Now that we've gone through the causes of people not sharing feedback with each other, and went through the first steps to establish a solid feedback collection mechanism, let's see how we can continue building this process:
3. Set the right expectations: As mentioned earlier, feedback can be the best, if not the only way to improve business processes. Employees tend to have great insights about how to make things better at work. However, they tend to shy away for many reasons. This shying away usually stems from lack of trust. People tend to think of the worst reactions to their feedback when they don’t know what to expect from sharing their feedback. They can have a broad range of expectations about the consequences of their feedback that is all based on trust. In order to build this trust you need not only to assure your team, but also to set the right expectations for them. Your team needs to know the following points prior to collecting any feedback:
a. Their feedback will be challenged: You'll play the devil's advocate, you'll challenge their feedback and question its value. You're not doing this because you discourage feedback; you're trying to refine this feedback and make sure that it’s applicable and feasible, and it’s this challenging discussion that sharpens any feedback or idea and turn them into actionable points. Avoid explaining the process or defending it at the time of feedback collection. Instead, ask for more clarification and seek full understanding. This full understanding should be the aim of challenging the feedback you’re collecting, and feedback owners need to know that beforehand and appreciate it.
b. Their feedback will be examined: Yes, you want to improve the process, but there are priorities in doing so. Hence your main focus will be finding common areas of improvement, meaning areas that keep appearing in most feedbacks e.g. If 3 out of the five employees reporting to you stated that their work environment will be improved if they can have flexible working hours, then this is a point that need to be considered immediately as there's a pattern in the feedback that pushes it to be a priority. On the other hand, if it was only one employee who gave this feedback then it will be considered, but it may not be prioritized. Your team needs to realize that ‘pattern-based priority’ to avoid any disappointments.
The same concept applies for applicability; some feedback can be genuine and of great value, but it's just not applicable e.g. Your team can suggest to return to the old reporting system because they're used to it and it's user-friendly compared to the new system, but you as a manager know that you're part of the pilot trial for the new system and that it will be applied across the whole organization, you can then collect the feedback and share it with senior management to try to make the new system more user-friendly, but you need to tell your team their feedback is totally respected and appreciated, and that you can work together to make the new system more friendly, but the suggestion of getting back to the old system is not applicable.
c. Their feedback will be respected: Each member of your team needs to be given the space and opportunity to openly share their feedback. Other team members, including yourself, need to provide such space to each others. This is extremely important; we may have an idea about how to improve the process but it's not yet so clear, or we may have it clear in our heads but can't yet express it clearly to others. This can create misunderstanding or friction with other team members, so it's crucial to give each other the time and space to provide their feedback with no external pressure.
e. Their feedback will be appreciated: solid and constructive feedback needs to be appreciated. This appreciation should go beyond verbal recognition and words of admiration to become a part of the employee's performance appraisal. An item called "participation in business process improvement" can be added to employee appraisal, where the employee records the feedback and insights he or she shared across the team and with management to improve the current business process, and this should be discussed during regular appraisal meetings.
“Sometimes the easiest way to elicit feedback is to show feedback owners how their previous insight was positively reflected on their business.”
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