Employee Feedback Strategy: 5 Approaches to Consider

You are here:
Employee Feedback Strategy: 5 Approaches to Consider

Employee feedback has become an essential part of any employee experience strategy. Especially in hybrid working conditions, continuous dialogue between employees, leaders, and the organization is important to drive social connection and a culture of inclusivity and performance.

Research by CIPD shows that organizations with effective feedback strategies build more trust with employees, are more innovative, achieve higher productivity levels, and improve employee retention. 

More recently, organizations have effectively utilized employee feedback to craft hybrid working strategies or to discover the sentiment about return-to-office approaches.  Uber is a prime example, where employee feedback guided their decisions about how to structure their hybrid working model. Similarly, an African insurance business used employee feedback to inform their decision to continue allowing employees to work remotely.

In this article, we explain five approaches you can adopt to implement your employee feedback strategy.

Contents
What is employee feedback and why is it important?
The challenges with employee feedback strategies
5 approaches toward employee feedback and listening
Deciding on the best employee feedback approach for your organization

What is employee feedback and why is it important?

Employee feedback can be defined as an employee’s ability to authentically and safely express their views and provide suggestions to influence decisions at work. Employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more likely to perform their best work, and 89% of HR leaders agree that regular and open feedback contributes to achieving organizational performance and outcomes.  

A robust employee feedback strategy can increase employee levels of collaboration, increase employee engagement, and improve innovation. Employee feedback is also an important building block to establish a culture of trust, transparency, and a leadership philosophy that encourages co-creation through debate.  

However, many organizations still struggle to leverage the benefits of employee feedback strategies. The Workforce Institute surveyed 4,000+ employees across 11 countries and found that a staggering 86% of employees don’t feel all people are equally heard. This has damaging consequences for inclusion and culture, and instead of encouraging trust, it negatively influences organizational morale and climate. Some leaders are not open to employee feedback, with a CEO recently referring to it as “going to the dentist and getting a root canal.” 

The challenges related to employee feedback and listening strategies range from deep-seated challenges about trust, how listening strategies are implemented, and how feedback is utilized.

Collecting Employee Feedback: 5 Approaches
Explore the five approaches to employee feedback below.

The challenges with employee feedback strategies

Even though the challenges with employee feedback strategies are numerous and well-studied, we can group most of the challenges into four distinct categories:

1. Employees do not feel safe enough to speak up

Authentic employee feedback can only happen in an environment where employees feel safe and do not fear the consequences of sharing a contrasting perspective.

Often, organizations send out surveys as a way to “fix their culture”. Yet, this feedback is inauthentic and can do more harm than good. We have also seen serious situations of employees being victimized for speaking up. These included the sexual harassment incidents at Uber or the events at SpaceX when employees spoke up about the actions of Elon Musk at Twitter.



Employee feedback strategies cannot be the proverbial silver bullet to fix toxic cultures and account for bad leadership behavior. A foundation of mutual respect, trust, and dignity needs to exist for any employee feedback strategy to be effective. Feedback should never exist in isolation. A robust employee feedback strategy always forms part of the overarching people strategy in a meaningful way. 

2. Feedback does not lead to action

An often-cited criticism around employee feedback is that organizations spend so much time gathering it, yet once they receive the feedback, they’re unable to turn it into meaningful action. Collecting feedback is not about the data dashboard or report with the red, yellow, and green risk indicators but should be about what you do with the insights.

A CEO of a multi-national employee engagement listening platform business confessed in an interview that most of their clients do not even make feedback results available to managers. Furthermore, they also don’t provide managers with access to survey results and the individualized recommended actions that the algorithm is able to provide to them to act upon the feedback for their own teams.

As organizations grow and become more complex, it is impossible for HR to take ownership of all actions identified by employee feedback. We need to stop safeguarding the data for fear that managers will act inappropriately based on the feedback. We should rather ask the question: Why are they managers if we do not believe that they are able to act in the best interest of the teams they lead?

Feedback that does not lead to tangible action is quickly discredited. Even worse, employees start feeling as if they are not heard. If you are not prepared to act, why are you prepared to ask for feedback?

AIHR’s Dr. Dieter Veldsman discussed how HR can use employee listening and feedback data to make decisions with Loes de Boer, the co-founder of DL Network Analytics. See the full interview below:

HR 2025
Competency Assessment

Do you have the competencies needed to remain relevant? Take the 5 minute assessment to find out!

