Most team members have recently taken some time off, recent hires blazed through training, and high-value veterans have received well-earned pay increases. As a team, they seem to be more engaged and excited than ever!
But then you notice a troubling trend that makes you question just how engaged the team really is.
While you’ve been seeing the company’s growth as a good thing, they’re not convinced; to them, it feels like the company is less transparent than it used to be. In conversation, some members are skeptical about the direction the company is taking. Others question the motives behind leadership initiatives.
Sure, there’s still coffee in the kitchen and everyone appreciates their recent time off – but they feel increasingly disconnected from the company and aren’t sure where things are headed.
And when a top performer turns in her notice, you find yourself asking – “what did I miss?” Your seemingly happy and productive team is disengaged, signaling they don’t feel anyone is listening to their valuable feedback.
It’s time for a plan to reopen the lines of communication with your team.
If this sounds familiar, rest assured you’re not alone. While 71% of managers recognize the relationship between company success and high employee engagement, over 25% of employees are categorized as “high risk” for turnover.
Much more than a nuisance, low employee engagement is a critical threat to your business. Turnover is expensive – it can cost as much as 200% of the employee’s salary to hire and train a replacement. But don’t despair! You’re already leveraging both NPS and CSAT to drive a high-impact customer satisfaction program. Now you just need to apply a similar approach to gathering employee feedback.
Let’s take a closer look at three methods you can use to build the sort of trust and rapport that drives high engagement and powers successful teams.
If you’re not already holding routine one-on-one meetings with your direct reports, or even skip-level meetings with frontline agents, then start – now. A recent Gallup poll notes that 70% of employee engagement is driven by the manager-employee relationship. That makes it critical for you to develop a direct relationship with your team members. Regular one-on-one meetings set a measured pace for an even flow of communication, assuring employees you’re committed to hearing their valuable feedback on a personal basis.
Here are a few ground rules to apply along the way:
It’s fine if you need to flex a meeting time on occasion, but continuously canceling or rescheduling your one-on-one meetings signals that you don’t care about their time OR their feedback. Hint: If an employee tells you they’re fine skipping or canceling your one-on-ones, that’s a warning sign. Book time with them immediately to learn why they don’t find the meetings to be valuable and create an action plan for adjustments.
Be prepared to discuss both bright spots and areas of improvement while also leaving time for open feedback. As you pick up steam, you may want to review one-on-one templates for more extensive agendas. Hint: An agenda is even more important if you have a close rapport with that particular team member, where meetings can devolve into casual conversation.
If you’re just getting started, keep it simple – a shared document or spreadsheet allows you and your team members to post agenda items in advance and add notes or action items for follow-up while creating a reference point for your meetings over time.
If you’re co-located with your team members, consider taking your one-on-one offsite to a nearby coffee shop, even a park or other public space (weather permitting). If you or your team work remotely, try shifting locations – take one-on-one meetings from your sofa or a comfortable chair rather than at your desk. There are numerous benefits to this strategy, particularly if you’re looking for creative and constructive feedback.
Close your laptop, put your cell phone in your bag, and be prepared to just listen. Go old school with a notebook and a pen for jotting down notes, then transcribe those notes back into your shared documentation system later on. For video meetings, mute channel notifications, and close email apps.
Employees place a high value on face-to-face communication from both managers and teammates. While one-on-one meetings are great for building rapport between you and individual team members, high-performing teams need time to dialog and share perspectives. Setting aside dedicated time for open team conversations and peer-to-peer valuable feedback also creates an opportunity to build trust and accountability between team members.
As you plan your first open team discussions, here are a few factors to keep in mind:
It’s great to have tight and focused team meetings when the goal is to transmit updates and ensure everyone is aligned on project milestones. But when the objective is to gather valuable feedback or open shared space for dialog, rigid agendas can shut down conversations before they even get started.
Depending on the size of your team, you may need to book extended sessions to allow enough time for everyone to participate.
One strategy is to plan longer quarterly sessions of a half-day or more, paired with shorter sessions on a monthly or biweekly basis.
Remember that the point of these sessions is to boost employee engagement by taking action on their feedback. After your session, share a copy of your notes with specific action items clearly marked, along with timelines for any deliverables. Hint: Try kicking off each session by asking for valuable feedback on the changes you’ve implemented based on the last meeting.
You’re already collecting, analyzing, and representing customer feedback with surveys and data reports. So why wouldn’t you apply the same method to gather and report on employee feedback?
One approach is probably already close to home – use Nicereply to measure employee happiness with Net Promoter Score surveys. Just as you watch customer NPS identify Promoters or Detractors for your brand, you can use employee scores to learn what is working for your happiest employees, then finetune the experience for those feeling left out.
You may decide you want to try a different route, however – maybe you’re looking for a method that will deliver more real-time feedback to surface troubling issues quickly. This is a great opportunity to try a pulse survey. Short, simple, and direct, pulse surveys are typically more context-specific than NPS as well, which emphasizes your commitment to tackling specific areas of opportunity to engage your team.
Whether you’re new to pulse surveys specifically or wanting to adjust your current feedback survey strategy, here are a few points to guide you along the way.
You may need to experiment to find the right survey frequency for your team. It’s important to send surveys often enough to capture timely feedback, but not so frequent that they become a nuisance. Weekly may be too often, while monthly may not be often enough. Hint: After the first couple of rounds, use a bonus question to poll the team about frequency, then adjust accordingly!
You already know that engaging customers in their preferred channel provide a boost to response rates. The same applies to your team – they’re hard at work answering questions and solving problems, so don’t divert their attention to another channel. Using a Slack-integrated tool like 15five makes it a snap for your team to share their thoughts during a quick break in their workflow. The more conversational-feel of Slack messaging also encourages frank and honest valuable feedback.
One of the most powerful aspects of a pulse survey is how quickly you can track trends in your team’s engagement. For example, if you kick off a new quarter with bimonthly pulse surveys, you’ll have multiple data points to compare even by mid-quarter. Hint: It’s important to routinely mix up your survey to avoid survey fatigue, which will lower the response rate and skew your overall benchmark. Try adding a question based on team discussions, or even mixing in fun questions to put smiles on some faces.
This may be the most powerful action you can take. Remember that employees are increasingly looking for transparency – and only 22% of employees feel their managers are transparent. By publishing the results in a team newsletter, for example, you show the team that their feedback is important for the health of the company. And yes, that means showing weak points as well as bright spots – your team will give you credit for acknowledging what needs to be improved, provided you also act on it!
In the words of serial entrepreneurSir Richard Branson, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
So take the time to listen to your team and implement the kind of changes that will keep them focused on delivering amazing customer support. With this approach, you’ll develop an impactful relationship with direct reports while also empowering high-value peer relationships and benchmarking feedback to keep your team excited and engaged