Never underestimate the value of employee engagement. Engagement—a combination of enthusiasm, dedication, and connection—is good for the individual and the company. It leads to job satisfaction, which makes employees more inclined to stay, even when jobs are plentiful and other companies are vying for their expertise. This is especially important since according to Gallup, 51% of employees are constantly keeping an eye out or are actively seeking a new job. A key part of maintaining engagement is a company culture that promotes employee feedback. Gathering feedback on a regular basis shows workers that they’re being heard. They come to understand that their ideas are valued and their opinions matter. This culture of feedback pays off in increased engagement.
What engagement looks like—and why it matters
Gallup defines engaged workers as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.” In other words, engaged employees care; they’re dedicated. And they show up not only physically, but in the broader sense of being reliable and fully present.
When engagement suffers, so does the company. Consequences of disengagement in the workplace include high turnover, bad morale, conflict, low productivity, and quiet quitting. Jobs with a high level of customer interaction may experience a decline in customer satisfaction and reputation.
These problems are frustrating for HR, corporate leaders, and the rest of the workforce who are trying to do their best. It’s also expensive. Forbes crunched the numbers from a Gallup study and concluded that a single disengaged employee making $47,000 will cost the company $16,000 per year in absenteeism, low productivity, and profitability. Lack of engagement and turnover soak up time, money, and resources that could be used elsewhere, even as everyone’s share of the workload increases.
By contrast, a company with engaged employees benefits from a workforce that is enthusiastic and finds meaning in their day-to-day tasks. They typically feel their strengths are recognized and important to their role. They look for opportunities to learn and grow and take pride in their work.
The impact of employee feedback on engagement
Employee feedback plays an integral part in employee engagement, and in turn, the company’s success. According to a SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Report, 89% of HR professionals surveyed saw ongoing feedback and check-ins have a positive impact on their organizations.
Engagement-building aspects of giving feedback include discussing what is going well and what isn’t, encouraging positive behavior, and offering constructive criticism when necessary. It provides an opportunity to check the team’s pulse and provide information using three primary types of feedback:
- Appreciation. Recognizes the value and contributions of each team member.
- Coaching. Identifies skills to develop in the future, and how best to hone existing skills.
- Evaluation. Measures performance, clarifies expectations, and sets future goals.
When delivered properly by a leader, this type of feedback results in improved performance. When feedback goes both ways and the employee has an opportunity to weigh in, the benefits can multiply. Along with improved performance and productivity, there is often increased self-esteem, self-awareness, better collaboration, more motivation, job advancement, and job satisfaction—all hallmarks of enhanced engagement.
Components of effective feedback
Gathering employee feedback should consist of more than sending out a random survey now and then or telling staff to “come see me if you have any suggestions.” Instead, it needs to be consistent and intentional. Feedback to employees should be continuous, rather than saved up to deliver in, say, an annual review. And the company culture should encourage the same for an employee’s upward feedback. This can be accomplished by offering a variety of avenues and methods that give staff the ability to share their thoughts and concerns whenever necessary.
There are formal feedback methods such as performance reviews, surveys, and 360-degree feedback which includes evaluations not only from managers but also peers and possibly even customers.
Informal feedback methods include one-on-one conversations, team meetings, mid-project check-ins, and after-project debriefs.
Companies may employ a combination of methods to gather the type of information that best suits the needs of their workforce and the organization.
Strategies to build a culture of feedback
For feedback to have an impact on employee engagement, it must become a routine part of the company culture. When openness and honesty are encouraged, getting and giving feedback will become a normal part of the job. People are empowered to voice their ideas and concerns. They will understand expectations and have clear goals for excelling in their positions. Building this culture of feedback requires the following:
Creating a psychologically safe workplace
Dr. Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School, coined the phrase psychological safety. She defines it as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.”
Without a sense of psychological safety, there is little or no chance of employees giving honest upward feedback. Giving them permission and encouragement to share their thoughts will diminish any fears of retaliation, of overstepping their authority, or of being seen as a problem employee.
Developing a process for employee feedback
Put some thought into a plan for giving and receiving employee feedback. Incorporate appreciation, coaching, and evaluation into whatever combination of formal and informal tools you choose. Set a timeframe for gathering formal feedback. Encourage and welcome informal feedback on an ongoing basis. Employees should feel free to bring up important issues at any time, rather than waiting for a specific event like a quarterly review.
Once processes are in place, review them periodically. Methods and timeframes can be adjusted as needed.
Providing feedback tools
In addition to offering a mix of formal and informal feedback methods, it is also helpful to provide multiple channels for employee feedback. Using a digital platform with online surveys and feedback apps makes giving feedback convenient. But traditional methods like a suggestion box can be helpful too. These, coupled with one-on-one check-ins and quarterly or annual reviews will keep the communication flowing.
Training people to give and receive feedback
Make sure employees understand the feedback process and make it a regular part of company culture. Giving and accepting feedback does not always come naturally, so provide training to both leaders and employees. Effective training will teach the proper way to highlight strengths and provide constructive criticism. And the training itself will increase engagement as it empowers employees to learn a new skill.
Turn feedback into action
Employees feel engaged when they know their voice is heard and their opinions matter. Gathering feedback from them is just the first step. That feedback must also be analyzed and areas needing improvement noted. The next step is making a plan and setting goals to implement changes.
Most importantly, management must communicate the plan to the employees and explain how they will achieve the goals as a team. In a culture of feedback where everyone is on board, managers lead by example, providing feedback in a clear, empathetic way. Then, when employees are given the opportunity to give their own feedback, they will follow suit. This give-and-take leads to increased engagement for the individuals, the teams, and the company itself.
In addition to specific courses in feedback, Blue Ocean Brain’s microlearning programs in various soft skills will help enhance engagement. Subjects such as confirmation bias, emotional intelligence, and effective communication are just a few examples. Click here to schedule a consultation about how to build your culture of feedback.