Anyone reading this is likely aware that it’s getting tougher by the day to maintain a reliable and well-functioning workforce. The Great Resignation, as it’s called, has led to consequential human resource ruptures across almost every industry. And though the sheer number of people leaving one job for their next career stop is mind-boggling (for example, estimates for November 2021 pegged the total at 4.5 million for that month alone), workers have sought out greener pastures since the dawn of work.
For the past seven years, I’ve worked with a long roster of business leaders across the United States helping them solve their worker retention challenges. From pay to poor training, there are many reasons people quit a job. Yet, in my experience, few things help minimize worker turnover than the creation, and continual maintenance, of a feedback culture.
By proactively and regularly seeking out worker feedback, employers are able to gain clarity into the wants and needs of their workforce and address those matters in an effort to create a healthier company culture while also minimizing costly worker backfilling. The list of business benefits that come from establishing and nurturing a feedback culture is lengthy, but here are five that are universal across all sectors.
Promotes a sense of being valued
If you’re never asked how you’re doing, chances are strong you’ll never feel truly valued. It’s a fairly simple concept, but it’s actually quite powerful. When you ask your employees how they feel about their work experience, it will immediately send a signal that you care enough about them to take a moment to hear them out.
Most businesses have some sort of exit interview, wherein employees are asked on their way out the door to give their feelings and impressions of a particular work stint. But that’s too late. Exit interviews are essentially an autopsy. They are too little, too late, and they don’t do anything to remedy situations at hand. And we know that once employees are out the door, they no longer have skin in the game to make things better. Conversely, asking for (and then taking actions based on) feedback promotes a sense of being valued, and employees who are shown that they’re valued typically value doing their best at work.
Gives you the chance to remedy issues early
Though a particular event can be the last straw that drives an employee to say “that’s it, I quit,” most workers don’t just up and leave a job because one bad experience. The vast majority of the time, they quit after an issue (or issues, plural) have gnawed at them enough that they’re ready to seek out new employment. Asking for feedback can help leaders learn of these issues long before they’ve festered to the point of an employee walking out the door.
I often discuss a feedback culture with a health care metaphor: When it comes to your health, you can wait to go to the doctor until a minor issue becomes a major nuisance, or you can proactively schedule annual wellness visits to your primary care physician. It’s the difference between taking our vitamins, or needing a painkiller later on. Feedback is proactive. Just like you should avoid corrective health care fixes when preventative options are readily available, you don’t want to find out about workforce problems when it’s too late to do anything.
Provides opportunities to engage 1-1 with workers
If your managers only meet with their reports for 1-1 reviews annually, then you’re just skimming the surface of what employee engagement can do for your business. Besides it being simply impossible to fit a year’s worth of meaningful dialogue into an hour-long conversation, very few workers see those conversations as opportune moments to broach — and then find a remedy for — the problems they’re encountering.
When you seek out feedback on a more frequent basis, you’ll be able to deal with individual matters as they arise instead of hearing about them all at once. Asking for feedback also gives you more chances to engage with your employees on a personal level.
Ultimately, more frequent interactions support the notion that management actually cares about their employees. A once-a-year conversation feels like an HR requirement. A weekly check-in, however, feels like you give a damn.
Consider the previous three points written above. If you have employees who feel valued, whose issues are sought out and addressed regularly, and who get the chance to openly communicate with management at frequent intervals, then you are likely to enjoy a smaller turnover rate than you would otherwise. It just makes sense.
The benefits of less frequent turnover are far reaching, but no downstream impacts are as important to your business than minimizing the work disruptions that come with continuous employee backfilling and the amount of money saved by having a smoothly running business with a steady workforce. When an employee quits, his or her team immediately suffers a productivity loss, not to mention the financial cost to replace them. A business with high turnover rates will never function at its highest capacity, and you will never be as financially stable as you can be when you’re throwing lots of money into never-ending recruitment.
Feedback + actions = a place people want to work
The only thing you can do worse than never asking for feedback is asking for feedback and then doing nothing with it. But when you do solicit feedback regularly and then actually take appropriate actions based on what you hear, you will not only keep many of your employees from leaving, but you’ll also create a work environment that people will want to work in.
Imagine that: During this time of HR upheaval, you could not only stem the flow of workers leaving, but also reverse the flow by having people seek your business out as the best place to continue their career. It’s possible, and I’ve seen it happen with multiple employers across the country, including our own.
Heard workers are happier workers
There are no silver bullets when it comes to retaining workers. Maintaining a workforce of fulfilled employees starts long before a new hire’s first day, and there are seemingly countless variables in the “happy” equation. But if you want to better your chances at keeping your team on board, the best thing you can do is start listening. Heard workers are happier workers, and the first step you can take toward hearing them is asking for their feedback.