What Should HR Do with Worker Feedback?

hr employee feedback

Implementing a successful worker feedback program is about more than simply soliciting employee commentary. It’s also about instilling confidence in workers that you truly want to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. Afterall, only 13% of workers actually feel like their company values their opinion.

Feedback is a cycle — you take the first step by offering your employees the opportunity to share their wants and needs with your business. But what do you do with the feedback once you have it? There a few ways to answer this in order to build an effective feedback program, but you can think of it like this: Asking for worker feedback is good. Acting on it is great. And letting workers know they’re responsible for the impact is the cherry on top!

The good news is, managing and responding to feedback isn’t an insurmountable task. Today, we’re sharing our thoughts about how your company can appropriately manage and respond to worker feedback.

What Happens When You Don’t Respond to Feedback

Let’s first think about what it looks like to employees when a business doesn’t respond to worker feedback. Put simply — it’s a bad look.

“Lack of communication allows team members to create their own narrative about how you feel,” says Katie Love, Marketing Manager at WorkHound. “They may imagine their employer is reading the feedback and laughing or rolling their eyes. Psychologically, everyone has an imaginary audience, and that allows them to misinterpret how their feedback is being received. That’s especially the case when no one responds.”

We all know that especially in situations of high stress, the imagination can run wild — and if you’re imagining that your employer isn’t taking your feedback seriously, you are much less likely to share your thoughts in the future. 

Another scenario also makes future feedback less likely: Employees may wonder whether their feedback was even received.

“Another assumption a team member may have if they don’t receive a response to their feedback is that it just wasn’t received in the first place — or that the company isn’t reading them at all,” Love says. “Not closing the loop results in assumptions.”

How to Respond Effectively to Employee Feedback

So, what does an effective response look like? Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all response and this will vary tremendously based on the individual circumstances and the company. 

But there are some basic components to effectively responding to employee needs and concerns. The way you respond will depend on whether the feedback is related specifically to the individual who gave it or if it’s broader in scope.

“The companies we work with manage response in a couple of different ways,” Love says. “Most commonly, companies will rank feedback by volume to determine priorities. When we see lots of feedback on a certain topic, that particular topic often becomes a priority since it’s related to widespread concern.”

When feedback drives change, it’s also important to communicate with employees that changes are being made. 

“If it’s a high-priority topic that has become widespread, our Customer Success Managers work with companies to form a response that either the company ‘has received the feedback and this is how they’re going to take action’ or ‘they’ve received your feedback and here’s some more information about why things work this way,’ in order to communicate empathy and build transparency,” Love adds. 

When a concern is specific to the person providing feedback, the response can be more individualized.

“Feedback is often unique to the commenting employee — for instance, someone who has had a bad interaction with another employee or has a question that’s specific to their individual needs,” Love says. “If the company wants to communicate with that person, our service offers a resourceful message called a “One-Time Notification” that allows complete communications with the worker without requiring the employee to reveal his or her identity.”

The Quality All Effective Responses Share

While the way in which you respond to feedback will vary some, there’s a common and consistent characteristic of effective response: Transparency and Empathy.

“Companies should communicate that they’ve received the feedback, acknowledge that there’s a reason behind the feedback, and then communicate a plan to take action,” Love says. “If everything goes smoothly, then they can communicate again with confirmation of the action and its results. The key here is to communicate clearly, understand where the worker is coming from, and follow up as needed.”

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