Three risks of more frequent feedback - and how to deal with them

Today’s world is very noisy. Everyone has an opinion and they’re willing to share it on multiple platforms. At the same time, the art of listening is suffering. Not necessarily because we don’t want to listen, but because the sheer amount of information can be overwhelming. It’s tempting to stick your head in the proverbial sand instead.

Organisations are facing the same struggle. The shift from the annual big-bang approach to employee feedback towards pulse surveys and polls has a lot of positives, but more feedback does not necessarily mean better feedback. And unlike dealing with the relentless onslaught of online opinions, simply switching off is not an option. For your organisation’s new employee engagement approach to be truly effective, the changes in how you gather feedback must be matched by changing how you plan for it, process it, and respond to it.

Can more feedback actually be a bad thing?

It’s easier than ever to collect feedback from employees – if you really wanted to, you could probably launch a survey right now. Technology has made it simple and cost effective to request feedback more frequently; it’s now easy to pulse check how initiatives and changes are being experienced in real time. However, we also see real risks in this approach if a more frequent feedback approach isn’t properly handled.

Feedback fatigue: Organisations need to be respectful of the time and effort it takes to complete surveys. If employees feel bombarded they may simply provide cursory answers or worse, not respond at all.

Disillusionment: One very common – and very concerning – complaint we hear from individuals is that nothing ever changes. There’s a disconnect between providing feedback and experiencing positive change as a result of it.

Overreaction: When analysing feedback, it’s important for leaders to understand where employees are providing consistent signals versus where there are temporary fluctuations in engagement. Pulse surveys might send up red flags prompting an over-reactive response when, in fact, the overall trend is positive.

Making frequent feedback work

Many organisations have already made the switch to a frequent feedback model, the challenge is now to make it work. Simply rolling out the technology isn’t enough – the next step is thinking strategically about how to gather, manage, and respond to regular employee feedback in an organised and structured way.

We’ve identified three focus areas that will help make frequent feedback a success:

  • Get the ‘what’ the ‘when’ right: When it’s possible to ask for feedback on anything at anytime, it becomes more important than ever to put careful thought into how your organisation deploys this technology. Of course there’s no one right answer to when and what should be asked. Our normative frameworks and benchmarks help organisations to organise their survey activities to gather the real insights they need to drive strong engagement.
  • Create the cultural context: There’s no getting away from the fact that how feedback is given and received in an organisation is cultural. So if the approach to feedback is changing, the culture will need to adjust to support this. Ensuring your communication (frequency and method) matches your feedback approach is critical, not only to explain the shift but also to help employees connect their input with positive change.
  • Connect feedback to the bigger people picture: A ‘good’ engagement result isn’t just about a higher score and it certainly isn’t about ticking a box. It’s about understanding how more frequent feedback data can be integrated into the organisation’s people and business processes. This is where the connection between input and action happens and it’s not only crucial to an effective feedback program, it’s essential for a successful business.
To learn more about how to make frequent feedback work, read our latest white paper.