The Power of Anonymity for Employee Feedback

Business.com / Business Basics / Last Modified: March 6, 2017

Anonymity is a powerful tool in getting the most out of employee surveys. Ultimately, it will greatly benefit your company's culture!

In theory, employee surveys are extremely useful in getting feedback from employees, but there is one small concern with rather large implications. It’s anonymity—or lack thereof. Let me set the stage:

Approachable managers have a more engaged workforce

A 2015 Gallup Poll evidences a higher level of employee engagement when there’s an open line of communication between employees and managers. More specifically, managers who are open and more approachable allow employees to feel more secure and comfortable asking questions or providing feedback. Of course, the more approachable manager will get more honest feedback, but even the most approachable managers lose out on the really valuable feedback.

Data from the Cornell National Social Survey shows that, of the 439 full-time respondents that aren’t self-employed, 42% withhold information when they have nothing to gain or something to lose. Furthermore, a quarter of the respondents withhold feedback—the kind that helps a business identify “routine problems” and areas of improvement—for fear of consequence. How then, in the face of these alarming statistics, are you supposed to get honest feedback from your employees?

Anonymity Drawbacks

No employee wants their own problems, or their problems with other employees, to be aired out in public. Keeping employee surveys anonymous will let employees voice all of their concerns honestly, allowing your business to resolve issues and become more cohesive.

There are a few reasonable concerns—things worth keeping in mind as you move towards this anonymous approach. Chris Cancialosi, organizational psychologist and entrepreneur, cites a few areas of concern in anonymous employee surveys:

  1. Skewed results: an inflated amount of anger and dissatisfaction coming from a small group of employees.
  2. Misinterpreted feedback: misinterpreting data for lack of context.
  3. Lack of follow up: no way to approach good or bad feedback to dig deeper for a solution.

All things considered, these three issues are definitely to be calculated into any data you receive and analyze when conducting anonymous employee surveys. To account for some of these issues, however, anonymous surveys are a great example as to which questions you should ask, and how, in order to set some context while still keeping things anonymous. For example, including questions about tenure, position, department, age, gender, and other identifying characteristics will go a long way in how to build off of the feedback you receive. It’s important to note that your survey should have a multitude of different types of questions to allow for your employees to answer freely without being trapped with a predetermined or steered answers.

It’s never been easier.

In the digital age, it’s never been easier to conduct and analyze anonymous employee surveys. Companies like Officevibe are setting the standard in digital (and anonymous) employee surveys that are a win-win for companies and their employees. Such applications provide customized questions and frequent feedback from remarkably easy-to-use surveys that can be delivered and accessed via email. These anonymous employee surveys can even be integrated into the popular cloud-based collaboration platforms like Slack and Microsoft Office 365. With all of these benefits, there’s really no reason to put off implementing your own anonymous employee survey.

What kind of company culture advocate would I be without touching on how anonymous employee surveys benefit culture? When going this route, make sure your employees know that the survey is prepared with love. In 2017, it’s all about positivity and growth, and if your efforts are perceived as constructive, the result can only be the same for your business and its culture!

Image by Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock

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