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Why Employee Feedback Needs to be a Loop, Not a Line

One of the most common requirements in job postings is good communication skills. But are companies failing in their own internal communication strategies?

communication crises

No matter what the role, it seems good communication is sacrosanct in the workplace.

Must be a strong communicator. Excellent communication skills required. Must possess superior written and verbal communication skills.

The examples above are all taken from real job postings looking for, in correlating order, a maintenance technician, a business analyst and a process scientist.

It seems that whatever other skills these roles demanded, having the ability to communicate with colleagues was something of an essential, even urgent requirement.

Which begs an interesting question:

If communication is such a crucial skill for employees to bring to work, why are so many businesses failing to offer better communication strategies in the workplace?

Research suggests that 60% of office employees would like more feedback on their work. For employees under the age of 30, that figure rises to 72%. And despite the fact that employees want it and managers recognise its value, only 30% of surveyed office workers actually reported that they receive any feedback at all.

Confronting the Communication Crisis

So what’s happening here exactly? Why is creating a more effective communication strategy not top of each and every company’s priority list?

Well the reasons for poor company communication are many. Let’s take a look at a handful of them.

1. Not enough time

Office managers are a busy bunch with hectic work schedules. So is just about everyone else. A calendar full of meetings and a daily workflow of multi-tasking can make it all but impossible to offer employees the feedback they need to develop their skills and increase productivity and performance levels. At least that was the case…

2. Traditional one-way approach

The prevailing feedback trend in the corporate environment is the annual review. This sees managers and employees meet face to face for a performance appraisal. As their title suggests, annual reviews are a rare occurrence. One of the big problems with this system is that there’s bound to be too much to say and too little time to say it. The actionable details get lost in a broad, sweeping performance overview.

The other major stumbling block is how narrow the focus of the communication is as the manager offers one-way feedback and sets new goals and KPIs. Can this really provide any effective mutual benefit? For 77% of HR executives, the answer is no. So why keep doing it?

3. No communication or feedback system in place

Companies in which the formal annual review is customary are extremely unlikely to have in place a system that facilitates ongoing feedback that would support ongoing employee development. In this sense, it could be argued that the standard annual review system is actually counterproductive since it limits growth.

Facing the Consequences

Have you ever been involved in a conversation with a friend or a stranger where you felt you were just being talked at rather than talked to? Did you feel like sitting there listening to them babble on all day, or did you start thinking about socially acceptable ways to make a hasty retreat?

poor communication

Why would things be any different in a professional environment? When communication is poor and employees are neither receiving valuable feedback nor feel their own feedback counts, then employee engagement levels tend to drop. As we’ve explored in previous articles, when engagement drops, it sets off a destructive domino effect in which staff morale suffers, productivity decreases and employee turnover sky-rockets.

For small businesses with limited resources, every single hire is vital. Start-ups must be in a position to maximise their employees’ potential by offering them instruction, encouragement, the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them, by creating a culture of collaboration where knowledge is shared across teams instead of held in inaccessible silos.

Change in the Air – Giving Employees a Voice

Yet things are changing when it comes to how companies communicate.

It seems that the shoe is now firmly on the other foot as it is employees who are actively asking for more open, regular and valuable communications in the workplace. In fact an overwhelming 80% of modern-day workers favour instant or regular feedback over the outdated format of annual reviews.

Part of the reason for this is that the younger workforce – who are well used to instant feedback and gratification – simply need it if they are to feel a sense of purpose and potential for growth.

Related Article: How to Create a Fantastic Feedback Loop Within Your Company

And big businesses are taking note. Huge international banks such as Goldman Sachs, Citi and JP Morgan have all invested resources in improving their communication and feedback strategies. IBM have also announced changes to their feedback system in order to accommodate the needs of the new millennial workforce.

360-Degree Employee Feedback: Seeing the Full Picture

The focus is now on creating 360-degree feedback loops that allows employees to hear what managers, colleagues and even customers have to say.

Receiving micro-feedback from multiple points helps foster a culture of collaboration in which ideas are exchanged across departments; advice and support is offered; and learning becomes continuous.

Companies that employ regular feedback enjoy an employee turnover rate that is 15% lower than those that do not. Such regular feedback not only engages employees, it also encourages innovation. The next great leap forward for your business could come from a voice just waiting to be heard.

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