company leadership. Before founding AllVoices, Claire served as Vice President of Technology and Innovation at 20th Century Fox. In 2010 she helped found and lead Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, a nonprofit organization which deploys technology in innovative ways to fight child sex trafficking. During her five years at Thorn, Claire ran all programmatic work, spoke at the White House, the State Department, and Stanford University, and led a task force of more than 30 major technology companies, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft. Claire graduated from Stanford with a degree in Economics in 2006. She was the curator and vice-curator of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Los Angeles, and in 2015 won a Mic50 award for her work at Thorn.