5 Questions Internal Comms Should Answer Before Asking for Employee Feedback

As human beings, we like feedback. Though positive feedback is more fun than negative, both kinds helps shape who we are, what we do and how we do things. But for a variety of reasons I'm sure, companies don't operate the same way.

They aren't asking for feedback from the most important resource — employees.

You could argue that customers are a more important resource for feedback but it would be a failed argument.

Per a report from Medallia, a company that specializes in capturing feedback, two out of five employees say they aren't being asked for feedback. At all. So kudos to those three out of five companies who are being asked. But the others get a wag of the finger.

Too costly. Too cumbersome. Not enough time. These are reasons I've heard communicators give for a broken employee feedback system. Reasons? Maybe. But they sound more like excuses to me. Employee feedback is too valuable and technology is too great to not have quality feedback systems in place.

But capturing the feedback is just the first step. What are you going to do with it once you have it? You're not off the hook. You can’t simply ask for employee feedback. You have to provide answers back. Those two out of five who have invested time and shared their ideas, how do they know anything is being done with their feedback? Communicators have to help complete the loop.

I wonder who's better off: those employees who get asked for feedback but never hear the results OR those employees who aren't asked in the first place? I want to say those employees who are asked for feedback because at least they're part of a system, albeit a broken one, but the real answer is neither.

Here's a simple piece of advice I learned from Julia Markish at Medallia: “Only ask what you can act upon.”

I like this because by only capturing feedback from employees that can relate to business-driven action, you've not only aligned the feedback, but you've made it easier to report back.

A checklist for Internal Communicators, before asking for feedback

So what does it mean to “act” on feedback? What does closing the loop look like? Let’s go to a simple checklist:

  • Is the feedback you’re requesting tied to business goals, vision and values? If so, then you should be able to act.
  • Is it a “nice to know?” Then it will be nice to know your employees probably won’t care to provide feedback, unless it’s fun.
  • Does the feedback interest your leadership? If they don’t care about the feedback or what it represents, then it’s probably not worth asking.
  • Do you have a way to close the loop? How will employees know their feedback matters. It’s up to communicators to provide the follow-up, whether directly to employees or their managers.
  • What happens if you ask for feedback and get it -- lots of it? You have to be prepared to handle the volume of feedback. It might seem like noise but this could really be hundreds or thousands of voices behind heard.

But let’s take it a step further; let employees see their feedback live. If they've answered a multiple choice question, show them the data of what their coworkers said. It's not quite instant gratification, but it's context for their feedback. And anytime you can add context to content, you're ahead in the communications game. And maybe they want to be notified of the results, via email or push notification. If possible, give them this option because it helps to close the loop for them, too.

Communicators play a pivotal role in giving employees a voice in feedback systems. And employees need to know their voices are heard and matter.