From Small Talk to Big Insights: How to Dig Deeper and Discover What Employees Really Think

From Small Talk to Big Insights: How to Dig Deeper and Discover What Employees Really Think

As a manager, you want to create a positive and productive workplace for all employees. But how can you know what your employees really think about their jobs, their co-workers, and the business as a whole? While casual conversations with employees can provide you with some insight, they often fail to reveal the whole truth. So, how can you dig deeper and discover what your employees really think? In this post, we’ll explore some strategies for gathering honest and meaningful feedback from employees, from open-ended questions to anonymous feedback systems to live audience polling. 

The Limits of Small Talk

Small talk with employees can be useful for providing a window into their thoughts and feelings about work, but it’s important to be aware that it does have its limits. Employees may not always feel comfortable to share their true thoughts and opinions in casual conversations, particularly if they fear repercussions or do not believe that their feedback will be taken seriously. 

While small talk can be a good starting point for gathering feedback for employees, the most important thing to focus on is creating a safe, confidential space where more meaningful conversations can be had. 

The Power of Open-Ended Questions


Asking open-ended questions that allow employees to share their thoughts and feelings in their own words is one of the best way to get some deeper and more detailed insights. Rather than asking yes or no questions, consider asking questions that start with phrases like ‘how do you feel about…’ or ‘tell me about…’. These kinds of questions can encourage employees to go into more detail about their experiences and opinions. 

Encouraging Anonymous Feedback

Some employees may be hesitant to provide honest feedback if they are worried about repercussions. Even if you know that you welcome any feedback as a manager, even if it’s not what you wanted to hear or is harsh, employees may worry that it’s not professional or appropriate to share. Along with this, employees may have feedback about other members of the workforce that they do not want to share in fear of repercussions from the employee in question. 

One way to address this concern is to provide a way for employees to submit their feedback anonymously. Anonymous feedback systems such as anonymous employee surveys give employees a chance to share their thoughts without putting their name to it. As a result, you can gather more honest feedback and get a clearer idea as to what is really going on. 

Live polling is another great way to gather anonymous employee feedback. With live polls, you can ask your team questions and gather immediate feedback that is displayed in a word cloud poll, which can prompt further discussions and sharing. This approach can be especially useful during meetings, workshops, and other events where you want to gather quick and actionable feedback from a large group easily. By using live audience polling, you can gather anonymous feedback and get a more comprehensive understanding of what your employees really think, and the consensus among the workforce. Sign up to Vevox here to try a live word cloud poll.

Data analysis can be used to provide valuable insights into employee feedback trends and help you uncover any areas for improvement within the business. By analysing the data from live polls, employee surveys, and other feedback gathering activities, you can identify patterns and trends, quickly identify any areas for improvement, and find out what the biggest problems or concerns are. With this information, you can easily and quickly set priorities for action and track your progress over time. 

Creating a Culture of Feedback

To get more honest, detailed feedback, ideas, opinions and suggestions from your team, it’s crucial to focus on creating a culture of feedback within the workplace. Encouraging and promoting feedback as a regular part of the workplace culture will help all employees feel more comfortable when it comes to sharing their opinions and ideas and motivate them to speak up. 

There are several ways to do this, but one of the most important is to ensure that employees have various opportunities to provide feedback. Something as simple as placing a ‘feedback box’ in a prominent place where employees can write something on a note anonymously and place it in the box can be ideal. Along with this, encourage and ask for feedback within team meetings and workshops. Speak to employees one-to-one regularly and encourage them to share their ideas. 

By making feedback a regular and central part of your overall workplace culture, you can create a safe, open environment where employee thoughts and opinions are valued. 

The Role of Managers in Gathering Feedback

Managers play a crucial role when it comes to gathering feedback from employees. All managers should work together to create an environment that encourages honest feedback and allows employees to feel safe to speak up. Some of the best ways to achieve this include:

  • Active listening: This is a critical skill for managers who want to gather honest feedback from their employees. It involves being fully engaged with the person who is speaking rather than simply passively listening to their words. Managers should pay close attention to the employee when receiving feedback, noticing not just their words but also nonverbal cues and body language. Ensure that all distractions are put away, eye contact is used, and use nonverbal cues to show that you are listening, such as nodding your head. Ask clarifying questions, and paraphrase what you have been told to demonstrate understanding. 

  • Non-defensive mindset: It can be difficult for managers to receive feedback that isn’t great, especially if it pertains to them or their job. However, a non-defensive and open-minded approach is key to creating a safe, open environment for employee feedback. Managers should be willing to hear criticism and feedback without taking it personally or becoming defensive. Remain calm and composed and avoid interrupting as this can make the person giving the feedback feel unheard and unappreciated. Instead, focus on understanding the feedback and identifying any areas for improvement that it uncovers. It’s important to avoid justifying your actions or making excuses. While wanting to explain your perspective is natural, it can come across as defensive and invalidating. Instead, take responsibility and focus on what can be done to improve the situation moving forward. 

  • Responding well and acting: Finally, responding and taking action on employee feedback is a crucial step. Employees need to see that their feedback is being heard and acted upon to feel valued and engaged in their work. It’s important to acknowledge the feedback and express appreciation for the employee’s input. Then, reflect on the feedback and consider what action, if any, should be taken. Depending on the feedback that has been given, this might be something you can take immediate action on or develop a plan for addressing the issue over time. Either way, it’s crucial to communicate with the employee or employees on the steps that will be taken and when they can expect to see results. 

Gathering honest and detailed employee feedback can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. By focusing on creating a culture of feedback, a safe place for employees to share, and allowing anonymous sharing, you can find out what employees think. 

Editorial Team
This article was written by Editorial a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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