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How can HR lead feedback implementation by managers?

Organizations with strong cultures encourage ‘trust building’ by improving one of the core metrics; the ‘employee experience’. Research supports that when employees feel heard at work, they are nearly 5x more likely to put in their best effort and show better retention rates.  Surveys are a great and convenient way to gather feedback and understand how your team members are feeling and what they want from their organizations.  Sound interpretation of feedback and corrective actions will enhance employee experience while misinterpreting the results or failing to act on the feedback may have an adverse effect on employee morale. However, interpretation is not enough. HR needs to make it easy for all employees, especially the people managers to implement the feedback

A survey is mostly designed and conducted to gather employee feedback on various metrics like satisfaction with the current job, leadership, commitment towards the organization, overall engagement, morale, etc. When administered effectively, surveys can throw insightful data around particular departments/business units, allowing leaders to improve the overall workplace culture and employee job satisfaction.  Furthermore, with the information gained from these feedback surveys, HR leaders can build strategies to help motivate employees and increase their overall experience.

Despite the fact that the majority of organizations understand the importance of gathering team feedback through surveys, a lot of surveys and more importantly, the ‘intent’ behind conducting those surveys fall flat for a variety of reasons. 

Reasons these surveys fail

  • Lack of conviction in conducting surveys: when conducting surveys is yet another item on the checklist and leaders as well as employees do not see it as something significant.
  • Lack of planning and communication: When there is no or minuscule planning behind the launch of any survey and very limited information is shared with the employees.
  • Poor design and length of the survey: Not much heed is paid to the design of the survey; either they are very long or very short.
  • Lack of people manager’s involvement: People managers are not aligned with the core intent of conducting surveys.
  • Lack of leadership buy-in: When business leaders do not lend their full support to make it an organization-wide activity.
  • Lack of measurement and inability to take any action post-survey: it is critical to showcase the results of the survey otherwise, surveys would lose their luster over a period and will be deemed as another redundant HR item.

Why are managers unble to implement the survey findings?

Once the surveys are rolled out and feedback is gathered, it’s been observed that many managers remain unsure about the data utilization. This article will mainly focus on some of the reasons why people managers fail to act on team feedback surveys and how HR leaders can salvage the situation and help them implement the feedback.

  1. Lack of understanding: Sometimes, managers may not understand the real purpose of conducting surveys and thus, the surveys are rolled out in haste. Managers remain skeptical about ‘the need’ to conduct the survey and look at it as yet another HR initiative. They do not know ‘what to do’ with the feedback provided by their team members and therefore no constructive remedial action is taken. 
  2. Time constraints: Managers are often busy with multiple responsibilities, which may lead them to not having sufficient time to review feedback survey results thoroughly. As a result, they may prioritize other tasks over taking action on the feedback received.
  3. Lack of resources: Managers may not have the necessary resources or support to take action on the feedback. This often happens when the top leadership is not aligned with the purpose of conducting surveys and does not lend its full support. As a result, managers may not have sufficient budget or authority to make significant decisions.
  4. Resistance to change: Some managers may be resistant to change or feel uncomfortable making changes based on feedback. They may prefer to maintain the status quo or may not be confident in their ability to implement changes effectively.
  5. Fear of negative consequences: Managers may fear negative results from taking action on the feedback. For instance, what if the desired result is not achieved and senior leadership doesn’t approve of the actions taken?
  6. Non-collaborative approach: When managers do not include their team members during various stages of survey rollout, chances are high that the intervention will be a failure. This can be linked back to the classic Hawthorne study which showed that when the supervisors were actively engaged with employees – talking about their job and implementing employee suggestions as they worked, employee productivity was better. When employees feel that their voice is being heard they will care more about their workplace and contributions.

In summary, there are several factors that could contribute to managers failing to act on team feedback survey results. Addressing these factors can help ensure that managers are more effective in addressing feedback and improving team performance. 

How can HR help managers implement feedback?

HR leaders who are the real custodians of survey design and implementation can take several effective steps to help managers implement feedback, such as:

  1. Communicate the importance: HR leaders can emphasize the importance of feedback and its impact on team morale, productivity, and retention to the people managers. They can also communicate the adverse consequences of ignoring feedback.
  2. Including managers in the design phase: Survey creation shouldn’t happen in a siloed manner, rather HR leaders must involve people managers and make them aware of the nature and content of the survey. Surveys shouldn’t come as a surprise to managers rather should be tailored in conjunction with managers and their views around it. 
  3. Make surveys appealing to the managers: Ascertain the reliability of the survey being rolled out i.e., ensuring that your survey is measuring what it purports to measure. Do a pilot with the managers before rolling it out organization-wide. Furthermore, check the relevance of the questions in the survey as well as the length of the survey, it shouldn’t be either too long or too short.
  4. Provide training: HR Leaders can provide training to managers on how to interpret feedback and take action on it. They can also offer resources and support to help people managers address feedback.
  5. Hold managers accountable: HR leaders can hold managers accountable for addressing feedback by setting expectations and regularly following up on progress.
  6. Foster a culture of feedback: HR leaders can foster a culture of feedback by encouraging regular feedback exchanges between managers and team members. This can help normalize the practice of addressing feedback and make it a part of the team’s culture.

It is important that people managers start acting on their team survey results. Any survey will only become effective when something constructive and concrete is done with the feedback obtained. HR leaders can certainly make this entire experience highly relevant and smooth by involving people managers in the process and helping them implement the feedback. Utilizing survey feedback correctly will facilitate a cultural shift where employees’ opinions are heard and their experience is enhanced.

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