A recent Wall Street Journal article suggests a developing connection between anonymous feedback surveys and real employee happiness.
Anonymity is the secret to these new tools’ success, according to tech columnist Christopher Mims’ article, “Bosses Use Anonymous Networks to Learn What Workers Really Want.”
Insights from anonymous employee feedback are changing corporate culture one suggestion at a time, according to Mims.
The irony? The rise of this constructive, successful anonymous feedback-gathering is coming exactly at a time when anonymity has a bad rep.
“On the Internet, it’s a given that anonymity often leads to the worst kinds of behavior,” Mims writes. “But human behavior is a funny and context-dependent thing.”
In the ecosystem of a workplace, anonymity actually helps! Read on to find out why, and to learn how companies with anonymous feedback-gathering apps have used them to boost employee happiness.
Feedback That Gets to the Heart of Engagement
Employee happiness is no longer seen as a bonus. It is now understood to be the driver of sales.
This shift in perception is radically changing how companies assess and act on employee happiness.
Consider these sobering statistics from Entrepreneur contributor David Nilssen’s article, “Ignoring Employee Morale Will Cost You. Here’s the Solution:”
- 20% — The revenue-growth difference between companies with motivated vs. unengaged employees.
- 87 % — How much more likely disengaged employees are to leave.
- 21.4 % — The cost, in percentage of an employee’s annual pay, to replace him or her.
An “improved information flow between employees and managers” keeps everyone on top of engagement issues before dissatisfaction spirals out of control, according to Nilssen. But an “open-door” policy only goes so far.
“The truth is few employees will be completely honest and forthcoming to someone who controls their livelihood,” Nilssen writes.
Anonymous engagement surveys, “cut through the fear and give leaders the valuable, direct feedback they need to know when problems arise.”
employee happiness & The Freedom of Anonymity
Anonymity elsewhere can lead to cruel behavior, but in the context of a workplace, employees are grateful for the opportunity to raise issues and solutions they might otherwise be reluctant to bring up. It fosters a culture of communication, problem-solving and respect.
Some companies also use feedback apps to collect anonymous questions from employees.
“If you’re sitting around all your peers in a meeting and your CEO says, ‘Anybody got a question?’ it’s pretty darn intimidating,” Samantha Zupan, Glassdoor’s head of communications, told the Wall Street Journal.
Glassdoor is a model for how anonymous feedback can change workplace culture. The website is a forum for eight million anonymous evaluations of more than 400,000 companies, allowing job seekers to case out an employer before agreeing to work there.
“That’s forcing companies to deal with problems internally, before they become fodder for public discussion,” Zupan said.
The new feedback apps also allow for easier, more frequent assessment.
Earls, a Canadian chain of 65 restaurants, used to do an annual survey of its workforce (up to 8,000 employees during peak season!).
Now Earls sends out short surveys to employees’ mobile devices at least every three months, according to the Wall Street Journal. The survey software is engineered so employers “couldn’t de-anonymize them if they tried.” The company has been using the collected data to improve day-to-day working conditions based on employee feedback.
Keep Asking, Sharing, and Acting on Gratitude!
TINY pulse provides anonymous employee feedback applications software. In a client case study on its website, the company illustrates how important it is to collect feedback anonymously, and then act on feedback, share survey results and show gratitude to employees for their insights.
The client, the COO of a nonprofit, initially met with employees face-to-face and asked for candid opinions on the organization. The response were “fairly positive.”
However, after baseline TINYpulse survey responses came in, he was floored! It was obvious employees had tempered their original in-person feedback. He quickly saw only tepid levels of employee happiness. And, with subsequent TINYpulse surveys, he realized a good deal of employees felt undervalued as well. It became obvious that only with anonymity did colleagues feel the freedom they needed to be completely honest.
As a leader, it’s not comfortable for employee unhappiness to take you by surprise — but this COO turned the jarring revelation into immediate action! He brought up the survey results honestly at the next employee meeting and opened up a discussion for suggestions on improvements.
“By quickly taking action on some of those suggestions, our client was able to show that he valued employee feedback and was committed to improving the work environment step-by-step,” according to TINYpulse.
The data you collect on employee feedback is only as powerful as what you do with it. If employees don’t sense that leadership is taking action on feedback, the quality of feedback with diminish over time — and so will employee happiness.
So, to reach the full potential of employee happiness, ask anonymously, act immediately and be sure to thank employees face-to-face for their honesty!
For more great tips and insights into building a vibrant culture of engagement and recognition, be sure to download our free e-book, “The Top 20 Employee Engagement Blogs You Should be Reading.”
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