It should be no surprise that both research and anecdotal observations show that many employees, including remote ones, don’t think their companies are taking their employees’ feedback seriously.
“I’ve been in rooms where leaders roll their eyes at feedback and try to guess who said what,” recalled Donna Cutting, a workplace-culture consultant based in Asheville, N.C. “This is the wrong attitude to take, especially now.”
With companies using a variety of strategies to keep talent happy, responding to employee feedback surveys with actions is an important next step, says Samer Saab, CEO of Explorance, a leading employee experience solutions provider based in Montreal.
The company’s recent survey described a disconnect felt by employees.
“About a third of any group believes that organizations are not doing enough with the feedback they receive,” said Saab.
Another report, conducted by UKG’s Workforce Institute, an HR management think tank based in Lowell, Mass., and Weston, Fla., showed similar stats. In its survey of some 4,000 workers in 11 countries, about a quarter of remote workers and one-third of hybrid workers felt they didn’t have any influence on company decision-making.
Disengaging so many workers can have a negative effect on a company’s bottom line, says Chris Mullen, the Workforce Institute’s executive director. He says 88 percent of organizations are “much more likely to perform well financially when their employees feel heard, engaged and [have] a sense of belonging.”
“The number one thing leaders at all levels of an organization could be doing better is listening to their front-line and back-of-the-house employees,” Cutting added. “Take the feedback to heart and use it to reimagine your employee experience.”
What’s an employer to do?
The first step toward repairing the connection is to take the feedback seriously and deal with it realistically, Mullen says. He suggests sorting the topics into three buckets: easy-to-make changes, ideas that need to be phased in over time to accommodate budget and planning requirements, and those that will have to be postponed until a future date. Then the organization should let people know what issues it is tackling.
Saab of Explorance says many companies just don’t know what to do with all the data they collect, and, as a result, nothing gets done. When companies get survey results, the results are simply dumped into a data repository “with millions of other data points,” he said.
“Then, the situation gets worse and they run another survey,” he added.
When companies commit to making changes, they need to regularly communicate about the challenge, the outcomes and the progress, says Andrew Walker, head of talent for the consulting firm Willis Towers Watson’s East Region North America.
Designating one or more members of the leadership team to sponsor the initiative shows that the organization is taking it seriously and the challenge is “owned by the people who take accountability for driving change,” said Walker, who is based in Atlanta.
Plus, the initiatives should be included in the company’s strategic or operational plan, Walker says.
“Typically these actions are not abstract,” he said. “They’re part of how the business operates [and] why the business does things in certain ways.”
More than superficial changes needed
Cutting also noted that “the answer is not more pizza parties or recognition programs.” Instead, she suggests hiring managers who have the aptitude for showing people they are valued by listening to them, noticing and commenting on their contribution, seeing more in them than they see in themselves, including them in important projects and helping them personally or professionally.
And companies shouldn’t be afraid to involve people from all levels of the organization, she notes.
“Give your hourly employees a seat at the table and collaborate with them to come up with plans of action,” Cutting recommended.
Saab adds that simply providing line managers data isn’t enough for them to respond to the employee feedback.
“Chances are they aren’t going to know how to convert [employee survey] data into meaningful insights,” he said.
Instead, companies should link findings to specific best practices that line managers can use to address attrition, engagement and inclusion, to name a few.
Finally, Cutting says organizations should be prepared to make big changes based on employee feedback.
“The workplace of the past will not survive the future,” she said. “Employees are asking for things like higher pay, more flexible schedules, remote working situations and benefits that support work-life balance. These conversations are not going away.”