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The Workforce-Altering Magic of Employee Engagement Feedback Loops


Several years ago, I walked into a spin class for the first time. I had no idea what I was doing, and the indoor exercise bike was a complete mystery to me. I spent 10 minutes just adjusting the seat on that sucker while my classmates happily pedaled away. But I’m not one to give up, so I slogged my way through a few rides as best I could.

Then one day, there was a new instructor.

One of the first things he had us do was push a button located between the bike’s handlebars. Like magic, a small screen lit up with data. Suddenly there were RPMs to show how fast I was pedaling, watts to highlight how much power I was generating, a gear icon to indicate resistance, and a heart rate monitor to register which cardiovascular zone I was in.

As the spin instructor walked us through what each of those numbers meant, I understood what I’d been doing wrong. Now, when my RPMs got too high, I knew to increase the gear load. When it was time to recover from sprints, I’d watch my heart rate until it stabilized. If I hit a certain power number on the first simulated hill, I could use the console to try and beat that goal the next time around.

This continuous loop of real-time feedback changed spin class forever — in the best way possible. And to think… all that data had been available to me all along.

The same can be said of many company cultures. How many times has a manager wondered why a group of productive employees becomes suddenly and inexplicably disengaged? How many executive teams struggle to understand what will help people experience more passion and purpose at work?

Imagine how much easier it would be to answer these kinds of questions if you had an employee engagement console to light up issues and solutions. And not just once a year in an annual survey, but throughout the year, during critical times in the business.

Well, that’s exactly what employee engagement feedback loops are for.

Using positive feedback loops for employee engagement

When my spin instructor clued me in to the magic of the cycling bike console, I got to experience one of the most remarkably effective strategies for behavioral change: feedback loops.

The science behind positive feedback loops is relatively straightforward: Give people immediate feedback on their actions, with no threat of reprisal, and they’ll instinctively have a desire to make improvements.

One of the best explanations of feedback loops I’ve ever seen appeared in a Wired article years ago:

The basic premise is simple. Provide people with information about their actions in real time (or something close to it), then give them an opportunity to change those actions, pushing them toward better behaviors. Action, information, reaction. It’s the operating principle behind a home thermostat, which fires the furnace to maintain a specific temperature.

It’s a simple concept, but the impacts can be profound. Coaches use feedback loops to improve athletic performance. Educators use them to instill better learning outcomes. And executives can use them to increase engagement, and ultimately, employee performance.

Strong feedback loops can keep employees from quitting out of the blue. They can be used to strengthen manager-employee relationships and improve company culture. All you have to do is put some basic principles into play: Gather feedback from employees, turn it over to managers and decision-makers, and give them space to digest and respond.

How to create strong employee engagement feedback loops

We’ve touched on the importance of feedback loops in the past, primarily when it comes to evaluating managers and gathering insights they can use.

If you’d like to take these concepts a step further, there are a few essential steps to follow:

1. First, you’ll need to collect data.
By measuring employee engagement on an ongoing basis, you’ll have a continual feed of data to inform important decisions and actions. To ensure accurate information, use a tool that allows employees to provide open and honest feedback without fear of consequence.

2. Next, share the data.
It’s not enough to just collect feedback from employees. You need to break down that data by individual departments and teams, and then share it in a way that’s relevant and will resonate with each individual leader.

3. And lastly, provide options for action.
Managers will need clear and simple direction on what they can do to make a change. Then, after behaviors start to shift and different choices are made, engagement is measured once again and the cycle is repeated.

This process can have profound and lasting impacts on critical employee engagement drivers such as trust, friendship, shared values, and relationships. We’ve seen companies use feedback loops to reduce turnover by 20%, boost employee engagement scores, and even increase production capacity by $3.8 million.

Did you know? 15Five’s measurement approach is designed to ensure executives will get accurate, timely employee engagement data that can be put into action instantly. Companies use it to improve trust, increase efficiency, reduce turnover, and more. Request a demo to see how it works.

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