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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Your employees are not giving you honest feedback: Three steps to making honesty your company policy

Honest feedback is critical if HR leaders are expected to design programs and policies that help build a healthy and successful company. Without honest feedback, workplace issues can easily escalate into bigger problems.

Your employees are not giving you honest feedback: Three steps to making honesty your company policy
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Employees want to work in a happy and safe environment, and HR strives to create this for them. HR wants employees to feel engaged in their workplace. They believe they’re doing everything in their power to uncover workplace issues, address them, and prevent them from happening again.

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However, in my experience with employees and HR teams, I continue to see a disconnect on how best to achieve this. In my ongoing interactions, I’ve found that HR believes they’re asking for feedback through the proper channels and at the right frequency. They also default to thinking that when employees do provide input, they’re honest.

Yet our survey of over 1,000 full-time employees told a different story. We found that employees may be sharing workplace issues, but many are not completely honest when they do. They’re not comfortable providing feedback through the channels provided by their HR department, and they don’t trust HR to the extent that HR departments think they do.

Here are a few of the survey’s key findings:

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  • In the past year, 84% of employees had at least one workplace concern but did not share it with HR.
  • Only 47% of employees said they were 100% honest with HR when giving feedback.
  • Employees who weren’t fully honest said they didn’t believe their organization genuinely wanted honest feedback and that they feared retaliation if they were to be truly candid.
  • Fifty-six percent of those who weren’t completely honest said they would be more likely to share honestly if given a truly anonymous channel to share their feedback.

THE STAKES ARE REAL

Honest feedback is critical if HR leaders are expected to design programs and policies that help build a healthy and successful company. Without honest feedback, workplace issues—from microaggressions to concerns about work/life balance to fraud to harassment—can easily escalate into bigger problems like attrition, lawsuits, reputational damage, compliance issues, and more.

Here are three steps I recommend that any organization take to help address this often hidden disconnect between employees and HR. These steps can help HR and employees foster trust and build a happy and healthy workplace together.

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1. Create a truly anonymous feedback channel for employees to communicate with HR and company leaders. Anonymous channels can not only increase the comfort level of employees—making them more inclined to report—but staying anonymous can also help alleviate their fear of repercussions from reporting as well.

2. Show that you’re taking action on the feedback you’re receiving. By taking action on anonymous feedback, you can show you’re receptive to feedback. This helps build trust with employees and helps them feel confident that their feedback is valued. And it might encourage them to share feedback directly next time.

3. Use tools that enable two-way anonymous communication between employees and HR. Two-way anonymous communication is both practically useful (allowing easy follow-ups between HR and reporter) and helps to build greater trust between employees and HR. This is one of a number of new tools we’ve developed at AllVoices for the companies we work with.

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HONESTY SHOULD BE YOUR COMPANY POLICY

Your company doesn’t need to suffer from a lack of honest feedback, and you don’t need to be left in the dark on what’s really going on within your workforce. Increasing your communication around wanting honest feedback, taking action on the feedback submitted, and ensuring there’s no retaliation for doing so can indeed make honesty your company policy.


CEO and founder of AllVoices, the employee feedback management platform empowering anyone to report workplace wrongdoing 100% anonymously.

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