Start Free Assessment

3. We ask the wrong questions and use the incorrect methods of inquiry

Very often, employee feedback strategies are extraordinarily rigid and do not allow for the “wisdom of the organization” to guide the conversation. Don’t get us wrong; employee feedback should be based on scientifically validated models of inquiry. Yet, being too prescriptive leads to a superficial understanding of employee feedback. 

Organizations should be more open to continuous dialogue that shapes feedback and inquiry. Organizations are open and living systems, and our employee feedback strategies should reflect this. They cannot be too rigid and inflexible to only ask the questions that the model dictates for the reasons of validity and reliability. Hiding behind survey models and not allowing employees to help guide the conversation is limiting.

4. It’s more about tools than about methods

Employee feedback strategies often tend to be tool-driven and focused on “how we will listen” as opposed to “why we want to listen”. Listening platforms and toolsets are invaluable to your feedback strategy, but this should not be the guiding principle.

The last decade has seen a significant amount of vendors enter this space. At times, it feels as if we are debating features and license fees instead of understanding the best-fit method of inquiry that suits the organizational context.

When most organizations think about employee feedback strategies, they immediately think about employee surveys. Even though surveys are a vital part of any employee feedback strategy, they are often overused in organizations and only represent one method for gathering feedback. There are multiple methods and approaches to effectively gather employee feedback, including social media, discussion platforms, and dialogue-driven methods. The best method for your organization will depend on a variety of factors we discuss later in this article.

Given these challenges, how can you ensure a best-fit employee feedback strategy for your organization? Let’s have a look at five approaches you can consider when choosing your employee feedback strategy.

5 approaches toward employee feedback and listening

Approach 1: Point-in-time surveys

Point-in-time Surveys

Although this approach has declined in popularity in recent years, many organizations still use the traditional annual employee survey. This means that an employee survey is run every year or two; feedback is consolidated, interventions identified, and actions implemented.

Even though it is possible to combine both quantitative and qualitative methods in this approach, the tendency is to steer toward traditional quantitative employee surveys that can be rolled out at scale across all levels of the organization.

BenefitLimitation
The benefit of this approach is mainly related to the opportunity to dedicate specific HR capacity to the project, align employee surveys with strategic cycles, and use feedback as a core input into a longer-term strategy.

Usually, these approaches aim to consistently measure the same model to determine longitudinal insights on topics such as employee engagement, satisfaction, and culture.
From a limitation perspective, there are significant drawbacks regarding the timeliness and relevance of action. Often by the time feedback is provided or action is taken, the organization has changed.

Employees also struggle to see the organization’s responsiveness and identify how their feedback led toward specific actions. This is reflected by Gartner’s research, which indicates that we have seen a steady decline in organizations using traditional approaches and instead opting for more responsive and frequent measurement strategies.

Approach 2: Interval employee surveys and focus groups

Interval Employee Surveys and Focus Groups

This approach uses employee surveys at set intervals to measure specific topics. Follow-up focus groups are utilized to dive deeper into some of the identified areas within the initial survey, as well as a mechanism to co-create interventions with participants. This method combines quantitative and qualitative methods and aims to benefit from both breadth and depth of insight.

BenefitLimitation
The benefit lies in the opportunity to co-create solutions with employees. This approach yields rich insight and allows for a deep dive into issues that require context to be understood and addressed.

Given the increased frequency of measurement, the opportunity also exists to be more responsive to topics and questions explored, allowing for a more dynamic conversation.
This approach is time-consuming and requires a lot of in-house skills to implement. Smaller HR teams struggle with this approach, as resources will be continuously tied up in focus groups and employee engagement, and data collection and analysis are often tedious.

The prioritization of interventions can be difficult, and employees frequently do not see the impact of the actions taken based on their suggestions.

Given the time-consuming nature of gathering feedback, managers often complain about their employees being taken away from work to participate. This is difficult in scheduled time-based work environments.

Approach 3: Pulse surveys and check-ins

Pulse Surveys and Check-ins

In this approach, shorter pulse surveys are used, with immediate actions being taken based on the feedback. It works well in controlled environments, yet it can be challenging to keep the cadence of measure, action, and re-measure at scale.

This method requires a high level of business ownership for actions and, over time, even independently analyzing their feedback. It is best suited in environments where listening is a continuous process and not a point-in-time solution.

BenefitLimitation
This approach yields the benefit of creating high visibility regarding the organization’s intention to listen. It collects longitudinal data that can be analyzed to understand trends, and keeps a strong “finger on the pulse” of what is currently happening. In addition, this feedback approach highlights how the organization responds when events occur.

