Test, survey, consult? Part 3

How research methods and feedback mechanisms can impact engagement in workplace initiatives, Part 3

In this blog post series we’ve been looking at the benefits and limitations of different feedback mechanisms by exploring the ways they create research relationships that inform research participant’s expectations. As gaining staff feedback and engagement is vital to the success of workplace policy initiatives, this final post addresses how you can use this information to improve your workplace feedback and research practices.

The following questions will help to clarify the nature of the feedback you are seeking and aid you to select your feedback mechanisms (research methods) accordingly.

Q: What level of participation are you really seeking in this policy initiative?

If there is limited capacity for influence ensure that you choose a mechanism or methodology that does not raise expectations on this point. Testing and surveying are likely to be more appropriate to your needs than consultative processes.

Q: Where are you in the planning and development of your policy initiative?

Is there genuine capacity to influence the direction of the policy initiative? If so, then you may be looking to build your knowledge base, through a survey to develop broad knowledge, or through a consultation process if you are wanting to draw in active participants in developing your initiative. If your initiative is already largely developed, then you are probably only interested in testing reactions to your existing ideas.

Q: How much do you already know about your workforce in relation to this policy initiative?

It can sometimes be tempting to ask for feedback for the sake of gathering feedback. But the risk in this is that people can feel over surveyed and under-consulted. If you already have data on staff relevant to your policy initiative, don’t be tempted to seek further feedback unless something genuinely new will either come of that research or needs to be known. People value their time and they want to know that other people value it too.

Q: How much time and other resources do you have to implement your feedback mechanism fully and effectively?

Different methods and mechanisms require different resource commitments, most important among these – time. Think through the resource commitments of a particular research method before making a commitment to your staff to undertake it.

Three final tips when seeking feedback in the workplace:

  1. Be clear about opportunities for influence and what the decision making process will be. If your initiative will be top-down in design, be honest with your staff about it. Most people acknowledge and accept that there is a hierarchy of decision making in workplaces. While people will generally value being given an opportunity to offer feedback on decisions that will directly affect them (and in some cases this is a requirement in Australia), giving people a false impression of capacity for influence is likely to simply frustrate them.

  2. Try to report back to your staff how you’ve used their feedback and how their participation has informed the development of the policy initiative. This is likely to not only make people feel valued but to give them good reasons to engage in future research.

  3. If you’re still not sure which approach is best for your needs, don’t be afraid to seek advice. Research done well can engender positive relationships and ‘buy in’. Research undertaken without due consideration can create unintended obstacles. A little guidance can be all you need to set you on the right path.

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