How to get honest feedback from employees
I've written before about the importance of giving constructive feedback to your employees, but how can you ensure they're being honest in their feedback to you? You are their boss after all, and it's common to avoid confrontation with authority figures.
Just as it's important to set appropriate expectations for daily meetings, a leader must create an environment in which employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts without fear of retribution or judgment.
In a post for the Forbes Human Resources Council, employee engagement expert Jeff Miller suggests holding a feedback meeting and shares five ways leaders can elicit honest responses:
- Create a framework for the meeting. The meeting should include all members of your team, and empower each of them to speak up. Miller suggests using a white board to categorize feedback and a facilitator to lead the conversation. Before the meeting, ask everyone to reflect on how things are currently going – with you leading the team and the team's operations in general.
- Leave the room. Using a facilitator – whether an outside expert or a trusted colleague – allows you to give your employees space to openly discuss what's working well and could be improved on the team. It will help alleviate uncomfortable feelings some may feel if they're sharing what they view as negative feedback.
- Process feedback without the team first. Miller recommends reviewing the feedback alone and categorizing each point into three responses: what can you address right now, what can be addressed in the near future and what is nonnegotiable.
- Be mindful of your response to the feedback. We're always communicating, whether with our words or body language. When receiving feedback, be sure not to get angry or defensive as it could alienate employees. A measured response will go far in making employees feel heard and valued.
- Make sure to follow up. Following through on commitments is key in building trust with your team and maintaining their confidence. As you tackle their provided feedback, be sure to give periodic updates – whether in person or via email – so your team knows when to expect change.
Being able to receive constructive criticism is just as important as being able to deliver it to your employees. It's how we continue to grow and improve ourselves.
These tips from Miller can also be used as you review other organizational processes or products – I recently conducted a similar meeting with my management team to discuss benefits.
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