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10 ways to get honest feedback from your employees

5 min read


The following responses are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council, an invitation-only organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and e-mail lessons. All photos are courtesy of YEC.

Q. What’s your favorite method for collecting employee feedback, good or bad, and how do you incorporate that into the way you run or lead your startup?

1. Take a walk

I find that walking meetings provide for a non-stressful atmosphere. By getting out of the office, employees are not distracted by their to-do lists, and they feel freer to talk about the business, as well as their happiness. As with everything, as a founder, you need to be great at pattern recognition. When you hear the same feedback consistently, make a change! — Aaron Schwartz, of Modify Watches

2. Give employees 15, and then take five

We use 15Five, and it has literally transformed the way we garner feedback and integrate suggestions from our team. Our staff receives an e-mail once a week that prompts them to answer 10 simple questions, ranging from “What’s going well in your role?” to “Which client is being underserved?”

Directors read the reports and then roll them up for my review on a weekly basis. — Kristian Andersen, of KA+A

3. Feed forward

We have made honesty and openness part of our culture and want everyone to give and receive feedback. (But we call it feed-forward to reiterate the fact that it’s about improving, not about past mistakes.) At our monthly company-wide meetings, everyone has to answer “When was the last time you gave someone feedback?” This ensures people are giving feedback! — Kit Hickey, of Ministry of Supply

4. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings

Many business owners only meet with employees on an ad hoc basis, but this can lead to long stretches of time with little candid communication. It’s these periods when politics can fester, which is why it’s essential to have regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings. I meet individually with members of my executive team weekly. Don’t leave such important feedback collection to chance. — Emerson Spartz, of Spartz

5. Utilize employee surveys

Employee surveys can be even more effective than customer surveys when it comes to improving business operations. Your staff members may not be prone to speak up without such a platform. Once you’ve collected the data, it’s important to discuss the findings with your group and agree upon what new measures will be put into place. — Andrew Schrage, of Money Crashers Personal Finance

6. Invite feedback away from meetings

While it’s crucial to stay up to date with your team and meet with them in person regularly, it’s also important to have a way that your team can contact you without having to say certain things to your face. The lower you can make the risks that go along with speaking up, the easier it will be to get employees to do so. Letting them avoid face-to-face discussions is a start. — Thursday Bram, of Hyper Modern Consulting

7. Hold town-hall meetings

We host company-wide town-hall meetings every six weeks. Everyone is invited and encouraged to submit questions anonymously for the founders or anyone else to answer. Sometimes the questions spark further discussion, and we can get feedback from our entire team. We take the suggestions we receive and implement them as well as we can. — Jesse Pujji, of Ampush

8. Let the feedback steer you

We have daily companywide meetings where everyone expresses what’s working and what’s not. Then, we assign someone on the spot to take responsibility for fixing any problems, which is the most important part. Don’t just acknowledge the feedback — let it guide your company to better results. — Nick Friedman, of College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving

9. Rate meetings on a scale of one to five

At the end of every meeting, all participants put up a hand with one to five fingers to rate the experience. A “five” is a meeting that starts on time, ends on time, doesn’t go off on tangents and stresses our company values. A “one” is a total waste of everyone’s time. And it’s okay to give a rating of “one”! — Zach Clayton, of Three Ships Media

10. Show employees they’re worth your time

My favorite way is to ask them directly. Thanks to an excellent podcast series called “Manager Tools,” I have a standing appointment for 30 minutes each week with each one of the employees who reports directly to me. The message sent here is that my employees are worth my time. My team communicates better, works more efficiently and is just generally on the same page. — Brian Moran, of Get 10,000 Fans