It sounds crazy.

But if you think about it, I think you’ll agree…

It’s time for HR to ditch anonymous surveys.

At the end of the day, anonymous surveys are kind of like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.

They’re better than nothing, but it’s a poor way to address employee experience issues.

Allow me to dig in a little further.

Why We Have Anonymous Surveys

In a nutshell, we conduct surveys anonymously so that employees feel more confident sharing negative feedback.

In other words, we do it because our employees are afraid.

Afraid of retaliation, afraid of being picked on, or even afraid of ruining their relationship with their leader.

If our teams are too afraid to be honest with leaders or HR…isn’t THAT the real problem here?

Anonymous surveys treat the symptom…but they don’t do anything to address that underlying issue.

Instead of conducting surveys anonymously, shouldn’t we strive to create an environment where our teams feel comfortable sharing honest feedback?

And that’s not the only issue with anonymous surveys…

It’s Not Good Enough to Identify and Address Trends

Another problem with anonymous surveys is that when the survey is completed, we tend to focus on fixing trends.

Addressing trends can be better than nothing – but it’s still a very flawed approach.

Take it from my own experience. Here at Qualigence, we had our last anonymous survey this spring. We identified some trends to address among our team and started working on plans to do so.

Later, several employees quit…but guess what? None of their concerns had anything to do with the trends outlined in our survey.

So we had several good, high-performing employees leave (including some who had been here for years) and we never got the chance to address their concerns.

We were so focused on the trends in the survey that even though they had provided feedback, we were unable to address it because we didn’t know which individuals had provided what feedback.

The point is, it’s much more productive to know what each of our individual team members like and don’t like about their employee experience.

That way, we can focus on improving employee experience on an individual basis with efforts that will actually make a difference and be appreciated!

Creating an Environment Where Honest, Open Feedback is Encouraged

It can be quite a challenge to encourage team members to give us honest feedback. That’s why HR and leaders need to work together to create a culture where open feedback is not only accepted but encouraged.

Ask for feedback regularly. If you only ask for feedback once a year, it’s never going to feel normal or natural. Leaders should ask their teams for feedback closer to once a month, and stress that they want the team’s input so they can become a stronger leader.

Likewise, HR should solicit feedback from employees so they can create better work policies.

When you do receive feedback, it is vital to accept it without getting defensive or dismissive.

Leaders can also help this process by building personal yet professional relationships with their direct reports. One on one conversations are key here.

By getting to know their people and demonstrating they truly care about each team member not just as an employee but as an individual, it makes it easier for team members to open up.

Last but not least, consider offering feedback training so that team members can learn how to share critical feedback without sounding too harsh or blunt. As the old saying goes, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

If team members know how to diplomatically offer constructive criticism, it’s a lot easier to present feedback to your leader or even the C-suite.

Growing Together

At the end of the day, honest, open feedback is all about helping each other reach our full potential. The best organizations embrace feedback and encourage everyone to share their opinion so that leaders, teams, and the company as a whole can grow.

It’s about being better today than you were yesterday, and that’s an ideal that anyone can admire!