5 Secret Benefits of Anonymous Feedback in the Workplace
October 2, 2018
Employees have valuable insights that managers could use. Whether it is a staffer not pulling his weight or ideas for improvements, managers need that information to help the company grow and flourish. But employees are often not keen to speak up, especially if they fear the backlash from their managers or scrutiny from their peers. An anonymous feedback system could help encourage your team to speak up without fear.
Here are five ways an anonymous feedback system can improve internal communications and employee engagement.
1. Levels the playing field
A loud talker can give the impression of the majority’s opinion. But according to author Susan Cain:
“There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
Often, the opinions of the quieter few may contain the most valuable insights, but those insights get lost in a workplace that favours the brave and loud.
An anonymous feedback platform can give quieter team members a safe platform to speak and helps the company avoid falling prey to groupthink.
2. Surfaces the “stupid” questions
They say that there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. Yet, many people are still afraid of asking questions. According to James R. Detert and Amy C. Edmondson at Harvard Business Review, the perceived risks of speaking up can feel very personal and immediate to employees.
An anonymous feedback platform allows employees to ask questions that many would feel embarrassed to ask, especially if it is something they feel could reflect badly on their intellect or ability. Those “stupid” questions can either help companies reveal gaps in their understanding of either the company’s mission, projects, or culture; or challenge management to think outside the box.
An openness to addressing questions, no matter how trivial, could also lead to an improvement in employee retention.
3. Laser-focuses on the question
When a question is asked, it is natural to want to consider the context surrounding the question. However, there are times when the perceived context can be distracting. For example, if a person expresses concern about a new project being launched, you could wonder how this project would affect that person’s livelihood or if that person dislikes the project lead. Thoughts like these will detract from the very real possibility of a genuine employee concern.
By hiding the questioner from sight, the focus stays on the question itself. This allows for a truly objective response and avoids potential backlash for the asker.
Of course, this would not work if the question itself is subjective or even personal in nature. To address this issue, Pigeonhole Live has a feature that allows the event admin to filter questions. When an attendee submits a question on the Audience Web App, a prompt will inform him/her that the question is awaiting moderation. The question then appears only on the Admin Panel. The admin can then choose to allow, edit, or dismiss the question, allowing the Q&A session to stay productive and actionable.
4. Brands managers well
Anonymous feedback will encourage more people to ask difficult and often unpopular questions. This could seem like a disadvantageous situation, but it is actually a great opportunity for managers to establish themselves before their team. Instead of shirking tough questions, managers can use the opportunity to reflect on their decisions, do their research, and answer the questions truthfully and faithfully.
The ability to answer a difficult, anonymous question reflects well on the manager. It could reveal the kind of manager you are, whether you are crunching down on unwelcome comments, explaining a new policy in detail, or even admitting a mistake.
5. Foster culture of openness
This may seem counter-productive, but providing an anonymous feedback option can help encourage a culture of open and transparent feedback. Feedback provided openly has led to companies being more innovative and perform better financially.
Identified feedback can’t be forced. Instead, there needs to be an underlying culture of transparency to support it. Executive coach Ed Batista writes on Harvard Business Review:
“Even people who aren’t interested in or skilled at giving or receiving feedback will participate in the process (and improve) when they’re working in a feedback-rich environment. And the most ardent and capable feedback champions will give up if the organizational or team culture doesn’t support their efforts.”
Sometimes the very things that managers hope to see in honest and open feedback are the very things that keep employees from speaking up in the first place. An oppressive middle manager, for example, could be undermining a crucial project. However, employees would not want to speak out because that person is in a position to do a lot of harm to an employee’s career.
Instead of shirking anonymous feedback altogether, create a transitional timeline. Allow for anonymity for a set period of time. Some noise is expected, but the overall result is a company of people who get used to their voices being heard, and learns the responsible ways to use them.
If enough of their queries are answered or concerns addressed, some will get comfortable enough to raise those concerns in person. Celebrate them. And when the culture shifts to opt for open and transparent feedback, take off the training wheels.
Find out more about Pigeonhole’s anonymous Q&A service here.