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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.