employee feedback

A Startup Guide to Creating an Employee Feedback Strategy

Latest posts by Nate Harwood (see all)

Startups can be high-pressured environments, with world-changing missions that inevitably encourage staff to work incredibly hard. It’s probably no surprise that the average tenure at a fast-growing startup is just two years, several years less than the market average.

High levels of staff turnover can be disruptive and very expensive. It’s also particularly challenging to replace staff in a market where the war for talent is fierce. Increasing tenure is more important than ever and this means that organizations of all sizes need to listen to employees and act on their feedback. In this article, we discuss how you can develop an employee feedback strategy that works.

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Step 1: Decide what questions to ask.

It can be difficult to know what to ask, but at the heart of it, you want to know what’s working and what’s not. And that’s why we suggest keeping your first survey simple, by just asking three questions:

    1. On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend [company name] as a place to work?
    2. What do you like about [company name]?
    3. What could be improved about working at [company name]?

The first question provides an employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), which is a strong indicator of satisfaction and loyalty.

The other two questions help answer the “why” behind eNPS. We’ll tackle how the responses to these questions can deliver actionable insight later in the article.

If your company is large, say, with 15 or more staff, then it may be worthwhile to include a couple of segmentation questions, too. We suggest capturing team name and the length of time they’ve worked at your company.

The key is to create a survey that provides you with insight that can drive change. It’s also useful to keep some questions constant, such as eNPS, as this will enable you to track satisfaction over time. Once you’ve decided on what questions to ask, you can use a free solution such as Microsoft Forms to create your survey.

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Step 2: Collect honest feedback.

Humans have a natural tendency to try to fit in. And although this has helped to ensure our survival for millions of years, it can be a major barrier when it comes to collecting honest feedback.

If employees know that feedback can be traced back to them, then responses will skew toward what they think managers want to hear. This means responses could miss out the difficult to talk about, yet important issues, that may be holding your business back.

To help combat this, personal identifiers should be avoided, and staff need to be reassured that their feedback is anonymous. If the survey includes segmentation questions, such as team name, then always include a “prefer not to say” option. You may also want to consider a provider who can independently distribute your survey and collate its results.

Of course, developing a culture where everyone believes they can speak up, will also encourage honesty – not just across employee surveys, but in day-to-day communications, too. And that’s better for everyone. Google’s Project Aristotle found that psychological safety was the most important factor behind a team’s effectiveness.

Step 3: Avoid survey fatigue.

Rather than a once-a-year approach to collecting employee feedback, we recommend checking in with staff every three months. This allows you to be proactive in responding to issues, which is particularly valuable at firms where average tenure is low.

But how do you keep response rates high?

Survey fatigue can be a concern, but from my experience, the issue is overblown. Employees are keen to share their feedback if they know that you care enough to listen and act upon it. You can demonstrate this by presenting findings to employees, along with any changes that are being made in response to the feedback. This communicates that your organization is invested in its people and that their voices are being heard.

Another tip is to keep the survey short and therefore less intimidating, by only including questions that are purposeful. A quick way to sense-check whether a question is useful, is by asking, “What can I do with this information?”

Step 4: Generate meaningful insight.

Congratulations on collecting your first employee feedback! The next step is to turn this into something useful.

We’ll start by examining the responses to eNPS: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend [company name] as a place to work?”

Depending on how this question is scored, group individual responses into the following categories:

  • 9-10 – Promoters: Happy and motivated
  • 7-8 – Passive: Mostly happy, but not passionate enough to recommend
  • 0-6 – Detractors: Dissatisfied and wouldn’t recommend

These categorizations will be used alongside responses to the second and third questions (see Step 1) to identify what matters most to your employees:

For promoters, what do they like about working at your company? Some common themes should stand out. These are the key drivers that are helping to make your organization an employer of choice. You want to nurture and celebrate these strengths.

For detractors, what would they like to improve? Feedback should reveal opportunities where you can have a material effect on employee retention and acquisition. Some may even be quick wins that can deliver almost immediate results.

After you’ve completed your first survey, the findings should provide ideas for future questions that are more specific to your business and allow you to explore key themes in more detail.

There are many employee insight solutions available, such as New Possible, that can automate the above process for you and deliver benchmarkable insight across a range of themes, including satisfaction, wellbeing, and fatigue.

Key takeaways

Sometimes it can be difficult to know where to begin when it comes to employee feedback. But this shouldn’t put you off. Starting with a simple approach, such as the one outlined above, can help startups tap into a rich vein of insight that can be used to improve employee engagement. And numerous studies have shown that this can be incredibly beneficial to revenue growth and ultimately profit. It also means less time replacing talent and more time building a business that employees and customers alike really love.

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