3 Things to Consider When Choosing Your Employee Communication Tool
As many employees are shifting from working in an office to working remotely, many employers are trying to find ways to open communication and get feedback from employees, and for good reason. As we disconnect from our familiar office spaces, it's important to stay connected and offer effective, easy to use lines of communication to employees. Here are just a few statistics and narrative reasons.
A recent Wharton Business School article explores why anonymous feedback is such an effective tool for improving company culture – it empowers conscientious employees to bring their full capabilities to bear on improving the company, without fear of reprisal.
A Harvard Business Review (HBR) article specifically outlined that when asked to submit feedback, anonymity is the number one concern for employees. When employees are certain that their feedback will remain anonymous, they are not only more likely to submit honest, productive feedback, they are likely to submit it more often. This is the type of positive communication cycle that can quickly help employers take an employee-driven approach to improving workplace culture.
78 percent of people who text wish they could have a text conversation with a business.
44 percent of employees want a wider adoption of internal communication tools
According to a study performed by the Watson Wyatt, business with effective communication practices were more than 50% more likely to report lower employee turnover compared to industry average.
The cumulative cost per-worker per-year due to productivity losses resulting from communications barriers is about $24,000.
A recent poll by Gallup showed that 70% of U.S. employees do not feel engaged at work. One way to get employees engage is to ask for their feedback.
A series of Forbes studies on employee engagement suggests that finding ways for employees to thoughtfully express themselves can have across-the-board benefits for a company, including improved employee retention and increased discretionary effort on the part of employees.
The list of good reasons for instituting an anonymous feedback line are extensive, but I’ll spare you with these few.
Everyone has blind spots. It is a fact of being a human. That is why bright managers and supervisors thrive on feedback. If you don’t know about a problem, it is impossible to fix it. It goes with the adage: If you can’t handle some scrutiny, you shouldn’t be a leader.
The Center for Creative Leadership cites that people are generally more honest with anonymous feedback. That is why their 360 instruments like their Benchmarks for Managers doesn’t indicate specific answers by direct reports and others that have completed the surveys. Are the managers able to take the information and improve? Yes, and Yes again. But don’t take my word, give them a call.
I have been working with VoiceSifter (a company that offers an anonymous texting line) for a year and I have found some insights that may be useful to others.
First, some of the people I work with state that they think an anonymous line encourages people to dump bombs without taking any responsibility. That a texting line will identify more problems for HR and managers to respond to.
These can be legitimate concerns. However, there is another aspect to these that you should look at. First, do most employees have the skill, ability, and courage to go to a boss and give them negative feedback. And, ever more so, do you expect people to go to a boss who is aggressive, harsh, and unyielding and tell him or her unpleasant feedback.
Yes, they can always go to someone else. But what if it is someone new or someone unsure.
Put yourself in their shoes. If I were in their shoes, I’d first want to test the water. And a great way to do this is with an anonymous feedback line. Such a line can give employees the opportunity to register something and see how management or HR respond.
I have found that many times if the person sees that management is taking the issue seriously and they are going to protect responders, the person decides to self-identify because they feel safe. Without a feeling of safety no one will report abuse, fraud, other violations, or give any type of feedback.
Does an anonymous texting line raise more concerns? For arguments sake, let’s say it does. For example, I receive a message the other day about Skittles. I didn’t respond to it at first because I figured it was a prank. When I did respond, the person stated that there wasn’t anything wrong, they just wanted to test the line for the future.
If we look at the above where an old hand may not want to make waves, and you have them whether you believe it or not, when do they finally come to you? Usually, it is once the problem becomes massive. Then you have 40 hours of work putting everything back together, instead of 10 to prevent the situation from growing too big.
Why do we believe prevention and early intervention are best practices until it comes to employee feedback, and then we only want to give them a single option—tell us face to face. To me, it is a great ideal, just not practical, just not the real world.
Giving people options makes them feel heard. It shows you trust they will pick the choice that works best for them. And usually when people do this, they make it work.
The major difference I see between the 800 number were someone calls in and a third party takes the call is that once the call is done, you are done.
With VoiceSifter’s texting line, you can interact and find out more information. It is problem solving the way it should happen. As an added benefit, the system gives you a way to track, document, and manage cases.
I have started to use the line in two different ways.
I have started to ask individuals who have completed workshops I have presented to text me ideas and skills they have applied from the training to increase their effectiveness; make their organization money, or save their organization money.
Will I be able to use this information even though it is anonymous? Certainly. But, better yet, I’ll be able to enter a discussion with them about what they applied, how, the impact, and could they help others use the skill to get the same results. Plus, the information could end up being invaluable to my customer.
I have also started to use the line to as about feedback on my leadership skills.
I currently have an assignment where I am leading 9 people. The other day I asked them to tell me 3 – 4 strengths and 1 area where I could improve or do better. I also explained that I subscribe to my own advice I give in training: That psychologist have discovered that it takes about 5 positives to overcome any one negative. So, in receiving my feedback, I don’t want to overwhelm myself.
Stay posted for what I learn and how I apply it. Personally, I look at the information more that who is saying it—that is what keeps me growing.