Collecting Employee Feedback – Distributed Workforce Training

Some recent blogs on The Qustn Cafe have been talking about the need of managing distributed workforce and why it makes sense to engage them and the challenges that one comes across while doing so. All of them identified the common need of continuous guidance and stronger collaboration initiatives for the distributed workforce.

Distributed workforce training is anything but a cakewalk! There are LMS’s that solve this problem, but each organization has its own needs. Blog posts have also thrown light on ways to make training approachable for workforce and effectiveness of eLearning in that context. At the first glance, its difficult to figure out the correlation between all these factors. So in this post, I have made an attempt to draw a clearer picture and in the process, I have tried to identify the possible areas where HR team members can find the opportunity to improvise their connect with their distributed workforce.

From where I stand, I see the following problems

  1. How to invent a process that predicts their pain points and provides them with a solution?
  2. How to ensure training becomes a part of their culture and not an HR driven agenda?
  3. How to ensure better collaboration and connect between employer and employees?

The answer to these questions lies in understanding how a process in HR comes to exist. It will help us know the core faults in processes and correcting those mistakes can help in addressing the above mentioned problems.

Typically, an HR policy comes into existence after following a process like this.

HR policy formulation process

But the efficacy of this model is not 100% because it does not account for the changing needs of our younger, independent workforce. The fault in this process – It failed to consider the strong desire younger workforce carries to connect instantly and at almost any time of the day.

With the “Instant Messaging” trend setting in, organizations too are witnessing changes. Their notice boards have given way to WhatsApp groups, real group meetings are now public event invites on Facebook pages and formal announcements of annual meetings are getting overthrown by regular group mail updates. All these modes are inching towards a two-way communication module which is:

1. Closer to the audience

2. Tailored as per their liking and,

3. More-real time to maintain the effectiveness

A logical extension of this trend poses a serious question for the HR and Learning Teams.

How are we molding our processes to manage the growing need of two-way communication among our workforce?

Basic research on various models of effective communication concludes that feedback is the single most important element in a two-way communication. Capturing employee feedback and working on it seems to be an effective way of addressing the issue theoretically (and also intuitively as well). Hence, feedback definitely needs to come in more prominently in the traditional approach.

[Tweet “Soliciting feedback is a challenge, filtering useful feedback from frustration is even more difficult.”]

Practically, soliciting employee feedback is a challenge and filtering useful feedback from frustration is even more difficult. Lets see how can we imbibe feedback into the entire chain and ultimately make our processes more robust and suitable for our employees’ preferences.

(An organization can choose to collect feedback in multiple ways, but there are certain common and methodical ways to imbibe feedback-sharing as a part of culture)

1. Change the flow of translation of goals into process

Traditionally, if we find any deviations from the target while monitoring KPIs, only then the processes are modified. Instead of waiting for the deviation to happen, we can try capturing the feedback, thus changing the flowchart.

Changing flowchart of translation of goals

This ensures that the organization builds a system of imbibing employee feedback at the initial stage itself.

2. Trace and identify the touchpoints

Every process, if broken into details, can help us identify the areas where employee interact with the organizational system. Identifying these touchpoints can help you know what parameters should be put into an algorithm to yield an ever-improving interface. This ensures that any employee, sitting at a distance is also accounted for and thus strengthening the spirit of the two-way communication.

3. Convert the “feedback box” into a “creativity box”

A locked “Suggestion/ Feedback Box” is a common sight in various organizations. Some open it regularly, go through them and comfortably filter a few items to follow-up. Others just keep it there as a ‘tick-in-the-box’ infrastructure, to mention it as an activity in annual review meetings. There is a concern of too many inputs in organizations where it is used regularly to voice suggestions. The kind of feedback that comes is heterogeneous and mostly very individual in nature. This makes it really difficult for the team to distinguish between a commonly felt real pain point and a culture fitment issue.

[Tweet “Heterogeneous feedback – Is it a real pain point or a culture fitment issue?”]

At this point, it would be wise to take a step back and figure out what is the intent behind these. The intent is to find out why is something not being as effective as it was intended to be. Organizations read it as a signal of something going wrong. The onus of how to make it better moves to the team managing these boxes (which is generally HR). In the process, the view of “why” is lost and perspective becomes so narrow that the gap between the feedback sender and receiver increases.

The why of feedback

A wiser way would be to capture the ‘why’. But the ‘what’ and ‘how’ should go back to the sender as much as possible. What is going wrong and how it can be improvised? Both these answers should come from the employees to the maximum extent possible.

What does this imply? That the box needs to be redefined as the Creativity Box, thus, ensuring it doesn’t bring frustrated break-up letters but ideas that can help the organization improvise. Implementing this in the right spirit means giving employees the freedom to come with solutions to their own problems. This would foster an inclusive culture in the organization.

[Tweet “‘Creativity box’ doesn’t bring frustrated break-up letters instead brings ideas that can help improvise”]

These methods might appear fragmented when explained on paper. However, they overlap to a degree and help tremendously to answer the three issues mentioned earlier.

Simply put…

Various mediums of capturing employee feedback helps you build a two-way communication at different stages of a process. A process that allows smooth partnering between employee and employer creates better connect. Better connect leads to more involvement. More involvement means a creation of desirable culture.

[Tweet “Summary: 2 way comm -> employee-employer connect -> More involvement -> ‘Culture'”]

Let me put forth an illustration of what I theoretically explained, picking up from the connection I left above.

Let’s say a Company sets a goal that it needs to grow and develop talent.

A typical traditional flowchart would look like this.

Growing and developing talent

However, changing the flow and transition of goal into process would make it look like this.

5

Once feedback is imbibed in the initial process, move to second step. Let’s see how the process for training an employee in the above example might look like. Drawing a process would also help figure out the points where employee interacts with employer. Know what data can help you form a self-improvising algorithm for processes.

Training an employee - Process

Like any data point/feedback, you need to read it wisely by picking on the touchpoints, and then imbibing them as data for improvisation. This can help strengthen the two-way communication. This data acts like the non-verbal clue and can mean a lot when it comes to personalizing content and delivery for each user.

Moving further, let’s assume that over the year of implementation and usage, employees still report lower correlation between positive appraisal on development areas and training taken. Or they drop a letter in the “Suggestion Box” saying that application of concepts learnt is still not happening. Take a step back to figure why is the ‘most preferred route of learning’ is also not leading to results. You can choose to pick any problem solving tool for this – GSTD, Fish Bone, 5-Why, etc. A rough fish bone might look like this.

Fish bone process

With the reasons, go back to your employees and find what according to them is the problem and how they can solve it. Let the “Idea Box” also receive some inputs from the same people who complained. This kind of back and forth might seem cumbersome at first. But it will become natural once the wheels are set in motion. This becomes a part of culture to receive feedback in explicit and implicit format.

After a long explanation, the question remains.

Is capturing employee feedback the only way we can answer those 3 questions?

To be truthful, the answer is no, it is not the only way. It is just one of the ways my experience has shown me – that this back and forth creates a feeling of inclusion. It helps capture paint points effectively and proactively. Once it becomes a part of culture, it elevates the sincerity of an employee. The involvement level also shoots up towards initiatives when it is their baby and not just an HR agenda.

As I mentioned, this is just one example to illustrate how interwoven these methods are. I am sure the complexities increase with the type of industry one is placed in and the line of business one works in as well.

Feel free to mention in comments the problems your organization faces while working on increasing the inclusion of distributed workforce, or challenges you face in improving the communication channels. I’d be glad to go back to basics as a fellow traveler and come back with some solutions.

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