One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. Bryant H. McGill
Every single one of us longs to be heard. It is innate. Think about a baby who wants to get the attention of the adults in her life. What does she do? Makes a lot of adorable and funny sounds to make her presence known. How does she feel valued and important? She sees how those same adults respond to what they hear. When they hop into action to meet her needs, she knows that her sounds mean something to those around her. Her voice is power.
If You Do Nothing
If the adults sat there and did nothing, what do you think might happen? Would the baby become silent? Perhaps, if she made enough sounds and no one ever responded.
Would she scream and throw things? Perhaps, if she felt like there was no other way to get their attention.
I know it may seem odd that I am comparing a baby to an employee, but the point is that we all want to feel like our voices mean something to others. That the sounds that come from our mouths will resonate with those who hear us. That when we divulge our concerns, thoughts, anger, and desires in focus groups, surveys, or other feedback mechanisms, positive change will come about.
By soliciting the Voice of the Employee, are organizations committing to changing everything? Absolutely not.
What Does It Mean To Commit?
Just because organizational leadership solicits employee feedback does not mean that the organization commits to act on each and every piece of the Voice of the Employee. Having said that, there are some very clear steps to take when receiving the feedback in order to foster the feeling of being valued and important:
1. Take It All In.
After you have gathered all of the feedback, take some time to understand what it is saying to and about your organization. Look for trends and outliers in the comments. Take it all in and process it. Categorize it to make sure you get the full story.
2. Plan of Attack.
After you have taken the time to understand the feedback, it is critical that senior leaders and business unit heads come together to decide which items to conquer. Using the trends in the data to set strategic priorities will be the difference between having a true Voice of the Employee program and just asking a lot of questions. Getting the buy-in and assigning accountability for the results is an important step.
3. Report Out.
Once your organizational leaders have had time to take in all of the feedback and come up with a plan for what they plan to do about what they heard, it is time to report out what was heard and next steps to the entire organization.
I do not mean that every little comment and fact should be reported to all employees. To the contrary, the report out should be very high level, restating only big themes and then the top few actions that the leaders plan to take based upon the feedback. This is crucial, because this is when employees begin to see that the time they spent providing feedback was not in vein.
4. Put Action to It.
Now, that you have disclosed the big themes and said what you will do, you must go about doing what you said you would do. Even more important, involve employees at all levels in the organization in the change that they are seeking. Create employee councils. Help them to help you bring the Voice of the Employee to life. It is the action that makes giving the feedback worthwhile!
5. Connect the Dots.
You have put in a lot of work taking in all of the feedback, planning what to do about it, letting them know what you heard, and putting action to key elements of the feedback. Now, it's just as important to make sure that you continually communicate how your efforts are improving their experience.
Communicate via multiple mediums and make sure to clearly connect the dots between the big themes you heard and the actions you are taking in response to the themes. Make sure to visually show that the entire organization is getting behind the changes. Use storytelling to help them understand how important their voices are.
It is crucial that organizational leaders not take their employees' voices for granted. You do not need to change every area related to their feedback for them to feel heard. Let them know that you are asking, because you want to know the truth and are prepared to put in effort to improve their experience. Otherwise, you may notice that they, like the little baby, may fall silent with apathy, or cause a ruckus with negative energy. Worse yet, they may walk out the door without ever giving you a chance to create your best culture yet!
Thank you for reading this article. I have found that many organizations drop the ball after receiving employee feedback. Often, they just don't want to put in the energy to do what is required to improve employee experience based off of what they uncover.
Have you ever given feedback to your organization and then never heard a thing about it again? Are you a leader responsible for improving employee experience, but recognize that maybe you have fallen short? I would love to hear your Comments about this article, or what you do differently. This is a very important conversation to be having. It means a lot to your culture to get this right.
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Best Wishes in your Voice of the Employee journey!