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5 ways to encourage more upward feedback

5 ways to encourage more upward feedback

Upward feedback is essential to every frontline organization. How better to truly know the ins and outs of your business than to take the time to listen? This could mean everything from safety concerns and process improvements to customer insights – and it’s all valuable. Plus, upward feedback can inspire a two-way conversation where all individuals have the freedom to express themselves, which is crucial to the success of the organization and the happiness of your team. 

However, it’s not always easy to encourage upward feedback from your team. Maybe your workforce doesn’t love your feedback channels. Maybe, in the past, your organization hasn’t taken action on the feedback they’ve received. Your team could also be afraid of the repercussions that may come after providing potential negative feedback – in fact, studies show that 34% of employees don’t speak up when asked because of fear of repercussions.

No matter what the reason, if you’re seeing upward feedback lag, it’s time to take action. 

While collecting employee feedback can be challenging, especially in a deskless organization, it’s all about the approach and methods you take to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s working, what can be improved, and what strategies you can eliminate completely.

Here are 5 ways to encourage more upward feedback from your staff:

1. Start with open-ended questions

Yes, we’ve recommended focusing on more specific insights when collecting employee feedback at scale, but if you’re seeing a lull in responses it might be time to try the opposite approach to allow for more open conversation. Whether it’s feedback related to management, the overall employee experience, protocols and processes, or any knowledge gaps the team may face, you can start the conversation with open-ended questions. For example, instead of asking, “What do you think about our recent changes in end-of-day cleaning procedures?” you could ask a more broad question like, “Are there any policies or procedures in place you would like to see changed?” 

Here are some other examples of open-ended questions: 

  • What is holding you back from getting your day-to-day responsibilities complete?
  • What new program would you like to see rolled out or completely removed across the organization?
  • What products do you think our customers would benefit from most?

While more specific questions are easier to process and act on, these open-ended questions can uncover issues or problems – or amazing ideas! – that you might never otherwise see. 

2. Reward feedback

We all know the phrase “what’s in it for me?” – and your employees could very well feel this way when asked to provide upward feedback. So finding ways to reward your staff when they provide feedback is a great way to encourage more of it. 

One way to reward feedback is to gamify it. If your communication and feedback channels allow you to do so, award points to your workers for sharing ideas and concerns. Not only does this drive participation in your channels – doing so can go a long way with your team’s mood and morale. One study found that 87% of employees feel more socially connected when there are gamified activities in the workplaces.

The Nudge digital communication platform makes gamification easy! Workers get points for engaging in forums, completing surveys, sharing ideas, and more – and shares points on a central leaderboard for a little friendly competition. 

Another way to reward feedback is to recognize employees sharing feedback and the positive change they’re making on the company. This is especially important for employees sharing best practices – thank them for sharing their amazing ideas by showcasing them in your communication and recognition channels. You could even send them a little branded swag – letting them know how much you appreciate their feedback can go a long way and also inspire them to provide more input in the future.

3. Close the feedback loop

Your staff will never provide upward feedback if they don’t know what is actually being done with it. Because of this, it’s essential to close the feedback loop. A lot of organizations miss this mark when it comes to the great ideas their team provides. 

And that’s a major mistake, because acting on the feedback you collect is crucial. Let’s stop and consider that 90% of workers said that they’re more likely to stay at a company that takes and acts on feedback. And, according to Qualtrics, companies that act on feedback have twice the engagement score compared to those that don’t — 80% vs. 40%.

So while closing the feedback loop is important for encouraging more feedback, it also drives engagement, loyalty, and more. Remember that this goes beyond just using the idea. While this may be the first step in the feedback loop, it also means showing the employee how the idea was used and its impact on the organization. 

Let’s say an employee came forward with an idea to change your return policy. You put their idea to paper, and then you let them know how you plan on updating this policy with their idea – great. But a  big part of closing the feedback loop is keeping your staff informed after the fact. What did customers think about the change? What was the response from senior leadership? How did this change impact customer loyalty and revenue? Sharing back this information with the workers involved is a great way to help them feel empowered and committed to driving more business outcomes. 

As Amy Douglas of Spark Coaching LLC told Forbes, “Employees will stop giving feedback if they think it is a futile process. Follow-through is far more important than the approach used to get the feedback in the first place. Thank employees for their feedback, share decisions that were made (even if you went a different direction than was suggested), and be sure to explain the ‘why’ behind those decisions.”

4. Take the fear of repercussions out of the scenario

Sharing upward feedback can be scary for your team – especially if this feedback leans negative. Ensuring staff members know that they won’t receive any repercussions from providing upward feedback can help to build psychological safety in the frontline workplace, which is a huge component of any successful feedback loop. This will take time. You’ll need to do more than just saying “no repercussions” – you’ll need to walk the walk to really show your workforce you mean it. 

That also means ensuring you have the right feedback channels in place for the right types of feedback. When collecting sensitive or more personal feedback, consider secure or even anonymous channels. When collecting feedback about managers or peers, be sure to avoid public-facing channels. But those public channels, like forums, will be crucial to larger crowdsourcing campaigns to solicit big-picture ideas or best practices. 

5. Make it consistent and frequent

A big part of encouraging lots of upward feedback is, well, asking for it. Your frontline staff has a lot to say, and you limit your business if you’re only asking them to share this feedback once a year. In fact, studies show that 58% of employees wish their company conducted employee engagement surveys more frequently.

