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Tips for Developing an Employee Feedback Program

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 2/11/2011

The challenges of competition and the prevalence of highly skilled knowledge workers has raised the scope and importance of employee feedback programs. Read on for tips to develop an employee feedback program.

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    Employee Feedback Program Employee feedback helps organizations in many ways. Employees being in the front line of core organizational activity, have a first hand knowledge of products, processes, and the extent of customer satisfaction. Such feedback therefore, becomes invaluable to improve products and services, streamline internal systems and processes, and gauge the efficiency of the company’s HR department and other interventions. Employees may also offer creative or practical solutions to problems and bottlenecks, oblivious or overlooked by the management.

    Employee feedback programs also projects the image of a caring and responsive organization, motivating employees and encouraging them to take on ownership of their work with greater commitment. Giving feedback also indirectly promotes employees to put in their best effort, for usually only people who master an area of work can provide good and relevant feedbacks.

    Image Credit: flickr.com/Sean Savage

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    Open Culture

    The basic prerequisite for developing an employee feedback program is an open culture that values feedback and does not punish or victimize employees for providing blunt criticism as feedback. An open culture usually allows open feedback, with anyone allowed to offer feedback to anyone else, without much rules, restrictions, or protocols. A closed culture, on the other hand institutes a rigid and formal system of feedback mechanism, and adopts a closed door policy regarding receiving feedback.

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    Define Scope and Purpose

    The basic requirement in establishing an employee feedback program is defining the scope and purpose of the program. Management needs to communicate the purpose, for which the feedback will find use, and the type and nature of feedback that will be entertained.

    For instance, management can limit the feedback to process improvements, and specify that it would not entertain complaints of a personal nature or suggestions regarding the final product. Another application can be employee surveys that for instance, limits itself to ascertaining the level of satisfaction with the company's HR services and benefits administration.

    One important clarification required is whether all employees cutting across designations and departments can offer feedback on a subject, or whether specific feedbacks are restricted to specific employees, usually on department, seniority, and designation considerations.

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    Clear Guidelines

    A good employee feedback program should have clear guidelines that covers the following aspects:

    • The accepted form of feedback, such as whether oral feedback would be considered or feedback has to be sent in written form only. Good feedback systems allow online submissions, with acknowledgment of receipt. Still better, is that of employee feedback software.
    • An overview of how the feedback system works, such as who receives the feedback, how management considers the feedback, and the timeframe within which the feedback will be considered.
    • Parameters on which the feedback will be assessed for possible implementation.
    • Clarity on issues such as time limits for sending feedback. Whether one employee can send multiple feedbacks, and other rules.

    A good practice is for the company to send a note of reply to the employ after processing the feedback, detailing the points that would find implementation, and the points rejected, with reasons. Experience suggests that most employees do not mind their suggestions rejected for a good reason. The feedback program however, can lead to a serious loss of morale and resentment if management simply chooses to ignore the feedback, or selects and rejects feedback on an arbitrary basis.

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    Rewards and Recognition

    One best practice that contributes to the success of any employee feedback survey process is instituting a system of rewards and recognition for the best feedback. The reward can be a small gift, such as a memento or a lunch coupon, and recognition can be an acknowledgment in the company newsletter and corporate intranet. Such reward and recognition encourages more feedback and feedback of a higher quality, besides instilling commitment and motivation for the employees.

    A hidden danger with such rewards and recognition however, is the resentment of employees who lose out, or whose suggestions are not accepted. This can also lead to charges of favoritism, especially if the management does not explain the rationale behind selecting the feedback for the prize.

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    Other Best Practices

    Ethical considerations suggests that unless the employer provides advance intimation of providing open publicity to the feedback, the feedback needs confidentiality.

    The information contained in the feedback should not find use against the employee in any way. Using the feedback provided by the employee to assess performance standards, or question loyalty is against the basic ethical considerations, and would also create long term resentment and loss of morale among the workforce.

    A properly constructed employee feedback program serves the twin purpose of allowing the organization to make optimal use of its workforce, and serving as a powerful motivational tool.