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A company cannot operate without feedback. Feedback comes from both outside and inside the organization. External feedback arrives in the form of customer surveys, emails, phone calls, and comments about your company in the trade press and social media, and from situations where your employees meet with competitors, customers, and vendors. Internal feedback is generated through financial and other management reports, employee surveys, operational audits, performance evaluations, employee interviews (both entry and exit), and in less formal settings such as meetings, lunches, and hallway chatter.

Lack of Feedback

There are reasons for a deficiency in feedback from internal sources. Executives are not listening to the informal forms of feedback, they lack a formal feedback system that encourages feedback to be given, and any feedback is not utilized to make improvements.

The High Road® Institute offers solutions to clients and is one area that we frequently consult on. The following is one tactic that can provide the executive team with information about how employees feel and insight into their concerns, while soliciting solutions and ideas. We will post more tactics in future blog posts.

Leadership Tactic for Engagement

This tactic is part of an overall strategy to Make the Invisible Visible.

Create an Employee Ombudsman Position on Your Executive Team

An Ombudsman is critical to uncovering employees’ concerns. This person holds an executive position but has one primary directive—to create open channels for collecting and addressing employees’ issues and concerns. This role is a requirement in corporate governance programs because employees are able to talk more openly about ethical concerns and issues without the fear of repercussion.

The value of having an Ombudsman position on the executive team is that the person serves as a communication channel between the executives and the employees. This person conducts employee surveys, leads focus groups, sits in on cross-functional meetings, and engages employees whenever the opportunity arises.

Because this employee has no other functional responsibilities such as sales, operations, human resources, or accounting, they will likely have an unbiased viewpoint. Many companies currently rely on the human resource (HR) function to serve this role, but HR’s mission and goals interfere with its ability to engage employees in a meaningful dialog about non-HR issues.

The first key to making this position the foundation of your feedback system is finding an employee who is engaging, charismatic, and fits in at all levels. This person must also have integrity and know how to listen beyond people’s words. Employees must find this person trustworthy.  The second key is ensuring that whenever the Ombudsman speaks, executives listen. Frequently, this ombudsman role is assigned to a low-level employee who lacks power, authority, and gravitas.