Feedback is essential to growth — but asking for it can feel pretty darn awkward. And even then, ensuring that the feedback is open and honest isn’t always easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! With these tips and tricks, you’ll be well on your way to receiving top-notch feedback in no time.
1. Earn the right to ask in the first place
The first (and most important) step in getting honest feedback is to have your employees’ trust. Fostering a positive relationship with mutual respect is the name of the game. If someone feels pressured into giving feedback to their boss, there’s a risk of them saying what they think you want to hear instead of the real deal.
Earning your employees’ trust is an ongoing responsibility. Before you request feedback, ask yourself things like:
- How can I phrase my questions to encourage transparency?
- Could I be doing more to actively gain their trust?
- How can I communicate that this is a safe, consequence-free zone?
Creating a sincere connection with your team is important for all facets of your working relationship, so don’t be afraid to prioritize it. Getting transparent feedback on how you can grow is just one of the bonuses!
2. Make the purpose of your request clear
Imagine this: You’re going about your day, minding your own business, and all of a sudden, your boss appears out of the blue asking how you feel and what you want out of your career. Odds are you’re going to feel a little caught off-guard.
To make things easier, prep them ahead of time. If your organization regularly requests feedback, make that clear in the onboarding process. Stay transparent with your team about how you use their feedback, and remind them why you’re asking for their input in the first place:
- Their opinions are valid and deserve to be heard
- Their feedback can help you grow
- Their feedback can help THEM grow
- You care about their wellbeing
3. Allow space for anonymity
Some people are totally comfortable having an open conversation about how their organization can improve. If you’ve created that kind of relationship or environment, you’re probably good to go. If not, it’s probably because some people are just more comfortable staying anonymous.
Know your audience, and understand that sometimes the most transparent feedback comes from anonymity. To make sure everyone is comfortable speaking up, give the option to remain nameless — you’ll probably be surprised at the amount (and quality) of the feedback you receive.
Try addressing anonymous feedback in a way that lets the employee who sent it know you heard them, and you are taking the feedback seriously. This might mean setting up an anonymous messaging system or addressing the company as a whole. However you do it, confirming that you received (and appreciate) the feedback will help anonymous employees feel comfortable coming out of the shadows for future conversations.
4. Be vulnerable
Vulnerability can be a scary word to a lot of people, and it’s totally normal to feel that way. That said, being vulnerable lets your employees know where you’re at, and it’s a great way to build their trust. This is especially true for entry-level employees who may be struggling to come out of their shells. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable with them not only strengthens your relationship, but also demonstrates emotional integrity at work.
- Let your employees learn about you while you’re learning about them. Ask things like:
- What their professional goals are
- The kinds of projects they’d like to be working on
- What their passions are
- What they’d like to improve on
- How the company can support them
The secret to making them feel comfortable giving you this info is you telling them your own answers to these questions! Whether it’s during your Quarterly Conversation™ or a one-on-one meeting, consciously breaking down communication barriers with them will help them have a real, human conversation with you, leading to better feedback.
5. Create an open-door policy
Some feedback can be difficult to give. Very few people are going to chase down their supervisor to air their grievances. It’s difficult, stressful and not something many people look forward to (but shoutout to those who like tough convos). The easier you are to access, the more effective feedback you’re going to get from your team.
Consider taking it a step further and regularly reaching out to team members yourself. Regularly touching base with them can help alleviate stress on both sides, and it gives you a good foundation for asking for feedback in the future. The more you communicate with your team about how they’re doing, the more normalized it becomes to give (and receive) honest feedback.
6. Have regular follow-ups
Have you ever left a conversation and immediately thought of a million things you wish you had mentioned? When combined with the pressure of giving feedback to your boss, imagine how many things could accidentally be left unsaid by employees!
When seeking feedback from employees, keep the conversation going. Send them an email thanking them for their insight, give a recap on what you discussed and ask if there’s anything else they’d like to talk about. Let them know you’re available if they’d like to continue the conversation. Be easily accessible, and let them know you’re on standby for any additional meetings.
7. Don’t wait until the exit interview
Waiting to ask for feedback until an employee leaves is like asking your ex what they were looking for in a partner. At that point, it doesn’t matter anymore. Don’t wait until it’s too late to improve your employees’ experiences at your company. Getting insight from people who are leaving is fine, but make sure you’re putting the effort in while they’re there, too!
Not all employees will stay at your organization forever (and that’s okay!), but facilitating a healthy environment while they’re with you is a far better approach than waiting until it’s too late.