How to track (and improve!) your employee feedback program

Posted on: April 19, 2024By: Ailsa Bristow

We’re pretty passionate about the power of employee feedback. An effective employee feedback program can boost your employee engagement, sharpen your competitive edge—and even save you money.  

And we know there are many great companies out there who are walking the walk and implementing upward feedback loops. However, creating feedback channels is only the first step in building a culture of feedback. Equally important is tracking the effectiveness of the feedback tools you have in place, and identifying areas for improvement. 

After all, you don’t want to be sinking considerable time and resources into managing channels that aren’t actually effectively capturing your employees’ opinions, ideas and concerns. And what’s more, the health of your employee feedback channels could indicate broader issues, whether it’s low employee engagement or a lack of psychological safety that’s preventing employees from sharing their thoughts with you. 

Not sure how to track feedback? No problem. We’re here to help with six actionable steps you can take to start tracking and improving your employee feedback program. 

Step 1: Identify and analyze your current feedback channels

If you’re currently only getting feedback from employees once a year, you’re making a mistake. A recent survey by Saba found that more than half of employees reported that their organization didn’t have adequate feedback channels, with the majority saying they were rarely asked for their input. 

To get started, take stock of the upward feedback channels you make available. This might include: 

  • Annual employee surveys
  • Forums
  • AMAs
  • Town halls or focus groups
  • Pulse surveys
  • Digital suggestion boxes
  • 1:1 meetings

There are all kinds of feedback you can and should be thinking about collecting, so double check that you aren’t missing out on opportunities to gather key insights from your employees. 

As you start to identify your existing feedback channels, ask yourself: 

  • What are our formal vs. informal structures? Is our mix of feedback channels right?
  • How easy is it for employees to access feedback channels (especially frontline employees)?
  • Are there types of feedback we’re not currently asking for that we need?

Answering these initial questions will help guide you as you dig deeper into your feedback metrics and outcomes. 

Step 2: Track employee feedback participation 

Once you’ve identified your existing feedback channels, it’s time to look at how much each one gets used.

At the most basic level, you’ll want to assess metrics such as response/participation rates, to understand how actively employees are engaging with each channel. It’s also worth breaking down participation rates by various categories such as regions or teams. This can help you identify where there may be a break in your feedback loop. For example, in the Saba survey, 61% of female employees reported that they were rarely asked for feedback, compared to 56% of men. Female employees also tended to be more uncomfortable offering feedback than men. 

Using your metrics to identify these gaps can help you assess whether you’re using the right channels, or if there are interventions you can make at the organizational level to boost response rates among different segments of employees. 

While it is easier to track metrics when you have a communications tool on hand to do the heavy lifting for you (yes, like Axonify!), it doesn’t mean you should ignore your non-digital feedback channels. You might track the number of regular meetings between location managers and their staff, or the number of new ideas or complaints coming up from the shop floor.  While you may have to rely more on anecdotal or qualitative data, you can still sharpen your understanding of how well your feedback channels are working. 

Step 3: Establish feedback benchmarks

The best way to track how well your feedback channels are working over time is to set benchmarks and compare against them regularly. 

This takes time. Depending on the feedback channels and platforms you’re using, you might be able to leverage industry or comparative benchmarks. But one of the best indicators of success is to track participation, response rate and idea sharing at your own organization, over time. After you’ve established a channel and let it run for a few months, you can set a benchmark, e.g. the number of ideas you want to generate each time. Every time you seek feedback, you can track whether you’re meeting your benchmark and use that information to inform your future employee feedback program strategies. 

Step 4: Hone your employee feedback program processes 

Getting feedback from employees will only ever be as effective as the processes you use. If you send employees never-ending surveys or only ask vague, open-ended questions, you’ll likely see a dip in the quality and quantity of feedback you receive.  

In other words, it’s not just what you ask, but how you ask it. According to survey platform company Alchemer, there are five survey design principles you should keep in mind: 

  • Focus: Set specific objectives
  • Connection: Design your survey with your audience in mind
  • Respect: Respect your employees’ time – don’t make them take a never-ending survey or jump through hoops just to give you the feedback you’re asking for
  • Action: Be prepared to take action or make a decision as a result of your survey 
  • Engagement: Continue the feedback loop – share survey insights and decisions/actions taken with your employees

When developing an employee feedback program, be mindful of using distinct feedback channels to elicit different types of feedback. For example, how you ask for feedback on management practices will likely look different to your request for new product ideas. Different types of feedback will need different levels of psychological safety, assurances and incentives in order for your employees to choose to participate. 

Step 5: Run feedback awareness campaigns

If you’re consistently seeing low response from your feedback channels (whether throughout the organization, or in certain regions or roles) your employees may simply be unaware of your attempts to gather feedback. This can be a particular challenge for companies with large numbers of frontline employees, where communication channels can be fractured, and there may be less focus on formal upward feedback. 

It’s why a digital enablement and communication tool can be such a game-changer when it comes to frontline employees. With an integrated platform, you can run feedback awareness campaigns that could include: 

  • Feedback training, e.g. how to guides on how to give and receive feedback or videos highlighting how to use your communication channels
  • Highlights of how you’ve used feedback in the past
  • Ideas contests or forums
  • Senior leadership sharing the “why” behind feedback requests, connecting feedback to the larger mission

Remember: different messages may be more effective with some groups than others. You’ll want to track employees’ responses to your awareness campaigns, and possibly do some A/B testing.

Step 6: Ask employees how you’re doing

As we’ve already established, user experience is a critical component of making an employee feedback program successful. So while it may seem a little circular, make sure to ask your employees for input during employee surveys on how well your company’s feedback channels are working for them. Are they aware of the channels available to them? Do they use them? Do they feel safe giving all types of feedback? What do they think about your feedback channels?

You might even want to push out a regular pulse survey to employees to check whether they’ve used one or more of your feedback channels in the past month or quarter (which would also help you when it comes to setting benchmarks). 

Tracking feedback can make an already complicated process seem even more time and labor intensive. But if you want to walk the walk when it comes to employee feedback, it’s important to track how you’re doing and identify opportunities for improvement. After all, the most expensive mistake is to set up ineffective feedback channels that fail to deliver the real return on investment that comes from creating a positive culture of upward feedback.

Ailsa Bristow

Ailsa Bristow is a Toronto-based writer, copywriter, content strategist and workshop facilitator.

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