How setting up a robust employee feedback program can increase engagement and drive business results
At a previous organization that I worked for, I had the good fortune to work on the launch of an internal employee feedback program. A year later, I transferred to the team where my primary role was: you guessed it, program manager for that same program. This means I got to see both how employee feedback programs can be created and how they can be sustained to drive real results.
The background: Our team of 10,000 customer service representatives were sending feedback to our CEO over email every day. Their ideas and flags were insightful, but the volume was too much for a leader to manage. There had to be a better way.
The Frontline Feedback program was born, set up to intake feedback and ideas from customer service representatives. They had meaningful input to share that could result in an improved customer experience or business decision. We launched and set up that program, and ran it for years—in fact, it is still running to this day. Here are some key learnings from the program:
The program structure was indisputable
In order for the program to be adopted successfully and taken seriously, the program was built with all stakeholders and all objectives fleshed out and openly declared and defended internally.
We had leader buy-in, but we also had buy-in from the frontline, who would benefit most from this program. We had to know they would use it and so we built in processes to make it easy for them to do so. We partnered with Planview to create a forum where ideas could be submitted. We built requests for frontline feedback into weekly all-hands meetings, setting up the rigor and structure for adoption across teams. This way, the marketing or pricing teams could request feedback from the frontline on specific topics directly.
We leveraged a survey tool and leaned on our internal insights team to design questions, administer the surveys, and analyze the results to build reporting.
The feedback did not go into a black hole
We closed the loop with the frontline, sharing how their feedback impacted a change on our dot com or how their insights led to a new pricing strategy for customers.
We built a microsite to showcase their wins and profile different frontline members. As part of the program, we also awarded the ‘top idea of the quarter’ and celebrated their wins among other frontline teams. The top idea recipient also received a trophy and a meeting with the business leaders who would implement their idea.
We gave frontline teams a seat at the business table, something they felt they’d been lacking, despite being the face of the organization and ear for customers going through tough problems.
The uptick was phenomenal, with 90% of frontline approving the program and 95% saying it was a highly valuable use of their time.
The program evolved as the years passed
Within a year, we introduced focus groups — a chance for frontline team members to sit in a room with the business and weigh in on upcoming projects confidentially. We never could have introduced focus groups off the bat due to time constraints and the already tall ask of getting frontline teams to participate. But due to the program’s adoption and success, it was easier to get permission to expand our offering as we showed results.
Internally, we also evolved how we operated. By moving from a vendor with a 2-week turnaround on survey deployment to leaning on our internal insights team to deploy surveys, we were able to triple our output and significantly lower our costs.
We also evolved the frontline offering and learned that business teams wanted to run ideas by frontline quickly for a thumbs up or thumbs down. We introduced frontline certification to achieve this result and created a structure that would allow us to seek frontline feedback using an internal intranet group and get results within hours.
Overall, the program drove millions of dollars in call savings and net new profit, all by listening to what our frontline teams had to say. The program was globally recognized and well received whenever we touted it around at events or webinars. Companies shouldn’t hesitate to consider how leveraging their internal mind power can drive positive engagement and results!