Turn feedback into action to make sure your employees stay
Your people have plenty of options – assume their loyalty at your peril. How can you keep your employee engaged, and make sure they stay?
In the US, we’re a relatively engaged bunch. In fact, our Qualtrics 2020 global employee experience trends report found that 55% of US employees are engaged at work. The highest percentage of any country surveyed and inching above the global average of 53%. Look further afield at countries such as Japan (35%) and Germany (41%) and the US is head and shoulders above the crowd.
However, it’s not all good news. Despite many people being engaged, there are a lot who aren’t. And this is compounded by the fact that the US has one of the highest rates of global attrition risk in the world (21%).
So how can we make sure that our best people don’t leave? Is your company in the 55%?
Listen to your people and what they want
Haley Kuschman, Qualtrics Employee Experience Scientist, says that the first step to a great employee experience is understanding your people. “Having a feedback program dramatically improves engagement,” she explains.
“Without a feedback program, only 42% of employees report feeling engaged. However, that figure jumps to 59% engagement when a feedback program is in place.”
Turn feedback into action
However, as important as listening is, action is even more important. Employees want to provide feedback, but they care about organizations and managers taking action even more.
Engagement scores for those who feel their company turns their feedback into action really well, regardless of the frequency, is 80% – compared to 40% for those who feel their companies do not turn feedback into action “well at all” or even “slightly well”.
“You have to make sure you’re taking care of your people,” says Haley. “And that’s not necessarily just giving them higher pay and more benefits. In fact, after a certain threshold, paying people more doesn’t add to their overall happiness or engagement.
“One thing that does have a big impact is not only listening, but acting on feedback.”
Make your work environment as unique as your people
Haley says that listening and taking action is a huge part of an employees’ intent to stay: “It makes a big difference to people when you actually take their feedback into account and make their workplace unique to them.”
By asking for regular feedback and acting on it, you can ensure that your organization is continuing to move in the direction of understanding your employees and what exactly they want.
“Don’t assume what experience they want to have with your company,” advises Haley. “Many organizations have employee engagement programs that have stayed the same for years. Our listening programs should be changing to account for changes in the workforce.”
Get meaningful action
This means that your feedback program can’t be a one-off, one-size-fits-all program. You need to be continually revising and updating as your organization changes, because your people will be changing too. “Treat your people as individuals. And continually ask for feedback. It’s the only way to understand people's employee experience,” says Haley.
Haley recommends looking at your employees all across the board. “Maybe you have a decently engaged group, but if you really dig in and look at those who feel like you do something with their feedback versus those who don't, that's where we see a really big difference,” she says.
This is particularly important when you have a company that’s grown really quickly. “If you have 65,000 people at your organization, looking at them as a whole group isn't going to give you meaningful action. You have to drill down and see what matters to different groups.
There can be incredibly diverse types of employees within organizations. Haley gives the example of one of our recent clients – an oil and gas company: “They have nuclear engineers and then they have maintenance workers who have different backgrounds, different interests, different experiences,” she says. “If we assume they are all having the same experience, then we've missed the mark.”
Quick wins and long-term goals
A world-class feedback program that keeps people engaged and attrition low isn’t going to happen overnight. But there are things you can start doing in the short term while you lay the groundwork for future successes.
Assess your current feedback programs
This is a quick win that will pay dividends in the future. Make sure the questions are up-to-date. Are you really asking the questions that your people care about?
“That's a conversation I've been having with a lot of my clients recently,” says Haley. “Are our questions asking the right questions? Or are we actually showing our employees that we really don't understand their jobs? Or are we asking them things that don't really apply to them?”
How are you asking for feedback?
Does your company have mostly office workers who’ll find answering a desktop survey easy, or do you have a lot of frontline employees where they may never sit at a desk or interact with a desktop?
“A first quick win is to do an assessment of your current feedback tools,” says Haley. “If 80% of your workforce are on the shop floor then you’ll need your feedback program to be accessible via their cell phone. Unsurprisingly, if you don’t, you’ll see a significant drop off with engagement for frontline people.
Are you investing in the right tech?
Part of reaching the right people is using the right employee engagement (EX) software and technology. “It’s so important to hear every voice,” explains Haley. “Reach can be an issue. We often need to get creative in how we allow people to access technology and feedback tools.
“Some of my clients do some great work with focus groups and understanding communication preferences and styles of each of their different major groups of employees. Finding out how and where your people want to give feedback is crucial to participation.”
Get the right team in place
In the longer term it’s important to build a team who is equipped to handle employee data and employee feedback. “For many organizations, EX is just a side hustle,” says Haley “And their primary role is talent management or leadership development, which means they can't give all of their time to this. In the longer term, it will be crucial to have people dedicated to employee experience, so they can give it the attention it deserves.”
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