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Anonymous employee feedback tells only part of the story

Sharon Florentine | Jan. 20, 2016
Trust, communication and transparency are key for IT organizations to maintain a healthy and productive workforce. But how do you get there?

"We were using a system of feedback that relied on what employees wanted us to 'start,' 'stop' and 'keep,' but after a while we realized that the feedback started to become very spiteful and angry. The whole process took a turn for the negative, because no one had to stand up and own their words," Humphrey says, and the constant stream of negativity was impacting morale and productivity. He began looking for a different approach.

"For me, honestly, I don't care too much for positive feedback -- I want to know up front what the problems are and how to solve them. I know what's going well, and we do a great job of recognizing that, but I want you to tell me what's wrong so we can fix it -- we don't have time for this back-biting, gossip and nastiness," he says.

Appster has since adopted 15Five's solution and is moving toward what Humphrey calls 'radical candor' which is much more in alignment with the company's core values of ownership, responsibility and "no BS," he says, "The kind of company we want to be, the kind of company we are is one that lives these values of openness and transparency. Where you can call out your boss if they're doing something wrong, where you can offer constructive criticism and be heard. It's a much healthier way to function overall," Humphrey says.

More savvy companies are coming to the same realization, McCreary says. "For the most part, my clients understand the need for this kind of openness, and they want to move toward a scenario where people can stand up in the middle of a meeting, own it, say it publicly and fearlessly, but they don't know how to get there," McCreary says.

The key to transparency is trust, and to build that trust requires taking risks, and it has to start from the top, says Hassel. Each and every time someone comes forward and publicly speaks about an issue -- or even a positive, praise-worthy event -- without reprisals, it engenders trust, and makes others more willing to speak up themselves, he says.

"Pushing toward transparency means you have to truly value what your employees have to say, and you have to be willing to stand up and be vulnerable. You have to prove that you're committed to creating an environment that fosters trust, transparency and open communication," he says.

It starts at the top

That means IT leaders and executives must get the ball rolling by soliciting feedback about themselves, and demonstrating through their own actions and responses that they're encouraging that practice, says McCreary.

"Leadership has to take a stand and say, 'This is what I think I can do better, here's what you can expect from me, here's what I expect from you. What do you think? Don't hold back -- tell me' and then make certain there's praise and rewards for people who do that, even if it's not what you want to hear. It can be helpful to look for those two or three rebels, the instigators within the company who you know are going to speak up, and encourage them to start so others will follow," she says.


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