Once, feedback was only seen as offering value when it flowed downward. Today, we understand the folly of that idea. To be successful, managers need coaching just as much as employees.

However, it can be challenging for managers to ask for feedback. Whom do you ask? What do you ask them for? What questions should you avoid? Should you open the floor for all feedback?

Given how critical it is to create a two-way flow of information during check-ins, managers must know how, when, and where to solicit feedback from employees. In this guide, we’ll explore what you should know.

How to Solicit Feedback from Employees: A Manager Self-Improvement Guide

Make Feedback Part of the Culture

If you want to get feedback from your employees, you need to first make sure that it’s part of the culture. If not, you’re certainly not going to find most of your team members willing to put their necks out. At best, you’ll get no feedback. At worst, your people will tell you what they think you want to hear.

Neither of those is going to help you become better at what you do or create a stronger business. So, the first rule is this – intentionally build a culture that values open, honest feedback that flows both up and down the chain of command.

Consider Ditching Anonymity

You’ll find that most guides suggest that you solicit anonymous feedback. The idea here is that when employees are free from the fear of retribution, they’re going to be more honest in the feedback they provide. Here’s the catch – if your employees are worried about any form of retribution, you haven’t done a very good job of building the right culture.

You’re still immersed in a culture where punitive action can be expected from someone simply sharing their views and observations in an attempt to foster open exchange. So, if you cannot eliminate the anonymous suggestion box, it’s probably best to go back to the very beginning. Start with a deep, critical assessment of your culture.

Identify why your team members might be unwilling to provide feedback without the protection of anonymity and then address that issue. Once you’ve created a positive culture, you can solicit feedback directly without the need for people to hide behind an anonymous façade.

Ask the Right Questions

There’s a temptation to ask pretty basic questions of your employees. There’s nothing wrong with that, but they do need to be insightful. For instance, asking “What feedback do you have for me” is a pretty pointless thing. Instead, consider asking any of the following questions to gain insight into things that matter to your team:

  • If you were in my position, what one thing would you change immediately?
  • What have you heard our customers saying about the company?
  • What is the one thing you like least about your job?
  • What can I do to help you learn, grow, and develop in your position?

Then, use the information you unearth to dig deeper and to inform your actions and decisions moving forward. That brings us to our next tip…

Act on the Feedback Given

This one is pretty simple and should be a proverbial “no-brainer”. If you don’t act on the feedback provided, your employees are going to stop bothering. They know you’re just going through the motions. They realize all your talk about the open flow of information is merely lip service. They know that, deep down, you don’t care about what they’re sharing.

To change that, you need to do just one thing: act on the feedback you’re provided. If you don’t, there’s nothing that will change the situation. Your employees will just give up, realizing that it’s pointless. However, if you do act on the feedback provided and your employees can see you do so, you send the clear, unequivocal message that not only do you care what they think, but you see the value in others’ points of view and opinions.

In short, walk the walk. Don’t just talk the talk. Lead through action and service rather than empty words and platitudes.

Help Your Team Give You Feedback

While you might have an open culture that values transparency, it can still be a little unnerving to tell your boss what you think. You can do a lot to help your team members overcome that natural trepidation. One way you can do that is to create a team of so-called feedback coaches.

What’s a feedback coach? This is nothing more than an individual who is experienced in handling employee feedback, including grievances. They can help to deescalate worries and fears, make it easier for employees to provide feedback, help to clarify their thoughts, create more coherent messages, and more.

Follow Up

Previously, we touched on acting on the feedback you’ve been provided. In some cases, that’s all you need to do. However, in some cases, you might act but those actions may not be visible to the employee who provided the feedback.

In these situations, it’s important to follow up with the employee. Sit down with them and discuss what steps have been taken, what steps will be taken down the road, and more. This shows them that not only are you taking their feedback seriously but that you’ve already acted on it.

Building a Better Company

Soliciting feedback from employees offers a lot of value. It helps cement employee loyalty. It addresses grievances and problems. It shows that you care what they think and that you see the value in their suggestions. However, the real value here is that you’re able to build a stronger, more vibrant business.

You’re able to bring together a team that can weather all kinds of storms, from COVID-enforced remote working to industry shifts, and everything in between. But, without that strength, a seemingly-strong company can be swept away because it lacks inner solidity.

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