Encourage upward feedback to be an all-year type of thing. An employee can have the next big idea at any time, so be sure they’re encouraged to let their manager or team lead know of this idea as soon as it strikes. This also means having the right feedback channels in place to capture ideas and concerns in real time – and process them quickly and efficiently. 

Once you know how to encourage upward feedback from your workforce, you’ll see a surge of new ideas, comments, and concerns that get unearthed. And that’s exactly what you want. You never know what new idea will be the catalyst that inspires the right change or update your organization needs to succeed.

Acting on frontline employee feedback at scale

Acting on frontline employee feedback at scale

You know collecting employee feedback from your frontline workers is an absolute must. And you know there are a number of ways to collect this valuable intel.

But once you’ve gathered this employee feedback, what happens next? 

Especially when we’re talking feedback from thousands (or hundreds of thousands!) of employees, how do you take the ideas and feedback they’re sending you and put it to use? 

This is where the difference between deskless and deskbound workers really comes into play. For deskbound workers, employee feedback is often more of an HR KPI. Gathering upward feedback is about giving employees a voice, and making sure their concerns are heard. 

The same benefits are there for deskless workers, but there’s also a huge business opportunity to tap into as well. Your frontline workers are just that: on the front line. They are seeing things that head office isn’t. So the feedback they’re sharing can make-or-break your business: customer insights, updates to tactical processes, ways to boost productivity, and more. 

That’s why it’s so critical for deskless and frontline organizations to have a way to organize and act on employee feedback – because they can turn those ideas into increased revenue, higher sales, and more efficient processes. Plus, acting on feedback is the best way to ensure your workforce continues to engage in your feedback loops. As one writer put it, there’s no such thing as survey fatigue when you act on employee feedback.

Here are 5 ways for frontline organizations to use employee feedback at scale:

1. Find common sentiment

A great place to start with employee feedback is finding common sentiment with what your frontline staff has to say. This is particularly useful with types of feedback like process change ideas or manager feedback, where finding that common thread amongst thousands of ideas is a huge time-saver. Knowing more than one staff member has the same feedback to share gives it more weight.

Gathering common sentiment can be done a few different ways. Using forums or surveys, you can seek feedback around a question or topic, like “How can we make our inventory update process more efficient?”

Depending on the communication tools you have in place, you can then identify those common threads through word clouds, sentiment analysis, or other analytics tools. After all, there’s strength in numbers, and when you find shared sentiment, you’ll have a better understanding of what actually needs to be changed or updated. 

Nudge’s digital communication platform makes it easy to collect feedback at scale and highlight the key sentiments coming from your team! Learn more here

2. Focus on specific insights

Being specific about the feedback you’re looking for is another way to leverage the intel quickly and easily. This relates to the types of feedback you’re collecting, but also the topic. Be clear on why you’re asking for feedback, and what outcome you’re hoping for. For example, if you’re looking to improve your loyalty program, you want to be more specific than just asking for “Feedback on our loyalty program.” instead, you could reach out to your workforce and say “We’re launching a forum to collect thoughts on how we can improve our loyalty program. Enrollment has been down, so we encourage you all to share best practices and ideas on how you’re enticing customers to sign up.” 

That way, you’ll get at the specific insights and ideas that come straight from the frontline. When you’re collecting specific feedback like this, it’s much easier to act on it quickly. 

3. Let your workers identify great ideas

Again, this tactic depends on what feedback channels you have in place. But when your organization utilizes features that allow employees to engage with each other’s feedback (through likes or comments) some of the heavy lifting is done for you. 

For example, if you’ve asked your workforce for feedback on your health and safety protocols, a company-wide forum allows all employees to see all ideas. So instead of repeating the same feedback again and again, workers can just engage with the ideas they agree with – and head office can focus on the comments that get the most engagement.

This can also work to foster communication around specific ideas and let your teams build on feedback with additional suggestions or constructive criticism. Who says collaboration can’t happen in dispersed teams? 

4. Zero in on tips from top-performing (and worst-performing) regions

Quick: where are your top-performing regions, locations, or employees? (If you don’t know how to identify them at scale, here’s a quick primer.) Knowing these top performers will help you to focus your attention when it comes to employee feedback. Focusing on the tried-and-true suggestions from these regions or locations can help to identify quality feedback quickly – and find best practices to implement at other locations.

The same can be said for your lowest-performing regions and locations. If you see regions that are struggling, pay close attention to their responses to feedback requests. They’ll provide a lot of insight on what isn’t working, and what changes can be made for improvement. 

5. Use numbered-focused feedback

Open-text responses are obviously crucial to any organization. But need to get a fast look at the opinions, morale, and overall mood of your workforce at a scale? Consider feedback that’s numbers-focused, like surveys with multiple choice responses or ranked answers. 

For example, if a survey asks “how safe do you feel at work?” with the prompted response being an answer between one (not safe at all) and ten (extremely safe), you can use the responses to see at a glance where your workforce is at. 

It can be challenging to parse through what seems like an endless list of employee feedback, ideas, and best-practices – but using the above tips will help you to identify those game-changing ideas quickly and easily. 

Collecting employee feedback: 4 tried-and-true methods

Collecting employee feedback: 4 tried-and-true methods

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 deskless 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. 

In a more fluid 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, 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

This is a go-to for Nudge. When it comes to collecting employee ideas and sharing best practices 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 (frontline employees using Nudge, for example, can access Spark Sessions via their phones). 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 (Nudge can help with that!). 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. 

Collecting employee feedback can seem like a major challenge for larger frontline and deskless 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. And once you have your channels in place, be sure to follow these steps to track and improve your programs!