Survey models tend to be more simplistic in nature, and questions often relate to current events, morale, or specific feedback topics. Popular topics include employee morale, organizational climate, and satisfaction measures.
From a limitation perspective, employee feedback can become transactional, lack depth, and over time, survey fatigue can kick in if not well managed.

This approach also requires dedicated focus, and often it can become a full-time responsibility for organizational development or HR departments to gather, analyze, and action insights.

Approach 4: Employee lifecycle measures of moments that matter

Employee Life Cycle Measures of Moments that Matter

In this approach, listening opportunities are aligned with key employee moments. It’s popular for measuring defined employee experiences and contains both a continuous action component as well as the opportunity to look at data over time to optimize experiences.

BenefitLimitation
This approach is very specific to a particular occurrence, so HR and organizations can take action quickly and decisively.

This approach also provides a variety of different types of feedback, and methods of listening can easily be combined depending on the employee moment. For example, we use a survey to measure the recruitment experience, yet we have an exit interview to discuss when employees leave.
This approach requires active monitoring and a defined response time for feedback to be actioned. As much as we want to understand the experience in the moment, we also need to take corrective action as soon as possible for the approach to be credible.

Approach 5: Continuous dialogue and analytics

Continuous Dialogue and Analytics

An approach that is becoming more popular relates to continuous listening, dialogue, and co-creative problem-solving. In this feedback collection method, employee dialogue guides action, and employee sentiment is continuously monitored and analyzed. These approaches often rely on continuous conversation platforms and technologies to be able to scale effectively. More recently, it has become popular to include in-house social media type platforms as sources of qualitative data.   

BenefitLimitation
Such an approach is excellent for co-creation, receiving in-depth insights, and building a robust understanding of how connections operate within the organization.

This approach can harness and demonstrate previously unexplored avenues that employees themselves identify, leading toward richer insights. 
This approach does require a strong analytically-oriented skillset and toolset, complimented by behavioral expertise. Organization leaders sometimes struggle with this approach, as it requires relinquishing control and trusting in the outcomes of the process. 

If not well managed, this approach can tend to be seen as being “more interested in the insight as opposed to the actions to be taken.”

Deciding on the best employee feedback approach for your organization

All the approaches mentioned above are valuable in their own right and yield a lot of value when used at the right time within the right context. So how do you decide which approach is the right fit for your organization? The model below guides you through 5 questions to help determine the best-fit approach for your organization:

How to Choose the Right Employee Feedback Approach

Let’s break it down.

Why

First, you need to ask “why” you have a listening strategy and what the benefits are that you want to leverage. Importantly, your listening approach cannot stand isolation, and it should be clear how this fits into your overall people and experience strategy.

What

Next is the “What” question. What do you want to uncover with the listening strategy? Are you interested in general feedback or more targeted feedback on a topic that is relevant at the moment or an event in time?

Who

Depending on the topic, you should consider “Who” the population is that’s in the best position to give you the feedback. Is it the entire organization, or should you focus on specific groups? You also need to be cognizant of whether there will be direct participation, implying you get feedback from the actual employee, or will it be through a representative body which is often the case in unionized environments. 

When

Next, consider “When” is the best time to ask for this feedback. Do you want to follow a continuous listening approach that is “always on”, or for this topic, is a point-in-time solution more relevant? 

How

Lastly, the “How” should be informed by the previous discussions. During this step, you have to consider practicalities such as budgets, capacity, and platforms. It is, however, important that these considerations do not lead the conversation.

This is not a rule of thumb and will differ in terms of organizational context, but the table below tries to help you decide on your approach based on the relevance of the approaches discussed above in terms of the “What, Who, and When” conversations:

  WHAT WHO WHEN
  General Feedback Specific Feedback Broad Population Specific Groups Continuous Listening Point in time listening
Continuous Dialogue and Analytics    
Lifecycle Moments that Matter    
Pulse Surveys and Check-ins
Interval Employee Surveys and Focus Groups    
Point in Time Surveys      

Over to you

Employee feedback is a key component of any people and employee experience strategy. In the modern world of work, we can expect the voice of the employee to become even more critical as organizations become more distributed with a higher need for collaborative work. Organizations will have to rethink the most appropriate listening strategy for their context to ensure that they involve employees in organizational decision-making and build a culture where people want to work, participate, and stay.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to stay up-to-date with the latest HR news, trends, and resources.

Are you ready for the future of HR?

Learn modern and relevant HR skills, online

Browse courses Enroll now