Collecting employee feedback: 4 tried-and-true methods

Posted on: February 1, 2024Updated on: February 15, 2024By: Mara Calvello

We’ve talked about why to track feedback. We’ve talked about what types of feedback to collect. But what about how you should be collecting employee feedback? 

When it comes to collecting employee feedback, your frontline workforce needs a specialized approach. After all, your teams aren’t in front of a computer all day. They’re not all working 9 to 5. They’re spread across the country—or further. That means you can’t collect these valuable insights in one-on-one meetings or other other standard deskbound channels. 

Frontline Worker Using Phone For Collecting Employee Feedback

In a more distributed workplace, it’s important to have the right channels in place when collecting upward feedback from employees, whether it’s an idea, complaint about a coworker, customer insight or health or safety concern, you name it. 

Not sure what channel is best for your organization when collecting employee feedback? Here are 4 tried-and-true options to consider:

1. Surveys

We know what you’re thinking—you hear surveys and instantly roll your eyes. There’s no shortage of articles talking about the challenges of employee surveys—but the truth of the matter is that it is a tried and tested method, if it’s done right. If you fail to take the time to ask the right questions, or try to share surveys in the wrong places, you won’t get the kind of answers you’re looking for. 

One of the biggest criticisms of employee surveys is that they only collect employee feedback once or twice a year. You don’t want to let a brilliant employee idea or a potentially concerning customer complaint pass you by, especially when you consider that 58% of employees wish their company conducted employee engagement surveys more frequently. 

That’s why pulse surveys are a great option. That way, you can foster a feedback culture—and your employees get used to the regular cadence of being asked for their feedback, ideas and concerns. With pulse surveys, you’re asking a shorter list of questions (sometimes, only one!) on a more regular basis. As Achievers explains, “Making surveys quick and easy for employees to complete leads to greater participation and stronger, more reliable results. Pulse surveys also allow for streamlined data collection and timely analysis of results, so organizations can respond to feedback quickly.”

2. Forums

When it comes to collecting employee feedback and sharing best practices and ideas at scale, forums are a great option. Employee feedback forums are an online communication channel where employees aren’t just sending ideas up to head office, they’re engaging with each other’s comments and insights as well. This is more of an open channel where workers can build on other peoples’ ideas, especially around a specific topic or question. 

The best forums are easy to use and accessible at all times. After all, inspiration can strike at any time—you want to make sure your workforce can log their ideas or customer insights before they’re forgotten. 

This method of collecting employee feedback has its challenges too—if you’re bringing thousands of employees into a forum, you need to ensure you have the right tools in place to capture common sentiments and great ideas. The worst feedback mistake you can make is not following up on the great ideas your employees share. 

3. Ask me anythings (AMAs)

Ask me anythings (a.k.a. AMAs) aren’t just for celebs on Reddit. These Q&A sessions are a great way to collect questions and concerns that senior leadership needs to address pronto. Usually questions are submitted ahead of time (often anonymously) and they’re answered in a forum, virtual town hall or any number of other digital communication channels. 

AMAs can take place at any time, but they’re particularly useful around major product launches or after leadership has made a significant announcement. Providing a space for every employee to ask questions sends the message that they are safe, supported and heard—and they’re an integral part of the organization. 

In a Forbes article on his AMAs, Shopify president Harley Finkelstein explains, “When I get up to field questions, I’m showing my team that I’m really willing to listen to them: that their feedback is valuable and their experience matters just as much as mine. It’s truly one of the most important things I do in my job.”

4. Face-to-face conversations

This one is tricky. If a frontline worker has something directly to say to their manager or supervisor, then there’s always the option of providing feedback through a face-to-face conversation. While this can be a valuable option for more personal concerns, it’s hard to level up. First, feedback can go through the broken telephone game as it makes its way back up to head office from the floor manager. If a worker gives a critical insight, idea or suggestion to their manager, they have to pass it along. When the feedback gets to the right person, is the original idea still there, or has it become convoluted?

Second, this channel is highly dependent on the availability of an individual’s manager and how urgent the feedback is. There’s also a concern that this approach can be inconsistent across locations and regions, which can drive a lack of psychological safety at an organizational level. 

If face-to-face feedback is crucial to your frontline organization (research suggests that 95% of professionals consider face-to-face communication vital for long-term business), consider running focus groups or structured group feedback sessions as a way to gather those insights in a more standardized way. Or, work with floor managers to bring collected feedback directly into your digital communication platform or feedback channel to ensure no idea gets lost. Or better yet, walk a mile in your workforces’ shoes: join them on the floor to hear from them directly while working a shift with them. 

Collecting employee feedback can seem like a major challenge for larger frontline organizations. But with the right feedback channels in place, it can be simple and easy to foster a feedback culture and collect those insights seamlessly, no matter what the scale.

Mara Calvello

Mara Calvello is a writer and content creator specializing in HR, design, SaaS management, social media and technology.

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