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Feedback as Fuel: Using Employee Feedback to Boost Profits, Performance and Engagement

Remember the days when your boss sat you down for your annual review, and you exchanged feedback that would’ve been really helpful, say, six months prior when it could’ve actually prevented problems? 

Or maybe you both knew a process, approach, or formality was a waste of time, but you waited to hash it out at your annual, biannual, or quarterly meeting, when such exchanges were slated to happen. Again, we’re talking about discussions that would’ve been helpful weeks or months earlier, before you took a wrong turn or sunk a ton of time, effort, and company money into a broken process.

Can you imagine a marriage where you only got to discuss pet peeves, ideas, kudos or issues with your partner a couple of times a year? You’d be headed for divorce court in no time. It’s no wonder infrequent employee surveys or evaluations are going the way of the dodo bird: extinct. Fruitful relationships — whether at work or at home — hinge on ongoing, two-way communications that result in positive change.

WHAT’S at STAKE

Before we go any further, let’s get clear on what meaningful employee engagement is or isn’t, and how it impacts your bottom line.

“Employee engagement isn’t about showering your workers with office perks to make them happier,” writes Santiago Jaramillo for Emplify. “It’s about appealing to their deep-seated motivations to draw out true engagement that produces better work, culture, and profit,” he explains.

That kind of engagement pays in big ways, say Gallup researchers, spawning documented improvements to:

  • Customer ratings
  • Profitability
  • Productivity
  • Employee turnover
  • Safety incidents
  • Theft
  • Absenteeism
  • Quality

To be more specific, Gallup reported companies with highly-engaged employees achieve 22% greater profits, 21% higher productivity, 25% lower employee turnover, 37% fewer absences, and 48% fewer safety incidents.

And investing just 10% more in employee engagement practices can generate a $2,400 annual profit boost per employee, reports Incentive, a media channel focused on performance improvement. 

It makes sense: Employees who feel valued, value their employers and their work’s purpose tend to stick around for the long run, go the extra mile for customers, generate better ideas, and bring other top talent with them. Capturing their input and doing something meaningful with it are foundational steps in cultivating a workforce that’s happy to go to work, routinely give their best, and put money in everyone’s pockets.

HOW YOUR PEERS DO IT: A STACK OF CASE STUDIES AT A GLANCE

How do you cultivate engagement? We’ve read through a stack of case studies and selected a few to highlight below, illustrating how 11 employers are capturing and responding to employee feedback.

We’ve condensed details to key tactics and outcomes to help you consume them at a glance.

Yelp

Outcome: 70% engagement rating

Tactics:

  • Annual, global employee engagement survey.
  • Quarterly pulse surveys.
  • Manager feedback surveys.
  • Onboarding and exit surveys.
  • Survey feedback drives department-specific, engagement action plans.
  • Leadership panel or forum-style sessions to address feedback and invite discussions.
  • Feedback and outcomes shared with organization for greater accountability.

 

IM Flash

Outcome: 50% reduction in employee turnover

Tactics:

  • Leadership interviews led by external consultant.
  • Employee focus groups and surveys deployed to discuss, clarify, and drill deeper into feedback.
  • Feedback used to drive key changes: flexible work arrangements, flexible PTO, career growth opportunities, on-site gym.

 

Arctic IT

Outcome: 20% boost in employee happiness score

Tactics:

  • Short and frequent anonymous surveys across remote offices to involve employees in company changes.
  • Ability for employees to anonymously upvote issues that matter most to them, submit questions or suggestions.
  • Employees encouraged to nominate peers for rewards via a survey, and describe how the behavior they are celebrating match company values.
  • Survey results streamed to a live feed, where other employees can chime in.
  • Employee feedback used to steer company priorities and changes.

 

CHG Healthcare Services

Outcome: Ability to predict and prevent performance problems a year in advance

Tactics:

  • Frequent employee surveys.
  • 360-degree assessments (feedback on managers by their supervisors, peers, subordinates).
  • Early intervention and mentoring when managers receive low feedback scores (low scores were found to correlate with poor team performance 12-14 months later).

 

Hubspot

Outcome: Faster issue identification and resolution among large engineering teams

Tactics:

  • Online channel where individuals and managers can speak freely in a non-group setting.
  • Directors and project leads read through all conversations each week and respond to concerns.
  • Weekly “High Five”: Every team member is asked if anything happened that’s worth calling out. High-Fives are then celebrated among team.

