While many business leaders look to outside consultants and gurus to provide advice, there’s one resource that’s rarely tapped and full of insights, and it’s just outside your office door. Nobody knows the pain points in your company better than your employees.
I can honestly say that we wouldn’t be nearly as successful today if we hadn’t opened ourselves up to feedback from our team on a regular basis.
Soliciting feedback can be as simple as asking your employees what they think your company should start doing, what should be encouraged to continue, and what should be stopped outright. You might be surprised at the depth of knowledge these simple questions unearth.
Here are three additional ways to use feedback to drive your company’s growth:
1. Utilize the right feedback tools
Each year, we distribute the Gallup Q12 survey companywide, making adjustments based on the feedback we receive. In addition, we rely on accountability appraisals and 360 performance reviews twice a year.
Our accountability appraisals allow individuals to first self-evaluate, then receive feedback directly from their managers and team leads. This allows both employees and managers the opportunity to address any improvements or adjustments needing to be made — as well as to honor successes.
The 360 review is a straightforward system that allows employees to nominate any co-worker to provide feedback. Though simple, it often leads to really great conversations, and it provides an outlet for employees to express praise or concern outside the scheduled appraisals.
2. Humanize your workforce
When our managers encounter challenges, we are open about the struggles and strategies we face, asking the team for ideas on how to improve. This can be as simple as admitting to stumbling blocks when asked, as Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst did with his board — and later his company as a whole — when progress on a recent acquisition slowed to a crawl.
Not all feedback has to be formalized. On Fridays, we host a happy hour, and our employees submit anonymous toasts congratulating one another for work accomplishments. This helps create an environment of positive reinforcement and connection across teams.
3. Admit when you don’t have the answer
It can be easy to push issues under the rug when a problem isn’t easy to solve or you just don’t want to address it. But when a problem has no easy solution, being honest with yourself and your team is vital. It fosters an open, results-oriented culture — rather than one in which problems are ignored or employee issues are placated.
We recently received feedback that our concierge team was feeling overloaded, even though we had just increased our staff in that department. Customers were also complaining about their inability to get through to us. After researching the issue, we were able to identify that a small percentage of difficult calls were taking up most of the time. In response, we split our concierge staff into two departments, with one handling day-to-day issues while the other managed more in-depth calls.
Though the initial feedback on the issue didn’t make sense, we still took it seriously and followed up. As a result, we were able to make a huge improvement, satisfying our employees and our customers at the same time.
It can be hard to take someone’s feedback, and even harder to try and fix the problem. But a well-implemented feedback loop creates a culture of safety in your company, ensuring trial-and-error experiments are encouraged and employees feel safe to say they aren’t sure. When everyone feels free to learn and grow, the business itself will do so as well.
Kelsey Martin is chief people officer at Bristlecone Holdings, a financial technology company that builds proprietary technologies and machine-learning algorithms to serve consumers through smarter financial tools. Her knowledge of finance and data-based decision-making bolster her strategy in addressing a rapidly growing company’s needs. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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