One of the more slippery areas we look at when we’re assessing the internal communications landscape of an organization is two-way communication. Specifically, how their employee feedback works internally.
It’s one of the areas that most organizations we work with, on the first ask, claim that they have established. On deeper inquiry, things usually get a bit shaky …
Basically, there are two broad necessities for a well-functioning system for internal feedback: tools and culture.
The tools are honestly the easiest part of this particular puzzle. Depending on the type and size of the organization you’re working in, more or less formal methods might be a more natural fit, such as town hall meetings or weekly check-ins. It’s important to develop more than one method if you’re looking for a variety of perspectives, however. Your options run the gamut from a simple anonymous suggestion box to a plethora of purpose-built feedback apps and software tools.
The lion’s share of the work is everything that goes into establishing a culture of feedback where it’s currently lacking. It’s entirely in the realm of our most difficult internal communications task: changing behavior.
Here are a few suggestions of ways that you can encourage a culture that fosters rich, multi-directional feedback:
Like so many of our internal communications tasks, we’re dead in the water without executive buy-in. If you’ve secured that, work with your leadership to not only encourage active feedback but to model it — both receiving and giving, positive and negative.
Managers definitely need training for how to deliver useful feedback, and many HR departments have built this into their programming. On top of this, there’s a great opportunity to include training for employees (particularly in onboarding, where they’re focused on learning the culture) on how to effectively seek and offer feedback.
Unfortunately, many people may find feedback akin to confrontation, and so the prospect of engaging with a feedback culture takes on a stressful overtone. Resilient employees are better able to manage and move through those feelings and normalize the behavior. Even better, you can help your workforce establish that resilience.
IC Thrive CEO, Rob Nikkel wrote a great blog post on this very topic that touches upon how small daily acts builds a company’s overall resilience — check it out!
Address the issue clearly and make the changes where possible. If your organization’s leadership cannot commit to an action plan and objective, then your employee feedback culture simply won’t take hold. Make it safe, and be transparent about choices and/or changes that are being made based on feedback. Make sure that the feedback that has been asked for is regularly addressed in your internal communications programming.
Last but not least, the easy part. Once the hard part of creating a feedback culture is underway, you need to make sure a structure is in place. While you’re setting up your cultural foundation, make sure that by the time you start actively seeking feedback, you can support your people in the ask.
Since we’re on the topic of employee feedback, how good are your skills at communicating bad news to staff? Whether it be about serious matters such as wide-ranging layoffs or something as trivial as no more kitchen snacks, here’s how to communicate bad news as an internal communications professional.
Erin Raimondo has been working in communications for more than a decade. Starting out in public relations, she moved through agency work, corporate communications, and a quick pit-stop in marketing project management, to find her home in internal communications. She sees internal communications as a powerful tool to make a positive impact on the people that make up organizations. Erin is currently working as a communications specialist advising on internal communications best practices.
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