How To Improve Your Employee Feedback Structure: 13 Tips from HR

What is one way HR can improve their employee feedback structure? 

To help your business improve its employee feedback structure, we asked HR leaders and CEOs this question for their best insights. From starting with expectations to making feedback an ongoing leadership requirement, there are several ideas that may help leadership teams improve on and maintain healthy employee feedback structures.

Here are 13 tips for improving employee feedback structures:

  • Start With Expectations
  • Begin Asking Questions
  • Leverage Feedback for a Successful Culture
  • Focus on Personalization
  • Ask About Business Initiatives
  • Incorporate Employee Engagement Tools
  • Give Clear Feedback Regularly
  • Let Senior Leadership Model Behavior for Employees
  • Use Concise and Positive Language To Educate Regularly
  • Invest in Developing Effective Feedback Skills
  • Add Succession Planning to Employee Feedback Structure
  • Increase Participation by Demonstrating Results
  • Make Feedback An Ongoing Leadership Requirement

Start With Expectations

Employee feedback systems are most effective when they are grounded in clear expectations. Communicating to employees what good looks like before entering into formal or informal feedback conversations has many benefits. 

Setting expectations makes it clear to employees where the bar for performance is. When it feels like the bar is moving all the time, feedback feels unfair and frustrating. When employees are aligned with what they are working toward, feedback becomes guidance along the way toward an agreed upon goal. Additionally, it mitigates unconscious biases that can enter feedback systems, like performance reviews. Research shows that having clear and consistent criteria for success in performance review is the most effective way to have a fair outcome. 

Rachel Kleban, Human Resources Consultant

Begin Asking Questions

Every business wants a thriving employee feedback structure, but most organizations start with designing a workflow or even buying a tool. After initial success, employee feedback dwindles and so it must be the fault of the tool or to buy another tool, or re-design the process. In most cases, this experience is due to the lack of feedback culture. Establishing this takes more time and effort but will eventually lead to a continuous feedback process. Ask yourself this:

  • Why do we want a continuous employee feedback culture?
  • What will we do with the feedback from our staff? Especially if we are not able/willing to implement some suggestions?
  • Who will gather the information? Who has access to this information?
  • What value does employee feedback have in our organization and how is this communicated & by whom

There is so much more to this topic, but the answers to these questions might help you decide where to take the next steps.

Reinhard Guggenberger, Executive HR Consultant / VPHR of Soaring Fox

Leverage Feedback for a Successful Culture

You may have heard the term "Feedback Culture" in recent news articles or blog posts.  A feedback culture empowers employees to share their opinions without fear of consequences or a risk of being viewed as a brown noser.  Creating a feedback culture is critical to a positive org culture, but achieving it may be difficult if you have not traditionally encouraged opinions or feedback sharing.  Creating an environment where people feel open to share feedback starts with HR.  The HR department should create an open environment where they educate employees to share feedback with their peers and managers openly and to take credit for the feedback they provide.  HR often receives information that must be kept private, but not all feedback should be anonymous or private.  Teaching employees and leaders when it's OK take credit for their feedback is a critical first step to the whole organization's success when working towards a Feedback Culture.

Cassandra Pina, HR Manager at Shaw Systems Associates

Focus on Personalization

More and more organizations are coming to the realization that hyper-personalization is the cornerstone for helping all employees thrive. Given that, a recommendation for more effective feedback mechanisms at the individual level is to immediately acknowledge receipt of their feedback and stress the importance of them continuing to do so. Additionally, keep in mind that while every specific recommendation might not be feasible, it is important to focus on the big picture and consider alternatives that will satisfy their needs as well as the company's needs.

Jarik Conrad, VP, Human Insights of UKG

Ask About Business Initiatives

One way to improve the feedback structure would be to expand what we ask employees to provide feedback about. Don't just ask employees about their personal opinions and feelings. Instead, consider soliciting insight from employees who have ideas about innovative ways to drive business continuity. 

Start by inviting employees to have a conversation and connection point (not just fill out a form) with someone who will listen; and discuss ways from their perspective to improve processes or seek suggestions from them before launching a new initiative. Taking time to gain feedback from employees about processes and plans that directly impact the work that they do is a way to show value for their contributions. Also, engaging with employees impacted by a proposed change beforehand will mitigate disengagement risks and provide a sense of connectedness and belonging for the team.

