Listen to employees with Synthetron online dialogues

Feedback in Change

Listen to employees with Synthetron online dialogues

Feedback in Change

10 Lessons Learned from Crowdsourcing

Sometimes the requests from Linkedin change practitioners trigger an instant reaction with me. The question about “The greatest barrier to successful change is the pace and accuracy of feedback“ did so because my main focus has been on facilitating this feedback loop on a massive and authentic scale within organisations using crowdsourcing. Hence it motivated me to sum up my ten top lessons learned.

From experience my lessons learned to have a good feedback loops are:

1. Create a safe environment:

Organise your feedback in such a way that people can speak up “safely”, and share their problems, issues and emotions without fear so that you really know what matters. Anonymity is a great enabler here.

2. Reach out:

Involve more than the happy few closely involved in the change project and reach out to those affected by the change. However be careful not to mix people with very different levels of change impact, you gain by splitting people into groups for whom the change-experience will be similar.

3. Get feedback in a social way:

People appreciate hearing the ideas of others, to feel they are not alone, to get tips and insights, and above all to learn and allow their own ideas to be expressed in a conversation.

4. Look for feedforward:

Go beyond feedback on how things are going and ask the people also to give you their insights and wisdom to find solutions and improvements. From our experience there is great wisdom to be gained whenever you create the space for it in your conversations. It is a misconception that people are against change; they are against “bad change”. From our research of thousands of interventions we clearly demonstrate that people mainly think in enabling terms when asked to share feedback during change, i.e. what can be done better (*).

5. Ask the right, meaningful, open questions:

Listen to people in an open way (acknowledging that they are the subjects having to make the change happen). Do not measure people by asking them to respond to a set of closed questions or polls (as if they are objects of the change).

6. Balance attention of Heart, Head and Hands:

Engage your people to share their feedback on the rationale for change (Head) but also on the way they feel the change via behaviour, values, and emotions (Heart). Lastly ask them to share their more practical feedback about aspects of the change (Hands), and they will tell you what changes ito tools, budgets, competences, processes or resources will help the change to progress

7. Calibrate your feedback:

Ensure that a small number of vocal people do not get all the attention, rather find out what most find relevant, including feedback which is not commonly recognised. That way you avoid jumping to invalid conclusions (the crowdsource software can do this for you).

8. Seek feedback regularly:

Feedback “changes” during the change period. At the start, you’ll probably focus on alignment, trying to find how to overcome resistance to change. In later phases the focus is more about improving engagement, enabling you to fine tune the change by improving processes, tools or management, to accelerate your roll out in a robust way. Adapt the pace of your feedback loop to the roll out of your change phases and to your capacity to follow up (and expect results from corrective measures).

9. Understand the meaning of the feedback:

Ask yourself what the feedback means for the change project. Don’t jump to conclusions, but get the bigger picture about what are the most important issues, root causes and potential solutions at different managerial levels. Translate it into managerial implications for the change process – a “so what” analysis.

Here you can go much further than merely listening to the content of what people say. You can identify the various change forces (Head, Heart and Hands), discover effective buzz words, and perform a mindset analysis, so you know what type of communication is most likely to be effective. Some of these steps require specific competences.

10. Follow up:

Asking for feedback is an intervention: you have engaged the people to share their best ideas and opinions, so they are more involved. Recognise and thank them for their valuable feedback, then decide what you are going to do with it and act in a noticeable way. Otherwise next time you risk no longer getting their best opinions and ideas… and all the engagement you created will evaporate
If done right feedback is a positive intervention- we see change readiness increase significantly in moments of feedback (measured both in mindset analysis indicators and by just poll people’s self-assessment on the change curve at the beginning and end of a feedback session). So independent from the insights one can obtain, the process of feedback itself is a potential big change enhancer.

(*)“What Managers, Executives and Staff Tell us that Really Matters”, in Review of Business and Economics, 2011 (2), by Paul Verdin, Eric Cabocel, Joanne Celens & François Faelli.

By Joanne Celens


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Engagement Surveys: not quite there yet

Engagement Surveys: not quite there yet

For the past twenty years employee opinion surveys have  been going through a steady evolution.
First there were satisfaction surveys, which today have evolved into engagement surveys. It’s a necessary metric in the classical HR dashboard, but usually it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. Engagement surveys give us a multitude of numbers for different departments, business units, etc. But most of the time you’ll see that the results don’t really differ, or worse, don’t really matter.
A reason for this is the top-down approach embedded in HR. Existing solutions and processes are often used to control problems.


Synthetron does it differently

This is where Synthetron works in a different way. Starting from past results, we set up meaningful discussions guided bottom-up by the employees themselves. Through an intelligent online  tool that enables large groups of people (> 1000) to partake in simultaneous real-time dialogue, it becomes possible to explore  solutions to problems, search for common ground and reflect on the current situation.

The methodology is based on the concept of ‘the wisdom of crowds’ by J. Surowiecki. The beauty of this is that every individual participant is talking to and exchanging ideas with a small group of people. This makes the whole conversation more manageable. The software then makes sure that this small group of people is connected to the larger group.

Case: FMCG

A multinational FMCG was having trouble with the results of their engagement survey, which showed an apparent unhappiness with growth opportunities (even though there was a ‘corporate university’) and a whole slew of low scores that were hard to interpret or even connect.

The functional manager asked to set up a discussion with the whole (worldwide) development department  in which the role of the employee, organization and manager were discussed. The discussion resulted immediately in a list of ideas that were supported by the whole group. Also some old hypotheses  that had been posited time and time again after each engagement survey were disproved, e.g.: ‘unhappy with the development opportunities’, ‘not knowing the corporate university’.

The discussion showed how people knew about such opportunities and wanted to take advantage of  them, but were unable to because of the constant high work pressure (and changes). They felt like they never had the time. In other words: the development trajectories were viewed as something theoretical, and not something people could actually do.

Now what did this discussion yield?

  • First of all a clear and open gesture of appreciation towards the team and the whole department in its professionalism, drive and goals.
  • The insight that a new information campaign wouldn’t improve the engagement survey results.
  • The insight that employees want to be involved and can do more than complain
  • A list of clear changes in working conditions, new instruments, etc. to work better remotely
  • And finally, and most importantly: an open and honest dialogue between management and employees on ‘our ways of working’.


Synthetron enables  organisations to “listen in a clever way”

The above case is representative for the advantages Synthetron offers as an online discussion method.

  • The employees are really heard and experience this. It’s not just a meeting, it’s more of an intervention.
  • The engagement of the employees increases significantly
  • It generates a solution provided by the employees

In short: a Synthetron discussion is a process in which an organisation cleverly listens to its employees and helps them think ahead, beyond the engagement survey results

by Jan Camelbeek

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