Q&A with Julie Jeannotte, HR Expert and Researcher at Workleap

6 Mins read

Welcome to a revealing discussion based on the recent Workleap Officevibe study with our expert, shedding light on the intricate dynamics of employee feedback and engagement in organizations. Uncover key insights into the impact of high EX investments, the crucial importance of acting on feedback, and effective strategies for creating a feedback-responsive culture. Join us as we navigate through the study’s findings and delve into practical approaches for enhancing employee engagement and satisfaction.

Introduction and Context

Can you tell us about the recent Workleap Officevibe study and its findings regarding employee feedback and engagement in organizations?

The recent Workleap Officevibe study examined how organizations invest in employee experience (EX) and how this impacts key indicators like employee engagement, productivity and retention. The study found that the higher investments organizations make in their employee experience, the higher returns in productivity and retention growth. All in all, organizations investing more in EX have more positive perceptions of EX and see better performance across various KPIs than low EX investment organizations do.

Some key findings regarding employee feedback and engagement:

  • High EX investment organizations were much more likely to agree that they train leaders to provide meaningful feedback and have strong, open communication between employees and managers.
  • High EX investment organizations had far greater confidence that employee feedback is a significant indicator of overall business success (74% vs 39% for low investment organizations).
  • Employee engagement itself was the KPI with the largest gap in confidence between high and low EX investment organizations (76% vs 39%), reinforcing the link between EX investment and employee engagement.

Why is it crucial for employers to not only collect employee feedback but also to act on it? Can you elaborate on the potential consequences of not acting on this feedback?

Acting on employee feedback is crucial because it demonstrates the company is listening and values employees’ input. This action builds trust, which in turn increases connection, commitment and engagement. Conversely, ignoring feedback can breed cynicism, leading to disengagement and turnover.

Organizational readiness is key when using a tool to measure employee engagement. If an organization invests in employee engagement as an empty gesture to gain credibility with employees, the work is not worth doing. If you don’t plan to use the data you generate, communicate with employees about what you learn or involve your workforce in addressing the issues you discover, you’re better off not starting this process at all.

Let’s face it: No one wants to waste time providing insights that ultimately get ignored.

Julie Jeannotte, HR Expert and Researcher at Workleap

Data Collection and Employee Engagement

The study suggests that organizations with a low investment in employee experience use more methods to collect employee data but are less confident about its accuracy as an indicator of business success. Could you explain why this might be the case and its implications?

My sense is that they lack strategic focus. These companies are merely gathering volumes of haphazard data without context. Because of that, I always emphasize building capabilities to identify key EX metrics, collect quality data and derive insights from them. Too much data can contribute to more dissatisfaction and disengagement, but like I said earlier, what leads to a lack of engagement is when organizations fail to act on the data they collect. So my advice is this: Identify what your top level objective is, what your key results are, and then gather the data you need to inform those. That’s it.

What are some effective methods for collecting employee data, and how can organizations ensure the accuracy and reliability of this data as an indicator of employee engagement and business success?

First, you should look for scientifically validated methods for measuring employee engagement. Companies must let go of an “all vibes” approach to understanding engagement and embrace what science has to offer. Nothing’s more important than your people, so check in with them meaningfully and often — then use the results! 

Effective methods for collecting high-quality EX data include pulse surveys, stay interviews, exit interviews and regular performance feedback cycles. It’s also essential to have transparent processes for synthesizing data into insights, setting goals based on the data and tracking progress over time. Pulse surveys are designed to occur with much greater frequency than quarterly or annual surveys, and employers should develop a plan to prevent those insights from falling through the cracks.

Employee focus groups and advisory panels can also provide qualitative insights to supplement quantitative data. Above all – and I can’t stress this enough — organizations must close the loop by communicating findings and taking visible action to show employees the organization values their feedback.

The importance of action

How can employers create a plan and demonstrate a commitment to using employee feedback effectively to improve engagement and overall employee experience?

