Recently, over the span of three weeks, I have had the experience of deja-vu while working with four different groups of managers and employees working in four different organizations. The exact same pattern of managerial communication failure appeared in four very different enterprises. What was this failure? It was the failure to close the feedback loop so that communication could flow in a meaningful and productive way. The pattern was simply this: First, executives asked for organization feedback in the forms of either employee opinion or employee engagement surveys. Second, they gathered up the data into a report that the senior team reviewed. Third, nothing was communicated back to those filling out the surveys. The leadership of each entity failed to close the loop and let the organization know what they had heard and what they were going to do with the information.
The failure to close the feedback loop so that the communication can flow into meaningful directions and actions, leaves those asked for input out in the cold. The result of this leadership failure is either anxiety or cynicism leading to a decreased state of motivational readiness as well as less overall employee engagement. It would have been better never to do the surveys or ask for the input than to have asked and then let it disappear into a “black hole” never to re-emerge into the light of day. This is a profoundly disrespectful form of behavior and highly demotivating.
The process for closing the loop of feedback is essential to effective communication and the flow of meaningful work and active engagement. It requires the following additional steps: Analyze and digest the input and then actively share with the organization what was received (a summary of themes) along with what leadership will be focused on addressing and what will not be addressed and why. The key is LET PEOPLE KNOW THAT THEY HAVE BEEN HEARD and then what will and will not be done with it. Show the respect for input and you show respect for those offering it. It closes the loop and communication flows into more productive and useful channels.