With employee engagement and satisfaction gaining unprecedented momentum in terms of organizational success, what employees think matters a great deal. Employee opinion or the perceptions, attitudes, and views of employees are becoming increasingly sought after. Several forward-looking organizations no longer believe in a monologue where only the leadership offers feedback and instructions. Rather, there is a shift of focus to include employee opinion in an attempt to transform the organizational culture to make it more inclusive and offer a sense of belongingness for the employees.
Unbiased employee opinion: The route
While organizations are acknowledging the importance of employee opinion, their approach to getting the same is often broken and resembles a mere tick in the box. Annual employee satisfaction surveys are no longer enough to gauge the true pulse of what your team perceives. Here are a few ways to gauge authentic employee opinion which can make a dent in your organizational culture.
- Ask the right questions: To begin with knowing what to ask is the first question organizational leadership needs to answer. Handing out questions like “On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your experience at work” is something you should avoid. While it may be a fancy data point to show in your annual employee experience report, it will not help you evolve. At the same time, leading questions where there is a connection between the two should be left at bay. This is simply because the connection will lead employees to leave behind their opinion and give in to the judgment of the next question.
- Decide the format: Secondly, the format is as important as the content of the questions. This refers majorly to the way you will gauge employee opinion. On the former, you could choose between anonymous vs signed opinion. Anonymity, in general, has more chances of an authentic opinion because these views cannot be held against a particular person. Also, a decision needs to be made whether you wish to gain insights in a group format or more of a personalized setting. Here, the latter makes more sense as employees might shy away from sharing their opinion in a larger setting.
- Conduct an expectation setting: To get unbiased employee opinion, it is important to help the employee understand what you are looking for. Put simply, there needs to be a comprehensive and robust expectation setting covering different aspects. Firstly, there should be clarity on how the employee opinion has to be shared with a guarantee of confidentiality. Additionally, the whole narrative around what the expectations are from the employees should be clear. Secondly, employees must know the objective or the goals that the survey/interview seeks to accomplish to give an opinion that can truly drive results.
- Regular not annual: Finally, unbiased employee opinion requires regular updates. Getting perspectives on something that happened six months ago can never be authentic. Therefore, there needs to be consistency in gathering employee opinion, both in terms of the frequency as well as the objectives. This does not mean that the objective of every employee opinion effort has to be the same. Instead, there should be some continuity and relation between the first and the next to illustrate to the employees that their opinion really matters.
Leveraging employee opinion
For long-standing transformation in the organizational culture, gathering unbiased employee opinion is the first step. Next, the onus lies on managers and leaders to act upon what employees say and spearhead change. Here are a few ways to take the leap.
- Be constructive not defensive: It is important to know that not all employee opinions will be rosy and positive. Especially if you decide to go the anonymous way, criticism is bound to surface. The right approach to deal with the same would be to be constructive about it. Instead of being defensive about something an employee shares a negative feedback on, make an attempt to bridge the gap by analyzing what actually went wrong. While not every criticism needs to be acted upon, some might actually lead the way for a positive change.
- Share results and next steps: Any collection of employee opinion without next steps will be a waste of time and energy, both for the management and employees. Therefore, every exercise of gathering employee opinion must be followed by sharing of results to transparently communicate the pulse of the organization as a whole. This must be accompanied by potential next steps to build credibility in the whole process. The objective is to build confidence in the employees that their opinions are actually leading to transformation with concrete steps.
- Repeat the exercise: Finally, gathering employee opinion cannot be a one time thing. Rather, managers and leaders must repeat the exercise after implementation of the new practices that result from the first set of opinions. This will help gauge if the needle has actually moved in real terms by seeing change in employee opinion. Simply implementing changes without putting them to test with gauging employee opinion again will yield unsatisfactory results.
Employee opinion matters
If you look closely, employees are one of the biggest stakeholders for any organization and therefore, their opinion needs to be taken seriously. Additionally, employee opinion is not only an imperative to gauge employee pulse but also a means to facilitate engagement and satisfaction. Whenever employees feel their opinion matters, their engagement and belongingness quotient is bound to rise. They feel they have a say and their sense of ownership increases. However, it is important to understand that value lies not only in gathering employee opinion to show their perspectives matter. Rather, there needs to be a concentrated effort to act upon the opinions and make a real difference.