Feedback is the compass that guides an organization toward its true north. Particularly, feedback from frontline employees – those who are in the trenches every day – is invaluable. These individuals deal with the real-time challenges, customer interactions, and the daily mechanics of your operations.
However, many leaders find themselves puzzled, wondering why they’re not getting candid insights from this vital group. Let’s delve into the potential barriers that might be silencing your frontline.
1. Fear of Retaliation:
The fear factor is real. Many employees, especially those closer to the ground level, worry about potential negative consequences if they voice criticisms or concerns. The thought of being sidelined for promotions, given unfavorable tasks, or even facing job loss can make them hesitant.
This is a big one. Open feedback requires a safe space. If your feedback methods don’t provide anonymity, employees will likely hold back, especially if their concerns touch upon sensitive topics or involve superiors.
3. Communication Gaps:
The frontline is more challenging to reach than most groups. But without clear channels for voicing concerns or giving suggestions, employees are much less likely to go out of their way to give feedback. (That's why goHappy's platform uses text.) This group is busy, just like the rest of us. If it’s difficult or inconvenient for the frontline to speak up, they might opt for silence.
4. Cultural Barriers:
The ethos of a company can either encourage or stifle feedback. In organizations where challenging the status quo is frowned upon or the concept of a feedback culture is a very new thing, employees might feel it’s safer to remain silent.
5. Perceived Indifference:
If the significance of feedback isn't communicated, employees might trivialize their own experiences or insights, thinking that they won't make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. Even more so, if employees have previously raised issues or suggestions without seeing any resulting action or acknowledgment, they might question the point of speaking up again.
Bridging the Feedback Gap
So, how can organizations ensure their frontline feels heard and valued, and feels comfortable providing the feedback that companies so desperately need? We thought about that a lot as we built goHappy’s new Feedback tool, and we’d like to share some of what we learned.Here are a few tips for getting your frontline team to open up:
- Implement anonymous channels: Use technology to provide avenues where employees can share feedback without revealing their identities. This is one of the single best things you can do to make sure you get feedback that’s honest, direct, and actionable.
- Acknowledge feedback: Show that you value input by taking concrete steps to address concerns or implement suggestions. Even if certain feedback can't be acted upon, even just acknowledging its importance, letting the frontline know they were heard, and making sure they know you value their feedback can make a huge difference.
- Use research-backed surveys: Sometimes the answers you get have everything to do with the questions you ask. As we put together our goPowered surveys, we did a ton of research on the different feedback models out there and combined them with our frontline expertise to tailor questions and types of surveys for the frontline specifically. Even if you’re not a goHappy customer, try out asking questions in different ways and see what you get back. Or ask a frontline employee to help you build survey questions. Test and learn is a valid strategy here.
- Ask for feedback regularly: Feedback culture is a muscle you have to build. Many frontline employees are, unfortunately, accustomed to being undervalued when it comes to their feedback. Don’t let asking for feedback be a one-time thing. Develop a regular schedule. Begin to encourage a culture of openness and open-mindedness. If you’re a leader, make yourself approachable and receptive. Once you get in a a regular schedule of asking for feedback and acknowledging it, the quality and honesty of that feedback will improve.
Unlocking honest feedback from your frontline requires an environment of trust, clear communication channels, continuity, and demonstrable action. Do you recognize any of the challenges above? Once you understand the barriers and work on removing them, you’ll find a goldmine of insights that can drive your organization forward.
And, if you want help getting regular, honest, real-time feedback from your frontline, look no further than goHappy. Frontline employee engagement is our area of expertise, and we can’t wait to show you our new frontline-focused feedback tool. Reach out to us for a demo!