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New high-tech platforms make getting feedback easier than ever.

The Future of Feedback: Employee Survey Technology

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How restaurant operators can use new software to take the pulse of their businesses.
By Jamie Griffin February 2017 Vendor Bylines

Executives leading their organization to be an employer of choice should take notice of shifts occurring in how frequently great companies ask employees for feedback. Expert consensus is emerging around upgrading the one-time per year annual employee survey to a real-time data gathering routine targeted toward timely business interventions—and, technology companies are ready to help.

Engagement and culture continually top the list of critical business issues; yet organizations like Gallup and Quantum Workplace conclude that employee engagement has been at an all-time low for many years. That’s bad news for business results; engagement is generally believed to positively impact turnover, customer satisfaction, revenue, profitability, and other key performance metrics.

For decades, leading organizations have leveraged staff and traditional vendors, providing validated surveys to measure and benchmark employee engagement. In time, criticism of the traditional model has increased. For employees, the number and type of questions asked by each organization grow each year and thus take more time for employees to complete. For the business, the results are too broad and general to create meaningful interventions for positive change.

Beyond those concerns, organizations are evolving more rapidly than ever, quickly outdating employee feedback. The relevancy problem of the annual process is especially true in restaurants and retail where average hourly turnover rates can exceed 100 percent. At that rate, about half of the people employed in a 12-month period are missed by an annual process.

To address these concerns, a new wave of real-time and pulse feedback technology is being developed, tested, and applied. The emergence of real-time rating apps will not come as a surprise to users of popular mobile phone applications, like Yelp, Foursquare, and OpenTable, which allow guests to immediately rate and review restaurant experiences. Given the organizational need for more frequent feedback and the emergence of new rating technologies, the convergence of the two into a business and technology solution is easy to imagine.  

As the craving for constructive and timely feedback from employees grows, so does the employee survey marketplace. Dozens of newcomers like CultureAmp, Culture IQ, OfficeVibe, and TinyPulse (to name a few without endorsement) are expanding into the market with affordable and easy-to-use pulse survey tools that makes gathering employee feedback fast and friendly. Meanwhile, traditional survey vendors like Gallup and Qualtrics and restaurant back office solutions like HotSchedules have and are innovating their own pulse survey tools.

Organizations using these innovative tools are prioritizing the ability to quickly identify specific business insights over much broader year-over-year comparisons and competitive benchmarks. In time, newcomers will build their own pre-defined questions and benchmark data banks to rival the assets of traditional vendors. Beyond, employee engagement survey vendors will likely begin integrating with other key systems and adding complimentary feedback tools allowing employees to rate each other, their managers, and company initiatives in real-time.

People-forward companies interested in building their employee engagement competitive advantage should consider the following.

 No matter the available technology, be sure to:

  • Implement shorter surveys that identify specific and actionable insights with the purpose of changing behavior and producing better business results in a timely fashion.
  • Align pulse surveys to annual business processes like re-training programs, annual benefits rollout, or to gather feedback on a system-wide challenge facing the business.
  • Avoid the pitfall of holding managers accountable to survey results—managers are more likely to game the process in favor of strong survey results over honest feedback.
  • Reinforce that feedback is a gift providing an opportunity for the business to improve. Seeking out and responding to constructive feedback dialogues is a key habit.

If buying new technology, use these factors to review vendors:

  • Specific business use cases
  • Investment  and return on investment
  • Ease of use
  • Ability to engage employees via email, mobile, and text message
  • Range of solutions offered compatible with business needs
  • Ability to integrate with other business processes and systems

The emergence of technology to collect real-time data from employees is another step in the journey of employers to create innovative ways to measure and manage workforces. Real-time feedback from employees correlated with other human capital and business data has the power to unlock a new way to manage and improve relationships with employees so that they deliver better products and experiences to customers.

Jamie Griffin has nearly 15 years of experience in restaurants working in multiple facets of a high-growth quick service restaurant chain. He is the founder and principal at Good Workforce. He and his firm specialize in hourly workforce measurement, management, and employee relations.