March 18, 2019

101: Employee feedback

We're all busy, so putting one's head down and plowing through various tasks of the day is an easy habit to fall into. But experts say managers need to solicit regular feedback from employees. Building trust and morale; improving productivity and retention; and getting the ability to act on complaints before they worsen are some of the many benefits.

Not getting complaints? Don't assume that is a good thing. Employees should feel comfortable pushing back and objecting occasionally, writes Ron Carucci of Harvard Business Review. "If you don't have people routinely offering dissenting ideas, or raising concerns about actions you are contemplating or have taken, you should worry," he writes. Carucci likes the practice of an executive he knows who routinely asks co-workers, especially after particularly difficult issues are discussed in a meeting, "How do you feel that went, and what could I have done differently?"

Don't make it a one-and-done exercise. Gathering regular feedback from employees on the work experience – in different phases of their tenure, not just when they are leaving – is important. "Some [companies] have committed to listening to employees as often as once a month. Amazon solicits feedback from its employees every day in service of improving workplace culture," writes Jim Barnett at He warns against disconnected and quickly outdated annual surveys, suggesting regular engagement surveys, exit and onboarding feedback, and manager and team effectiveness surveys.

Ask the right questions, such as, "If you were in my shoes, what would you change tomorrow? What are you hearing clients … say about our business? How can I help you be more successful?" Where an open-door policy is great, these open-ended questions will yield more honest, actionable feedback, than yes or no questions will, says Andre Lavoie at


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