Implementing Change Through Employee Feedback
— August 22nd, 2023
"The Iceberg of Ignorance," a concept widely attributed to Sidney Yoshida, reveals that just 4% of front-line issues are known to top management, 9% to middle management, 74% to supervisors, but the full 100% to employees. This suggests that there is often a disconnect between top management and the actual experiences and insights of employees. And (no surprises here!) this leads to feelings of disenfranchisement among the workforce. But it also underscores the importance of tapping into employee feedback for a true understanding of organizational challenges and opportunities.
The Iceberg concept is said to have emerged in the late 1980s, and now, nearly forty years on, not much has changed!
New research sheds light on the reasons behind “The Great Resignation.” Nearly half of employees and 40% of executives surveyed say they don’t believe their feedback leads to meaningful change. Of those employees, a third (33%) are seeking new employment.
Implementing change is essential for organizational growth and competitiveness. It allows businesses to adapt to evolving markets, technologies, and customer needs, fostering innovation and sustainability.
Employees possess valuable insights gained from frontline experiences, enabling them to identify potential challenges, offer creative solutions, and provide a realistic assessment of proposed changes. Their buy-in and engagement are crucial for successful adoption.
Let’s explore the powerful relationship between employee feedback and successful change initiatives. By examining real-world examples and best practices, we will explore how soliciting and incorporating employee perspectives can enhance change planning, reduce resistance, and create a culture of continuous improvement. Understanding the symbiotic connection between employee input and change implementation is vital for organizations aspiring to navigate change successfully and achieve sustainable transformation.
The Power of Understanding Change Fatigue
Change fatigue refers to the cumulative weariness and resistance that individuals and organizations experience when undergoing frequent or prolonged periods of change. This exhaustion stems from the emotional and cognitive strain of adapting to new processes.
In 2022, the average employee experienced TEN planned enterprise changes - an increase of eight changes since 2016 - according to Gartner research.
So we can agree that employees today are overwhelmed and, in some cases, fatigued by constant change. This can manifest in a growing sense of cynicism and a collective doubt in the value of planned changes due to past experiences of unfinished or poorly executed initiatives. Secondly, the cognitive load of continuous change can hamper employees' ability to fully comprehend and integrate new processes, leading to errors and inefficiencies.
You can guess the results of this level of upheaval. Decreased productivity. Low morale. Increased stress levels. And ultimately, poor organizational performance and reduced employee engagement.
Addressing change fatigue proactively is essential to sustain organizational growth. Leaders must not only acknowledge but address and act on employees' concerns. Honest communication about the reasons for change and its benefits must be provided. Implementing changes gradually and allowing time for learning and adjustment can also alleviate the strain.
Employee feedback is an invaluable tool that holds multifaceted significance in organizational growth.
Remember, employees should not be viewed as workers who are simply “receiving the change.” Rather they should be recognized as active stakeholders in the process - helping to actually shape the change. Employees’ firsthand experiences and insights offer a unique contribution that can guide effective decision-making.
Soliciting and valuing employee feedback goes beyond mere data collection; it nurtures a culture of inclusivity and respect. This principle mirrors countless scenarios in everyday life. When people feel heard, they feel good about themselves. When employees feel heard, they feel more engaged and loyal to their employers. And as we already know, this can enhance productivity and innovation.
Feedback plays a pivotal role in fostering employee engagement and ownership of change. When individuals see their suggestions translating into action, they develop a sense of ownership in the organization's journey. It’s easy to detach from a process you do not feel involved in - less so when your personal suggestions and opinions have been woven into the plan.
To recap, a feedback-driven culture encourages open communication and breaks down hierarchical barriers. Bringing employees on board not only harnesses a wellspring of insights but also nurtures a sense of belonging, collaboration, and empowerment, culminating in a more resilient and dynamic workplace.
Building a Feedback-Friendly Culture
Building a feedback-friendly culture is paramount for organizational success. A culture that values open communication actively encourages the free flow of ideas, concerns, and suggestions. No tokenism here… no cursory “Of course, we welcome any comments” at the end of company presentations or internal emails without any real forum or dedicated system for facilitating a two-way dialogue. We are talking about creating an environment that genuinely empowers employees to voice their opinions - without fear!
