The 4 Best Ways to Gather Employee Feedback You Can Actually Use

We’ve all heard how happy employees are when they’re productive: They stay longer at their jobs, take fewer sick days, and propel company-wide productivity and sales.

But when it comes to actually finding out if their employees are happy, organizations have a harder time. And the issue gets worse the larger the company grows.

Collecting employee feedback the right way needs to be systematic—built into your organizational processes in a way that makes every employee feel like they have a voice.

Here are a few tips to become a feedback-collecting machine, without breaking the bank or taking up too much time.

What Is Employee Feedback?

It’s an easy question to answer on the surface, but knowing what employee feedback goes a bit deeper than you might think. At its heart, employee feedback allows team members to voice their thoughts on feelings. That might be on management, processes, work-life balance, or other aspects you hadn’t considered. This can boost morale, triage workflow issues, and solve problems before they appear.

In many businesses, feedback goes down but not up. But when you encourage employees to speak up – and listen to what they have to say – you can strengthen bonds between management and the wider workforce. Plus, it’s easier to direct your attention when you know what needs looking at.

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Why Is It Important To Collect Employee Feedback?

There’s no shortage of reasons to collect employee feedback, whether it’s a general check-in or something more targeted, you can gain a lot of insight.

Some of the main benefits include:

When Should You Ask For Employee Feedback?

In general, you should request employee feedback frequently—but the exact timing will depend on the type of employee feedback you're seeking.

Employee feedback falls into three main categories:

These levels are interconnected. For example, the trust and relationships you build at the individual or team level can give people the confidence to voice themselves at the organizational level.

However, it’s not always easy for people to put themselves forward. Sometimes, team members may want to remain anonymous or the time might not feel right. With that in mind, here’s when to ask for each type of feedback.

Collecting Interpersonal Feedback

Weekly one-on-one meetings are a fantastic opportunity to create feedback loops between employee and supervisor. This can be a great chance to build team trust on the ground level and even bolster relationships.

Knowing how to get employee feedback at the interpersonal level might feel tricky, but there are a lot of opportunities for it. Asking after you give an employee feedback can be a great equalizer and build on your relationship. If they’re the quiet type, times like this give you the opportunity to ask specific questions and source any feedback.

» Learn More: 12 Ways to Make Your 1-on-1 Meetings More Effective

Collecting Team Feedback

While there are plenty of ways to collect team feedback, such as during any team meetings, or by email, it may be best to do so at specific milestones. After big announcements, at specific times – during an end-of-quarter review, for example; or even following team events.

This team-level lens concerns feedback from the team you’re overseeing, or those you’re working closely with. However, it could be from teams adjacent to yours that you work with, to smooth out best practice. Team feedback can give you insight into your team’s dynamic, and their day-to-day, and help you build camaraderie.

Collecting Organization-Wide Feedback

Usually, organizational feedback will be collected by leadership or HR, often on an annual or biannual schedule.

This type of feedback looks at the wider business. It can be hard to feel the impact of this, but without employees' honest feedback, it's difficult to drive change and help your organization evolve over time.

As a manager, you can encourage your employees to voice themselves and share the results of any potential change. It’s an essential form of feedback, which can have a significant impact on how an employee feels.

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4 Tips For Collecting Employee Feedback

It’s in your best interest to collect unfiltered and honest employee feedback, but you can’t always gauge if an employee is being open. The only way to do it is to foster a communicative environment, where they feel supported and respected.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Build Trust First

Probably the most important keystone to cultivate is trust. If employees have confidence in you, then honesty comes a lot easier – but building trust isn’t easy, or quick. There’s not some magical way to foster it either. If you’re honest with your team from the outset, always act on your word, and encourage your team members to do the same, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

2. Ask The Right Questions

Collecting relevant and useful employee feedback is about asking the right question; if you don’t, you may not get an answer at all! Usually, relevant questions or detailed surveys are better than catchall questions. Some form of guidance on what sort of feedback you’re looking for can prompt employees to give detailed responses. Asking for feedback without direction or purpose leaves them to consider feedback at the moment, and is usually not productive – assuming you don’t just end up with a quiet room.

3. Ensure Anonymity

Providing an anonymous method of feedback can offer a sense of security to an employee, especially for those who are shy or worried. There are plenty of people concerned about rocking the boat, who otherwise may stay quiet – even those that trust you. While not everyone will mind, giving employees to option for anonymous feedback ensures everyone feels comfortable sharing how they are feeling.

4. Take Action to Implement Employee Feedback

There’s no point doing all this groundwork if you don’t utilize the data you’ve been given. In fact, it could have negative consequences, and actively harm the trust you’ve spent time building. Plus, why wouldn’t you want to try to resolve problems within your team – after all, who knows their job better than your employees?

Imagine a circumstance where several employees are having difficulties understanding the briefs they’re given. That may suggest that the team needs more guidance during brief creation. Stating clearly what the feedback is and what your plans are to address, then following through, doesn’t just solve the issue – it makes your team feel valued. Once they see their time isn’t being wasted and their words have an impact, you’re paving the way for trust.

5 Tried-and-True Ways To Collect Employee Feedback

Get Employee Feedback From New Hires

When an employee has been with a company for a while, they can get comfortable or complacent. All those little issues that they may use to see, could just be commonplace now. After all, we’re adaptable. Sometimes, people new to a role or company can spot things you might not.

In fact, even if you don’t want to collect employee feedback from a new starter, getting feedback on the onboarding experience can give you the tools to improve it – and also know what’s working. It’s also a quick way to build a relationship with your new employee.

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Don’t Discount The Suggestion Box Strategy

Creating an anonymous suggestion box for employees doesn’t sound revolutionary but they’re still one of the best ways to collect feedback from employees.

Anonymity itself is vital. Some employees could face embarrassment or may fear retribution if what they say is recognized. And if you want to bring this classic technique into the 21st century, you have options.

One way is to create a simple, anonymous online feedback form that employees can fill out at their convenience. You can customize it any way you like, but the foundation of a good suggestion form includes two important questions: “What is your feedback?” and “What benefit would your feedback bring?”

By keeping your questions relatively open, you can get an array of feedback, ranging from office decor improvements to high-level strategy. But you won’t know unless you build the suggestion box form.

Hold Regular All-Hands Meetings

All-hands meetings are a terrific way to disseminate company information to the workforce. Requesting feedback from colleagues also acts as a great forum to openly discuss employee suggestions.

Some people are more comfortable discussing improvements in a group setting, where colleagues can support their suggestions. Especially if there are suggestions shared by groups of employees, all-hands meetings are a must.

Hold Regular Performance Reviews

Meeting individually with all of your employees can prevent a lot of problems from ever occurring. They’re the best way to build rapport with employees and to give constructive feedback.

Face-to-face meetings are also one of the best ways to get employee feedback.
Ask casually about how they feel, how they think the company and culture could be improved, and what would make them happier. Brave managers can even ask their direct reports if they’re doing a good job managing them.

For a pro tip, consider doing your one-on-one meetings while going for a walk. It eases tensions and will elicit better conversation and, ultimately, better feedback.

Get Feedback From Exit Interviews

While people coming in are a great source of fresh perspective, those going out can give you invaluable (and often transparent) feedback. Figuring out their honest reasons for leaving, what ways you could have supported them better, or crafting questions targeting their reason for living can bring insight.

It’s not always easy losing a team member – even if it’s out of your control – but learning what you can do better is essential to retaining the workforce you’ve put so much time into.