 

Stryker

Outcome: Early identification of top leadership talent and mentoring of lagging leaders

Tactics:

  • 360-degree assessments (feedback on managers by their supervisors, peers, subordinates).
  • Top-scoring managers were found to excel in soft skills, scoring 25% better in developing others, team-building, fostering collaboration, integrity, effective communications — all while delivering better operational results.
  • Results followed up with individualized coaching, feedback and development opportunities.
  • Employee engagement assessments to understand individual behavior and engagement.
  • Individual performance evaluations by immediate supervisors.
  • Succession planning assessments.

 

Airbnb

Outcome: Greater empathy and belonging

Tactics:

  • Bi-weekly world meeting and live stream.
  • Weekly meetings at local offices.
  • Weekly executive team meeting, with notes distributed to every employee within 24 hours.
  • Intranet featuring company news, employee celebrations, and dedicated pages for each employee and office.
  • Employee experience teams in just about every Airbnb office, responsible for internal culture, communications, employee recognition, celebrations and events.
  • Onboarding process focused around company values and ways of working.
  • Company-wide meetups and regional gatherings.
  • Engagement surveys.

 

Metropolitan Police – Kingston

Outcome: Doubled crime solve rates and reduced community complaints by 59%

Tactics:

  • Clarified vision and success metrics with senior team.
  • Engaged managers around shared vision, and introduced a reward and recognition program for officers.
  • Allowed junior officers to sit in on management meetings.
  • Formed Borough Improvement Teams, which gathered feedback from staff, and gave them access to senior leaders to act on findings.

 

DigitalOcean

Outcome: Increased engagement, with more than 40% of new hires coming through employee referrals

Tactics:

  • Full engagement survey (“The Tide”) every six months, with check-ins (“The Current”) in between.
  • Three onboarding surveys:
    • First week: operational/tactical focus
    • 30 days: meeting the right people, having the right conversations, feelings about job
    • 90 days: goal-setting, feedback conversations with manager
  • Buddy program for new hires, based on onboarding survey feedback.
  • Results shared with leadership and all employees.
  • Action plans posted on intranet to drive accountability and results.

 

Catholic Health Association (CHA)

Outcome: 70% increase in employee engagement scores 

Tactics:

  • Employee survey to kick off engagement effort.
  • Series of leadership development meetings to address survey findings and gather additional feedback.
  • Annual employee engagement surveys.
  • Results shared with employees, and action plans developed from them.

 

Etsy

Outcome: 85% engagement rating

Tactics:

  • Anonymous employee surveys.
  • Survey results shared through multiple channels.
  • Follow-up meetings to discuss findings and takeaways.
  • Leaders and managers discuss department-specific results with their teams, and resulting changes.
  • Feedback used to drive organizational changes.

 

THE SOCIAL MEDIA MAGNIFIER

We don’t have to tell you about the power of word of mouth to build or bury an employment brand. Beyond performance and retention, engaged employees can also be your best recruitment tool as their work impressions bleed into their digital habit: social media.

Nearly 3 out of 4 recruiters have made successful hires through social media, says Jobvite, and 59% hires made through social media are considered as high-quality.

Encourage employees to share job openings and their positive experiences with your company on social media, writes Mindi Rosser for Smarp. “Invest in the content employees put out there and inspire them to start discussions around your company as an employer.” Bonus: Less money spent on ads and greater credibility.

 

YOUR NEXT STEPS 

Where do you go from here? Jaramillo at Emplify has a simple suggestion: Ask your employees. Often. Employees want to feel they have a say and stake in the game, and that requires more than once or twice-a-year polling.

As we’ve seen in the above examples, Jaramillo advises you measure employee engagement with regular check-ins, diagnose issues, discern appropriate action steps, and just as important: solve problems. “Beware of surveys that result in loads of data, but no real action plan,” he warns. “There’s no point in gathering employee feedback in the first place if it’s not going to help your company productivity, revenue, and retention in the long run.”

As you figure out how you’ll gather feedback, note that many of the real-life examples covered earlier include the option to submit input anonymous or remotely. That’s important for greater participation and more honest feedback. In any case, different people prefer different formats, so do offer a variety of ways for employees to be heard.

Feedback is fuel for talent acquisition and retention, stronger performance, and a more profitable brand. After all, “what’s good for your employees,” Jaramillo concludes, “is also good for your business.”

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