Creating a safe space for feedback entails promoting active listening, emphasizing constructive criticism, and ensuring anonymity if necessary. Leaders must showcase receptiveness to feedback and acknowledge its role in growth. Referring back to comments and suggestions when taking employees through plans demonstrates to employees how their input is valued and leads to problem-solving and innovation.
Google and HubSpot exemplify the rewards of a feedback-centric culture. Google's "Googlegeist" survey solicits opinions, fostering a sense of ownership and camaraderie. HubSpot's "Culture Code" emphasizes feedback as a cornerstone, contributing to high employee engagement. The outcomes include enhanced teamwork, lower turnover rates, and a competitive edge.
Collecting Employee Feedback Effectively
Your feedback is really important to us! This form should take no longer than 3 minutes to fill out! Your opinion matters!
Sometimes, these requests can become background noise. That's why it’s essential to reinforce through multiple channels that employee input is valued.
Employing a range of diverse channels such as town halls, one-to-one meetings, focus groups, suggestion boxes, surveys, and pulse surveys ensures a comprehensive understanding of employee sentiments. Plus, employees can choose their preferred channel. Make giving feedback easy and accessible!
Crafting feedback questions involves specificity and relevance. No wasted space, please! We are looking for clear, unbiased questions tailored to garner actionable insights. Using Likert scales or open-ended questions can elicit valuable qualitative and quantitative data.
Anonymous feedback is somewhat of a double-edged sword… By removing the potential for confrontation or judgment, anonymous feedback encourages employees to share information on sensitive issues such as workplace conflicts, bias, or concerns about management practices that they might otherwise be loathe to disclose. This transparency in communication helps organizations gain deeper insights into the challenges, issues, and areas that need improvement. It unveils valuable perspectives that might not have surfaced otherwise.
However, there is also the capacity for misuse here - false information, malicious intent, etc. Not knowing the author or their position within the organization can make it tricky to address feedback properly.
Bottom line: organizations should encourage open dialogue and provide multiple avenues for employees to voice their opinions openly, as a combination of both approaches can provide a well-rounded perspective on organizational dynamics and enable leadership to follow up on feedback in a meaningful way.
Analyzing and Acting on Employee Feedback
Gathering the feedback is only the first half of the job - now for the hard work.
8 Steps to Successfully Extracting Meaningful Insights and Acting on Them
- Start by aggregating feedback from your various sources, such as surveys, reviews, and one-on-one discussions.
- Look for recurring themes, sentiments, and issues. Utilize data visualization tools to spot patterns more easily.
- Segment your data. Consider specific demographics, such as employee status, pay levels, and tenure. Patterns and trends can also emerge when examining and comparing different cohorts.
- Quantify your data as much as possible. When building out surveys, look for numeric scores as much as possible - this makes it much easier to express results and show improvements after future surveys.
- Categorize feedback into positive and negative aspects and then prioritize based on frequency and impact. By identifying the most pressing and common concerns, you can figure out the root causes.
- Establish connections between employee engagement/sentiment and business results. Integrate and assess your engagement data alongside essential information from your HR management systems.
- Record and benchmark all feedback and results
- Take action - and involve your employees. Involving employees in decision-making based on their feedback fosters a sense of ownership and engagement. Create forums like focus groups or cross-functional teams to brainstorm solutions. Acknowledge contributors and implement suggestions when feasible.
Microsoft acted on employee suggestions to revamp its performance evaluation system, leading to more holistic assessments. These instances underline the positive impact of heeding employee input, driving meaningful organizational changes, and improving overall employee satisfaction. In the past, Microsoft had a traditional annual performance review process that many employees found to be time-consuming, demotivating, and not conducive to growth and development.
This feedback prompted the company to reevaluate its approach to performance evaluations. The transformation of Microsoft's performance evaluation system based on employee feedback not only improved the overall employee experience but also contributed to a more innovative and agile organizational culture.
This example highlights how analyzing employee feedback and making strategic changes can lead to a more engaged workforce and positively impact company-wide operations.
