How to use employee feedback to stop workplace culture turning toxic

Dr Alex Young

In this article written exclusively for Business Leader, Dr. Alex Young, founder and CEO of AI-utilising employee learning platform Virti, discusses how employee feedback can be key to preventing workplace culture from turning toxic.

Whether your company is remote, office-based or hybrid, your unique workplace culture matters. Composed of a shared set of values, norms and beliefs, it is often described as the personality of your company, impacting everything from profits and growth to employee churn and creativity.

But with a recent national study revealing that ‘toxic’ workplace culture has directly impacted the mental health of 42% of the UK workforce, what can managers do to make sure that culture remains positive and enables employees to perform at their best? Of course, there’s no quick-fix solution. However, amongst the most important actions that can be taken is regular collection and use of employee feedback.

How can employee feedback influence workplace culture? 

Employee feedback – i.e. opinions and reflections on every aspect of company life – is a powerful tool for employers. That’s because when it comes to making the company a better place to work, who has better insight than the workers themselves?

Truly listening to your employees can pay dividends, as their responses will give you an idea of the current state of your workplace culture and what needs to change in order to make it better.

For example, if you’re considering rolling out a new wellbeing initiative or onboarding programme, the feedback you receive from the early adoptees on your team will enable you to judge whether the new initiative is fulfilling its purpose and delivering a healthy ROI.

But isn’t it laborious and time-consuming to collect meaningful feedback from employees? 

Traditionally, yes. Collecting feedback verbally or sourcing written responses takes a lot of effort and encouragement, typically yielding low participation and few useful insights. It’s also a challenge to collate and draw conclusions from this type of qualitative data – let alone tracking patterns over time!

However, new technologies are making the entire process more engaging, streamlined and user-friendly, whilst eliminating the pain points from collecting employee (and customer) feedback. First amongst recent innovations are digital feedback suites with fully customisable, no-code form creation. By integrating these platforms into existing workflows, employers can survey their teams in minutes without disruption to their day.

This means that the impact of new initiatives can be tracked in real-time as they are implemented, and warning signs of burnout and churn can be flagged early. If an organisation is delivering training to employees, digital feedback tools can be used to assess the utility of the training from the perspective of the learner, ensuring that they’re deriving maximum benefit. Digital feedback responses can be automatically logged and tracked over time, with multiple data points allowing for detailed analysis.

How can feedback responses best be converted into action?

Everyone likes to feel like their opinions matter, and it’s no different in the workplace. That’s why the most important part of the feedback process is delivering tangible change directly inspired or guided by feedback. Seeing how their input has resulted in a positive outcome will make employees feel valued, listened to and more inclined to offer feedback again in the future.

This explains why it’s important that any feedback data collected can be easily interpreted and translated into action. This is something that you need to bear in mind when designing or choosing your feedback system: is the tool or platform you’re using going to help you to act on the responses, or is it going to be difficult to identify the required trends and patterns? The best feedback platforms use sentiment analysis to convert qualitative response data into quantitative data. This data is displayed on clear graphs and charts in order to deliver clear and actionable insights for the employer.

The key takeaway messages here are that happy staff make a successful company, and that building a positive workplace culture is the best way to keep your staff happy and healthy, motivated and engaged.  By promoting open communication with a robust feedback system, leaders should see noticeable improvement in whole-team alignment and morale with consequent benefits on a business-wide scale. It’s a true win-win situation!

Business Leader also recently chatted to Michael Cruz from Summer Friday, who offered us some additional tips for how to avoid a toxic workplace culture.

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