LaShawn Davis, Owner and Founder of The HR Plug

Incorporate Employee Engagement Tools

In order to facilitate more employee feedback, HR should invest in employee engagement feedback tools or platforms. When you incorporate engagement tools that facilitate employee feedback, you're making it easier for your employees to share their thoughts. The easier you make the feedback process, the sooner your team can become stronger and more productive. So take action today, by doing your research to find the best engagement feedback tools for your organization and take the steps necessary for successful implementation.

Ed Stevens, Founder and CEO of Preciate

Give Clear Feedback Regularly

Many companies have a feedback structure that involves annual reviews. However, these aren’t necessarily helpful to employees because feedback can come too long after it was relevant, allowing employees to continue to make the same mistakes instead of knowing what they can improve. Changing your feedback structure so that managers can provide clear feedback, both positive and negative, to employees when it’s most useful can not only help employees to better understand expectations but also improve an employee’s effectiveness much more quickly. The same goes for employee feedback for HR. Employees should feel free to offer feedback to managers and HR in the same manner so that everyone can improve.

Dave Rietsema, Founder and COE of Matchr

Let Senior Leadership Model Behavior for Employees

Senior leadership models the employee feedback structure. Consider how senior leaders answer a difficult employee question or comment during an Employee All-Hands Meeting or other meeting. Can an employee respectfully share an opposing point of view or ask a pointed question without being minimized? Other employees and leaders are always carefully watching and will act accordingly to be consistent with the norms of the organization.

Scott Baker, Founder and CEO of Stage 3 Leadership

Use Concise and Positive Language To Educate Regularly

Employee feedback decreases turnover, increases productivity and growth for both the manager and their team. To improve it you have to be C.L.E.A.R 

  • Concise: Don’t beat around the bush. Use a standard template so that the feedback outline is the same across the org. 
  • Language: Not just what you say but how you say it.
    Using positive & inclusive language can build bridges that lead to connection or barriers of separation.  
  • Educate: Feedback should always be a learning process that leads to a plan based on what was presented.  
  • Acknowledgment: Recognition of effort & impact goes a long way. 
  • Regularly: Create a regular employee feedback schedule. Check-ins w/ monthly connections & 90 day reviews leave little room for guessing whether an individual is on track. 

Khalilah Olokunola, Chief People Officer at TRU Colors

Invest in Developing Effective Feedback Skills

A strong feedback structure fosters a growth mindset and creates a feedback-safe environment. HR can work towards improving their organization’s feedback structure by providing training on both delivering and receiving positive or corrective feedback. Delivering and receiving feedback is a skill that needs to be developed and practiced to support a strong feedback structure.

Such training for managers should include situational examples of feedback situations, effective communication techniques, goal setting, and how to navigate feedback resistance. At the same time, all employees should be informed of the value feedback provides and trained on how to receive feedback effectively through listening techniques, understanding the message, and reflecting before responding.

Chloe Hart, HR Manager at MH Management

Add Succession Planning To Employee Feedback Structure

Roughly 63% of people cited a lack of: clearly communicated career advancement opportunities and internal development resources as their reasons for leaving their most recent employer in 2021 alone. Aligning a feedback structure with succession planning, and even core values, will influence and promote clearly defined and standardized performance metrics, more meaningful conversations surrounding professional development, goal setting, and allow for organizations to adjust their internal learning resources accordingly. 

By synchronizing these two initiatives, organizations and their workforce will be able to create attainable and quantifiable strategies which align perfectly with any future-focused success initiative.

Nikki Steel, Talent Acquisition & Human Resources Manager at Prager Metis CPAs

Increase Participation By Demonstrating Results

A feedback structure is only as good as the results that come out of it. If employees see consistently there is no action as a result of using the system they will quit participating. That in mind, for any successful feedback structure there needs to be demonstrable action and results that come from the feedback employees give. When the team sees that their feedback actually matters, increased participation shortly follows.

Steven Brown, Recruiting Manager of Pivot Workforce

Make Feedback An Ongoing Leadership Requirement

Many executives have a fear of giving direct feedback. The way to ensure it becomes part of the corporate culture and everyday habits is to simplify the objective-setting process with a few objectives (3 -4) and direct ties to business results. This will send the message that it is a critical but quick milestone and not a long process with too many objectives which can’t be measured.

Also, make feedback an ongoing leadership requirement and deliver it in real-time. These are coachable moments and cast a leadership shadow. This way it is not episodic and avoids the 'I have my review coming up' with surprises. Include behavioral objectives if needed but get feedback from key stakeholders. And make talent reviews less subjective with metrics. Are they an exporter of talent across the enterprise? Have they built a strong and diverse team? Do they show an enterprise purview and help their peers become successful?

Bill Glenn, Executive Chairman at Crenshaw Associates


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