Overcoming Resistance and Change Fatigue
What strategies can organizations employ to overcome resistance to change?
- Involving employees in the change process can create a sense of ownership and reduce resistance
- Provide comprehensive training and support to help employees adapt to new processes.
- Leaders should clearly articulate the rationale behind changes and emphasize the potential benefits to build buy-in.
- Regularly check in with employees to assess the impact of changes and make necessary adjustments.
- Transparent communications play a pivotal role in managing employee concerns during change. Throughout the process, be open about the reasons for change and potential challenges. Sharing progress updates and acknowledging any difficulties along the way will create a sense of unity and purpose.
“…as you begin to understand the fixed and growth mindsets, you will see exactly how one thing leads to another — how a belief that your qualities are carved in stone leads to a host of thoughts and actions, and how a belief that your qualities can be cultivated leads to a host of different thoughts and actions, taking you down an entirely different road.”
Carol Dweck, Ph.D.Stanford researcher and professor who coined the terms “fixed” and “growth mindset.”
Fostering a positive change mindset involves creating an environment where continuous learning is valued. In the workplace context, this translates to a supportive culture that values employee well-being and offers resources for coping with change. “Failures” are viewed as opportunities for improvement. Recognizing and celebrating small successes along the change journey enhances morale and motivation. And resilience, well-being, and positivity are prized above all else.
These combined efforts lead to a culture of adaptability and enable successful, sustainable transformations.
Case Study: Implementing Change through Employee Feedback WithPoppulo
Let’s take some inspiration from a global powerhouse and Poppulo customer - McDonald’s.
McDonald’s recognized that the success or failure of their three-year modernization program hinged on the buy-in of their two thousand franchise owners! To this end, they adopted a people-centric approach to business transformation. The IC team understood that the sheer magnitude of the project and the rate of change meant that franchisee feedback had to inform and drive the process.
To address the challenge, the communications team developed a dual approach, which involved consistent monitoring of franchisee sentiment through quarterly surveys. At the same time, they crafted a wide range of content customized to align with the anticipated shifts in owners' attitudes throughout the three-year initiative.
“This human, people-centric approach, allied to the hard data gleaned from the frequent polling analytics, resulted in what Emily Nichols of McDonald's called ‘creating content for every mood; formulating content based on audience sentiment’… and was a resounding success. “
How the communications team achieved success;
The success of the change process relied entirely on the complete alignment and engagement of the franchisees. McDonald’s honed in on the fact that these were real people who needed transparent, consistent communications throughout the three years.
Franchisee sentiment was assessed regularly. Surveys were disseminated via the Poppulo platform, and the insights gathered were subsequentlyutilized to shape the communication strategy.
Based on the feedback, the content was then refined accordingly. The communications team correlated sentiment with business priorities and the brand's operational schedule, ensuring the creation of timely, pertinent content - precisely when needed.
Resulting from this sentiment polling was one of the most ingenious and innovative strategies in the triumphant execution of the business plan: pairing individuals who had effectively executed the changes with those who were uncertain or encountering challenges.
The lesson learned? Maintaining a robust and transparent understanding of their audience's emotions, backed by data, guaranteed that the communications team won leadership endorsement for their people-centric strategy.
To learn more about this inspiring case study, listen to this webinar recording here.
Employee feedback emerges as a linchpin in the triumphant execution of change initiatives. It serves as a compass, guiding organizations through uncharted territories, ensuring realistic strategies, and uncovering unforeseen challenges.
The transformative potential lies in recognizing that employees are not just recipients of change but integral contributors to its success.
Furthermore, building a feedback-driven culture is akin to laying a foundation for perpetual enhancement. It transcends individual projects, fostering an environment where learning is continuous, innovation flourishes, and adaptability becomes second nature.
Solet’s harness the untapped power of employee feedback. By actively seeking, valuing, and integrating their insights, organizations can fortify their change initiatives. Embrace a feedback-driven ethos not just for momentary success but for a sustainable journey towards excellence, where evolution is driven by those who know the ground reality best – your employees.