At a time when there are more open positions than there are qualified candidates to fill them, there's a buyer's market for those who are seeking quality work experience. That leads the most talented candidates to become more discerning about where they work.
In their minds, you need them more than they need you.
So, what can you do to create a corporate culture that draws the best of the best and makes employee retention almost effortless?
You build a corporate culture that's supportive, makes staff feel valued, and encourages open and honest communication.
One of the most comprehensive and sustainable ways to do that is through employee feedback.
Building a feedback culture into your business model provides a high ROI on your investment in the most important company resource: its people.
What is a feedback culture?
As an HR manager, you want to do everything in your power to create a healthy and productive work environment.
The old method of increasing productivity through incentivizing inter-organization competition can be demoralizing and counterproductive. Threats and punitive actions don't work very well, either.
There's a better way to ignite passion and loyalty in your staff that allows them to feel valued rather than used. You need to move away from a culture that's based on numbers and output to one that's employee-centric and nurturing.
A feedback culture is one that enables staff members at every level to feel free to provide feedback and constructive criticisms regardless of where they rank within the corporate hierarchy.
It provides lower-level staff with the means to improve their work environment and opens the lines of communication between staff and management, management and C-level executives, and so on up the chain of command.
How feedback improves business function
Only 16% of employees feel connected and engaged in their current job. This level of disengagement not only affects morale and leads to lacklustre job performance, but it's also costly.
Companies of all sizes lose about $450–$550 billion each year due to high turnover and restaffing rates, lower productivity, and a host of related issues, according to Gallup.
With a feedback-centric model of corporate culture, staff feel more invested in the success of an enterprise and are more likely to work hard to achieve important business goals. There's also a decrease in absenteeism, fewer work-related injuries, and an improvement in overall morale.
But, in order to reap these benefits, you need strategies that encourage positive interaction - even when the feedback is negative - and a roadmap that ties feedback to measurable improvement.
It's all about how you gather and process feedback as well as where and how it's applied.
Collecting and incorporating employee feedback the smart way
When you imagine employee feedback, you probably picture a suggestion box on the breakroom table with a stack of forms next to it.
That's certainly one way to collect feedback from staff members, but it's not the only or even the best way to get input from your team.
If you want to create a long-term strategy for engagement that allows staff at every level to have agency over their work environment and encourages personal responsibility for outcomes, it has to be woven into the very fabric of your organization in a way that's organic and sustainable.
That may sound like a tall order, but it's doable if you know how to do it. Here are some best practices that have worked for other organizations. Perhaps they'll turn things around for yours.
Employ multiple channels for feedback
No matter how open the culture, some staff members feel uncomfortable with one-on-one discussions or critiques. Providing multiple channels for staff members to participate in providing feedback will ensure broader participation.
This is where the old, reliable, anonymous suggestion box can find a new life, but there are other means of communication, like surveys, team-building exercises, and online platforms.
Normalize feedback culture and processes
The more comprehensive your feedback strategy, the more natural and organic it will feel to you and your staff.
Many employees aren't used to giving feedback, and may even fear the process, so it may make more traditional managers uncomfortable at first. But, when the process is normalized, it becomes as natural as any other part of the job.
For example, you could have an informal session directly after a planned monthly staff meeting where smaller groups of employees provide feedback.
Put an emphasis on personal responsibility
At any enterprise with a hierarchy, the buck stops at the top. Business leaders and HR managers should be accountable for the feedback and show their support by attending sessions and addressing critical issues at the earliest possible opportunity. In turn, employees will be more willing to accept personal responsibility for their role in the company's successes and missteps.
Ask for feedback at every opportunity, and show that you are willing to accept it with an open mind.
Balance the positive and negative
Not all of your feedback is going to be critical. However, if you only pay attention to the positive feedback and become defensive over negative critiques, you're going to create an imbalance that's counterproductive to your aims.
In turn, if the only feedback an employee receives from you is negative, it is demoralizing and leads to disengagement.
Try to balance positive/negative feedback by beginning any discussing on performance with comments on ways the employee excels or adds to job quality.
If any negative issues need to be addressed, they should be communicated in a way that's constructive.
Establish an atmosphere of openness and trust
Your staff will be more willing to provide feedback of any kind if the corporate environment itself is one of trust and openness.
Make sure that it's clear, both in writing and practice, that employees are free to provide constructive feedback without fear of punishment or reprisals.
Make feedback a continuous activity
Employee feedback supports the kind of continuous improvement that put Ford Motor Company on the map and has kept the organization strong for more than a century.
I come from a Ford family. Some of the incentives that benefited us stemmed directly from employee engagement incentives.
One program awarded new cars each year to the staff members who provided the best suggestions for plant or customer service improvement.
There were other giveaways, contests, bonus plans, and continuous ways to engage not only Ford workers but their families.
Rather than annual reviews and other periodic methods of engagement, make feedback a continual part of your business. This can be achieved through frequent, informal gatherings where ideas are shared, performance review protocols that are project-based and having an open-door policy.
Creating a feedback culture at your organization helps employees feel more secure and valued. It's a way to let them know they count and that their opinion is important to you.
This type of work environment encourages and supports employee engagement, lowers staff turnover rates, boosts morale, improves business processes across the board, and makes you a better manager.
Happy workers make for happy customers. Getting feedback from your staff doesn't require a huge investment, and the returns are nearly incalculable.
Ashley Wilson is a content creator, writing about business and tech. She is also a movie buff so she has been known to reference epic scenes in casual conversation. She has two cats, Lady and Gaga. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.