To create a plan for using employee feedback, start by getting leadership buy-in and communicating the importance of listening to employees across the organization. Develop processes for regularly collecting feedback through pulse surveys, stay interviews, etc. Then, set up cross-functional teams to analyze the findings and make recommendations. Leadership needs to set goals, allocate resources and track progress on making improvements from the feedback. Involving people managers is also key.

Could you share examples or best practices of organizations that have successfully implemented employee feedback into their strategies to enhance engagement and employee satisfaction?

A great example is a marketing agency we’ve been working with for years who’ve managed to maintain a 95% survey participation rate. Their CEO personally reads each piece of feedback, even with 100+ employees, and ensures managers are responding to the feedback. The CEO and other leaders share insights with employees in monthly town halls and make changes like new recognition programs. With this accountability starting at the top, leaders are showing they value employee voices in concrete ways. Then, they share responsibility across managers to keep the positive feedback loop always alive.

I view engagement as occurring on three levels — individual, team and organization. At the individual level, employees must understand their engagement drivers and take responsibility for voicing their needs. At the team level, managers must have access to engagement data about their direct reports and commit to taking action to improve it. Finally, at the organizational level, HR leaders should analyze company-wide trends, compare teams and spot opportunities to develop managers or address issues affecting multiple groups. A shared responsibility across all three layers — rather than putting the onus entirely on one —  is crucial. HR and leadership can enable managers and individuals to do their part, but a balanced approach across all three levels leads to the most significant impact on employee engagement.

Employee Disillusionment and Disengagement

What are the signs that employees may become disillusioned when their feedback appears to be ignored by their employers, and how does this affect their engagement and morale?

Signs employees feel an organization has ignored their feedback include declining survey response rates, lack of questions or input in meetings and negative comments. This disengagement can severely impact performance and retention.

What steps can organizations take to regain employee trust and engagement after a history of not acting on their feedback effectively?

I’m one to think that trust can be rebuilt but agree that it’s hard and takes time and commitment. To rebuild trust, leadership first needs to own up to past issues and acknowledge where things went wrong. Then, they need to communicate a new direction and consistently demonstrate follow-through on feedback. In time, employees will begin to trust again, when they see the positive implications of sharing their feedback. As always, leaders of all levels should invite input on challenges and provide transparency into actions taken.

Creating a Feedback-Responsive Culture

How can organizations foster a culture that values and prioritizes feedback from employees, ensuring that it leads to meaningful improvements?

Fostering a feedback culture requires role modeling from leaders, not just lip service from leaders saying they value feedback. Train managers to have regular check-ins and respond constructively to feedback they get from their team members. Also, create peer feedback opportunities, not just top-down. Have employees co-develop improvement plans from input and participate in implementation. Finally, make it safe to share feedback at all levels. One-on-ones meetings are a great vehicle for that.

I’ll add that action absolutely starts at the top, with leaders truly embracing the reality that people are the heart of the business. Business decisions must reflect employee feedback for people to feel their voices matter. The executive leadership team absolutely must and should empower managers and employees to share insights from their unique lenses. Make it a cultural belief, not just a box-checking exercise.

Future of Employee Feedback

What trends or changes do you anticipate in the way organizations collect and use employee feedback to enhance engagement in the future?

I expect the use of pulse surveys and regular performance conversations to expand to embrace a fully continuous engagement and performance approach. What I’m thinking here as an example are mechanisms and tech helping managers and their team members to continuously align on expectations and performance replacing formal performance reviews. We’ll also get more serious about ongoing feedback collection to help employees grow and learn new skills, in the flow of work. 

All that said, as more organizations incorporate technology to gather insights, they must remember to also prioritize keeping the human connection between employees and managers. Employee advisory panels will also grow to get broader qualitative input to complement data.

In your view, what are the key takeaways from the study that business leaders and HR professionals should consider when it comes to employee feedback and engagement?

The takeaway from our study is that while engagement may seem “fluffy” to many, treating it like science by investing in quality data and acting on insights pays real dividends in performance and retention.

Further Reading

Embracing Religious Diversity in the Workplace
The Art and Science of Employee Wellness Programs
Navigating Workplace Dynamics: Achieving Harmony Between Individualism and Collectivism

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