Making Plans for Next Year: Why Feedback and Candid Conversations Matter

Next year may seem like a world away, but from an annual planning perspective, it’s just around the corner. As we cruise into fall, many of us are thinking about annual planning for 2019. We’re assessing what worked well, what we’d like to do differently, and generally how we can better serve our employees.

As you’re revisiting your people strategies for the upcoming year, it’s a good idea to find out what your employees think. Employees can not only offer unique insight on how to best serve them, but they can even surprise leaders with their creative ideas on how to grow and innovate the business too.

But why is employee feedback so important anyway? How can candid conversations impact annual plans?

1. Your Employees Want to Feel Heard

This should be no surprise. Employees want opportunities to provide feedback and be heard within their organization. Just as important, they want to feel as though their ideas and perspectives are listened to and carefully considered by leaders. According to a recent study by SHRM, employees want to feel valued and included.

Even so, most organizations suffer from low employee engagement, as 87% of workers aren’t engaged, according to Gallup. This suggests that while employees want to be engaged, if they don’t feel heard by their organization, they’re unlikely to remain engaged over the course of their tenure at a company.

Thankfully, if you don’t know where to begin, getting started can be as easy as asking your employees three simple questions: What are you getting from me that you want more of? What are you getting from me that you want less of? What are you not getting from me that you want?

2. Open Communication is Essential to Job Satisfaction

With Hawaii’s low unemployment rate, improving communication between employees and management has never been a more relevant strategy in retaining top talent. In fact, it is essential to job satisfaction. According to a survey conducted by Energage, two-way communication is the largest differentiator in the top places to work.

Indeed, other studies have shown a clear relationship between levels of communication with an organization and job satisfaction. This is especially true for an employee’s communication with their direct supervisor.

Candid conversations can become a cornerstone of an employee’s relationship with their company, regardless of their role. Opening yourself to transparent, candid conversations with employees can build trust and increase job satisfaction, which can improve employee productivity, overall performance, and reduce employee churn.

3. Two-Way Feedback is Good for Everyone

It’s good to remember that feedback goes both ways. You want to be able to give your employees feedback on their performance so they can improve, and they want to give their organizations feedback, too. Additionally, employees are likely to have their own creative ideas about how to fix problems, introduce new products, or manage transitions.

Unfortunately, roughly two-thirds of managers are uncomfortable offering feedback to employees. They find candid conversations uncomfortable, at best, and terrifying, at worst. Most organizations don’t emphasize how important it is to have these candid conversations – and both employees and the company suffer as a result.

How to Gain Feedback for Annual Planning

So, now that you understand the importance of feedback, how can you actually gain feedback and take action on it? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you solicit feedback, have candid conversations, and ultimately use what you learn to inform your plans:

  • Give everyone the opportunity to share feedback. If you’re in a leadership position, it may be tempting to have a few conversations with your direct reports. But it’s essential to hear what everyone has to say – at all levels of the organization. You never know where the next great idea will come from.
  • Develop a system for collecting feedback. Don’t collect feedback in a willy-nilly fashion. Instead, develop a system and schedule for collecting feedback so that you can quantify it. Consider setting-up one-on-one conversations, leader lunches or even exploring survey software tools such as SurveyMonkey, 15Five, or TinyPulse. You can even offer incentives, such as gift cards, to encourage participation.
  • Strategize on how to use feedback to inform annual planning. Once you’ve collected feedback, make sure you have a strategy in place for how you’ll use it to inform annual planning. You might need to break down the feedback by category or job function to make it as useful as possible.
  • Complete the loop with your employees. Finally, take time to communicate how feedback was collected and interpreted, as well as which actions took place because of it. This reinforces that the business took action, making employees feel valued and encouraging future feedback.

When it comes time for annual planning, you want to gain feedback that can help you chart your course. Maybe you need to roll out a new product or maybe you need to iron out inefficiencies.  Maybe it’s your people strategy that requires a little extra TLC.

Whatever it is, if you want to make positive changes for next year, collecting and analyzing employee feedback can be a critical component in your planning process. Tapping into employee insights through feedback and candid conversations can revolutionize how your business serves employees, spark new and interesting ideas, and make your employees feel trusted and valued.

This post is part of a special blog series on ‘Building a Healthy Feedback Culture' in support of ProService’s Growth Series event taking place on September 19, 2018 . Offered exclusively to ProService clients and special guests, the Growth Series are interactive learning experiences that feature industry-leading speakers and networking opportunities that will inspire and provide tools for business leaders to take their organizations to the next level. To register, please visit our event page and register with code GS2018.

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