When you think of workplace feedback, the most common type that likely comes to mind is a manager sharing feedback with his or her direct report. But it's just as important for employees to share feedback with their managers and the leadership team.

According to a 2017 study from Quantum Workforce, about half of employees don't regularly speak their mind at work -- whether to colleagues or managers. If you think you're not receiving enough feedback from employees, consider the following tips to encourage open and honest communication amongst your team.

1. Support a safe environment for feedback.

Without continuous feedback, your business will not improve over time and your growth will grow stagnant. At my company, one of our core values is "Eager to Improve." Because of this core value, every team member challenges one another in order to improve on a personal level and help the company improve as a whole. To support this, we have an open door policy -- employees are encouraged to share constructive feedback with managers and leadership.

We also complete employee surveys, asking all team members for key ways to improve the employee experience. And my team hosts quarterly town hall meetings, in which employees are welcome to submit any questions they'd like to ask leadership.

2. Ask for specific feedback.

When soliciting feedback from employees, you won't get much out of simply asking employees, "Do you have any feedback?" In more cases than not, employees won't share feedback or will only share something positive. On the other hand, if you ask for more specific feedback, such as, "What can I improve upon?" or "How can I be a better manager?," you'll receive a more useful response that can help you grow as a leader.

3. Practice active listening.

When you receive feedback, you likely already think of how you're going to respond to the feedback before your colleague even finishes speaking. Or you might have your phone or laptop in front of you and not give the person speaking your full attention. Either way, you won't be getting the most of the feedback unless you're fully attentive.

At a recent offsite meeting, all employees at my company participated in a radical candor workshop. During the workshop, we learned how to give and receive more effective feedback. Part of the workshop also focused on active listening. Employees partnered up and each partner got to speak for two minutes. During this time, the other partner was tasked with simply listening -- not following up with a question or sharing a personal anecdote related to what their partner said.

Many employees said the active listening workshop was challenging, as they're used to reacting to others when they talk -- such as asking a question. But employees also got a lot more out of the exercise and learned about each other on a more personal level. Active listening is also useful when it comes to feedback. By doing your best to stay fully attentive, you can show employees you care about what they're saying, and you'll have a better understanding of the feedback they share.

4. Outline next steps to take action.

Once you actively listen to feedback, let your employees know you've heard and understand their feedback. And let them know your plan to take action. For example, if an employee says he or she hasn't received enough training to succeed in his or her role, outline how you're going to provide more training -- such as setting aside professional development budget, providing an in-office mentor or providing more one-on-one guidance. Or if team members say your communication isn't working, share how you'll change--perhaps you'll make a commitment to meet in-person more often instead of emailing.

By encouraging feedback and acting upon it, you can help employees stay motivated and excited to do great work for your team. And continuous feedback leads to continuous improvement, which will help your company be more productive and profitable.

Published on: Feb 8, 2019