Acting on Employee Feedback Integral to Manager Growth

April 13, 2021
Elaine Quilici

Elaine Quilici is Pharmaceutical Executive's Senior Editor. Email her at equilici@mmh.com

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-04-01-2021, Volume 41, Issue 4

How open, two-way communication can help leaders to improve.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “I’m a very strong believer in listening and learning from others.” While that seems a necessary part of the job for a Supreme Court justice, it’s a tenet that applies to the C-suite, too. Listening to employees and asking for their feedback are integral to development and growth.

According to the employee engagement blog Engage, 90% of workers say they’re more likely to remain in an organization that takes and acts on feedback. Unfortunately, only 12% feel that their managers do a great job of soliciting it. But just as it’s important to provide employees with feedback to guide their work, it’s imperative for managers to gather information from employees in order to effectively address issues and steer initiatives in the right direction.

LeadersEdge, an organization focused on training, coaching, and development, says feedback boosts employee engagement, makes employees more motivated, makes career development possible, and helps leaders lead better.

Fostering an environment of open, two-way communication is necessary to set the stage for a flow of honest conversation. To begin, managers should adopt a mindset that they are a part of the team and someone who directs the business rather than someone who has all the answers. When employees know they have a safe space to share their thoughts and ideas, it can make them feel valued and give them a sense that they have some skin in the game.

Exposing weaknesses can be uncomfortable, but it’s integral to growth. Oftentimes, what one person points out can be a common observation that others also recognize but are afraid to voice. As a result, bringing issues to light can do more than solve a one-on-one problem; it could have positive organizational impact. The goal of feedback is to uncover blind spots and redirect efforts where necessary.

In a 2009 interview with The New York Times, Kevin Sharer, CEO of Amgen at the time, said he sought feedback “because that’s the only way that you can grow as a CEO, which is a very isolating job.” He revealed that each year he would ask human resources to conduct an evaluation of himself by his team to see where he could improve. Once he was cognizant of any issues, he would make an effort to counteract them.

“A lot of this is not undergoing personality change, because that’s not possible,” he said. “It’s just sort of being aware of what your tendencies are.”

To get the most out of two-way communication, you need to know your people. Soliciting feedback from everyone on your staff can be not only overwhelming to execute but difficult to process. Target your approach and seek people who are middle of the road and can offer a fair perspective of a situation. Sometimes it takes time to identify those people and weed out those with chips on their shoulders or those that just want to please you.

There are a number of digital tools available to facilitate feedback. Kazoo, an employee experience platform, encourages online interactions via posts and comments. It engages employees, and is a place to recognize others, ask for input, and collaborate. The communications app Dynamic Signal not only broadcasts information to employees but offers a comment functionality that provides real-time feedback and questions in a nonconfrontational way.

Human resources might also invest in training employees on how to effectively provide feedback. Guidance on what to focus on and how to deliver the message can result in better reception of the information.

To get the conversation going without formal help, try reviewing Kazoo’s list of positive and constructive feedback examples for employees (see https://bit.ly/3eMs7Rm). The leadership services organization FranklinCovey also offers helpful tips in its seven-part online video series about how to create a culture of feedback (see https://bit.ly/3rYUJue).

Finally, to demonstrate your appreciation and build confidence that employees’ feedback is valued and useful—smoothing the way for future conversations—don’t forget to follow up with employees. You don’t need to act on all of their advice, but when you do pursue a suggested path, let them know it was a result of them sharing their opinions.

Elaine Quilici is Pharm Exec’s Senior Editor. She can be reached at equilici@mjhlifesciences.com.

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