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How to Get Authentic Employee Feedback

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Do you ever put things off thinking you will have time to get to them later? 

Deanna Baumgartner, the founder and owner of Employers Advantage—a company that provides outsourced human resources services to small businesses—says this is a common theme with her clients, some of which include automotive shops. 

“They’ve all said the same thing: ‘Oh, I really need this, but I’m so busy. I can’t focus on it.’”

Shops are often striving for employee feedback to no avail. It’s one of many reasons a business might consult with an HR company like Employers Advantage. 

But amid the busy life of running a shop, that consultation doesn’t turn into a partnership and, when the end of the year feedback survey comes around, the “What can we do better?” section is often left blank. Issues go unaddressed. Great ideas hiding just around the corner never see the light of day. 

There’s no question it can be difficult to gather employee feedback, and it certainly requires being intentional. Baumgartner says there are several things you can do to generate feedback from your employees and not be left with blank boxes on your next annual survey. 

Build a Culture

It all starts with creating an environment that’s open and receptive to feedback. A successful business comes from a successful culture—one where employees know they can address issues and provide feedback they know will be taken into consideration.  

“It’s going to be something that’s built up over time … It’s really up to the shop owner, the manager, the leader—whoever is the one managing this information—to be open and receptive to that information and not reactive,” Baumgartner says. 

Nina Ross, a business operations expert and founder of Nina Ross Solutions, agrees. She says a strong leader establishes a strong culture, which in return, establishes a strong company. 

“The company has to have some sort of mission and core values,” she says. “That usually guides everything that the company does.” 

The culture needs to be established with a clear and laid-out vision. Shop owners need to be ready and willing to take charge of situations. Employees’ issues need to be addressed. Their ideas need to be taken seriously. 

Without a strong leader and a strong vision that creates a strong culture, there’s no way the employees will feel their ideas are valued.   

Ross also says it’s important for an owner or manager to be present. If there’s an issue, the owner shouldn’t need to wait until the end of the year survey to know about it. 

“Have regular meetings with your employees to just try and gauge how they’re feeling, what they’re doing,” Ross says. “If there’s any feedback at all that they want to talk about,  it could be as simple as you’re in a meeting and say, ‘Anybody got any feedback?’”

Tips and Tricks

Baumgartner recently had her team provide feedback, but she did things a little bit differently. 

Rather than a traditional employee survey, she had a sheet with just three words: start, stop, and continue. Baumgartner says it’s an easier way to see what her employees think they should start doing, something they’re currently doing that isn’t working and they should stop doing, and something they’re currently doing well that they should continue. 

“It’s an easy way for employees to be able to relate to what’s being asked, but it’s also an easy way for the shop owner to see what’s working and what’s not,” she says.

Baumgartner did those surveys anonymously—a tactic Ross believes is a good way to get more honest feedback. When employees’ names are attached, they might not be as willing to tell their boss what they think isn’t working at the company, which is something most owners are hoping to learn through the employee feedback process. 

Ross is also a believer in spot bonuses. If an employee offers a great idea that the company decides to pursue, they should be rewarded. 

That could come in the form of a gift card or debit card with the company’s logo and the employee’s name on it, or something else—just a way to show the employee their work is appreciated, and they offered an idea or solution that propelled the company forward. 

After Feedback

After Baumgartner read through her staff’s start, stop, and continue surveys, she shared the results with them at their next weekly team meeting.

They went over all the “start” suggestions, and Baumgartner had everyone write down what was most important to them.

“I let them know, ‘I guarantee that I will look at all of this, but I cannot guarantee that all of this will be done,” she says. 

Baumgartner says it’s important to make sure employees know their ideas are thoughtfully considered, that they know as their boss you’re open to change, but at the end of the day, not every suggestion, not every idea, is viable. 

Baumgartner noted the importance of following up on the ideas that were presented. If it’s something that can’t be done now but is potentially something to be considered in the future, it’s key to communicate that. 

“Even if it’s just that. Even if you find that this is just stuff that I can’t do anything with, or something came up and it stops you from being able to continue on with the process of assessing the feedback, you just have to tell them,” she says, “and that’s just going to continue to build trust for them to be able to provide feedback on an ongoing basis.” 

It all comes back to regular communication with your employees. Whether that’s in team meetings, one-on-one meetings, or just keeping your office door or lines of communication open. Being available to your employees and a resource for them to come to will help create a dialogue that will provide a venue to spark future feedback.

“As a shop owner, get out there. Get under the car with them. See what’s going on. You don’t have to spend a lot of time doing that,” Ross says. “You’d be surprised; (a) little investment in that area will go a long way, but you must be consistent with it.” 

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