6 strategies to encourage employee feedback – including complaints!

Rose Bryant-Smith
March 29, 2017

In the recent Worklogic webinar, we discussed the importance of understanding exactly how your employees are feeling and creating a culture that encouraged honest feedback – including complaints! Here are six strategies to encourage employee feedback and complaints that you can implement and discover what your employees are really thinking:

1. Skip-Level Meetings

In a skip-level meeting, the leader or senior executive meets one-on-one with employees two levels below them in the hierarchy. This can be a great way for executives to stay in touch with the day-to-day realities of the business, and increases the flow of information.

2. Survey Your Employees

Surveys are an easy, low-cost way to obtain a lot of information. Conducting a survey can help you to:

  • Identify areas where you want to make changes – for example, improving your internal communications
  • Know what is bugging your staff – such as a lack of training, or making decisions which impact differently on employees of different demographics
  • Send a message to all staff that you are listening and care what they think.

SurveyMonkey.com has standard employee engagement surveys which you can use, if you have the time and expertise to analyse all the data, and to work out what to do with it. However, if there is a specific area of staff experience that you want to focus on, or you want to measure the organisation’s achievements in a certain area – such as integration after a merger, or whether your recent investment in managers’ skills is having a noticeable impact – consider calling Worklogic to assist.

3. Conduct Exit Interviews

Exit interviews of departing employees can yield a treasure trove of information. Sure, the exiting employee may not give you a report of ‘the average’ experience of the remaining workforce, given that they are either leaving for good reasons (moving on to a better position) or bad (their employment has been terminated or made redundant). However, they most likely feel able to tell you things that they would not have while still employed, even if they phrase it carefully in order to avoid burning bridges.

Don’t assume that departing employees have chosen to go elsewhere simply to chase something that is out of your control or budget, like advancement opportunities or higher salary. Leigh Branham, author of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late (Amacom, 2005), reports that most people tell human resources they are leaving for more money or a better opportunity, but in fact, 88% change jobs because of negative factors in their current workplace, such as poor people management or toxic culture. Do some digging and see if you can find out the real reasons people leave; they will enable you to do some remedial work and lessen turnover in future.

4. Confidential Complaints Line

Many employees do not speak up because they are afraid that they will suffer adverse consequences if they lodge a complaint. This fear is not misplaced, given the common, poor outcomes for whistleblowers.[1] Enabling staff to raise concerns anonymously is a good way to encourage fearful employees to come forward.

Some of our clients offer their employees the ability to lodge a complaint with an external complaints manager, including on an anonymous basis. Worklogic offers this as a free service to our clients through www.integrityline.com.au, an independent, secure channel for the confidential reporting of workplace misconduct and unethical behaviour. Employees can make a report of inappropriate conduct via telephone or our online reporting system. Reports lodged with Integrity Line are provided to the designated person at the subscriber organisation, and the organisation then decides how the report will be managed.

5. Workplace Review

We are often contacted by a client because they have a ‘toxic team’ or dysfunctional division, but they can’t work out why. Worklogic conducts independent workplace reviews of problematic, dysfunctional or unethical workplaces and teams, and also of critical incidents. After exploring the situation, we give practical and strategic advice to resolve the workplace problems. We identify problems, risks and opportunities to improve the morale, efficiency, functioning and ethics of the team.

6. Ask for Ideas

Encourage people to offer new ideas and to speak up about things that aren’t going well. Make sure that there is time on the agenda of meetings for people to bring up new ideas and opportunities for improvement. Listen to what they tell you, reward people who speak up – even if their ideas aren’t ultimately pursued. You could also have a central collection point (such as newideas@companyname.com, web-enabled chat or a discussion forum) where employees can send their ideas and feedback.

Next Steps

If your survey results or a departing employee has ‘dropped a bombshell’ and revealed things about the workplace that are a shock to the leaders, do not dismiss the new intel or minimise its importance. You have new information about how the organisation is operating (and you invested in seeking it!), so use that information to the organisation’s advantage.


  • Does the situation call for high-profile action or something more nuanced? Is a reaction urgent?
  • Where can I get help to talk through the risks and opportunities, to ‘unpack’ the issues before me and develop a strategy to respond?
  • If I don’t do something about this state of affairs, will the company suffer? Will we be less able to achieve our goals?
  • Is it my responsibility to address this? If not, with whom can I share this new information?
  • If I ignore this issue, could (more) harm happen to our employees or customers? Will I be able to look at myself in the mirror?

At Worklogic, our passion is to support Australian employers to identify and address concerns of their employees, and for the next week we have a special offer. Call one of Worklogic’s experienced workplace consultants, mention this blog, and we’ll invest half an hour with you, free of charge. We will help you ‘triage’ information you currently have about a brewing workplace concern, or review your current feedback processes.

To learn more about this topic, watch our free webinar on-demand “Do you know how your employees really feel”, presented by Worklogic Co-founder and Director, Rose Bryant-Smith.

[1] R Smith, AJ Brown, ‘The good, the bad and the ugly: Whistleblowing outcomes” in Whistleblowing in the Australian Public Sector, edited by A J Brown, ANU press 2008


About Rose Bryant-Smith

Rose Bryant-SmithRose Bryant-Smith is the co-founder and director of Worklogic. She is passionate about building ethical, productive and innovative workplaces. Rose leads projects about organisational ethics, risk management, corporate governance and organisational performance. Rose applies an astute, rational approach, strategic thinking and practical problem-solving.

Worklogic works with employers to resolve workplace complaints and create a positive culture at work. We can help you develop strategies to understand how your employees really feel, provide a secure channel for the reporting of workplace concerns and address workplace complaints. We also deliver on-site workshops and interactive training programs to help you build a positive culture at work.

If your organisation needs help on proactively encouraging employee feedback and complaints please contact Worklogic.

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Integrity Line

Integrity Line is an independent whistleblower service for complaints about inappropriate conduct at work, provided by Worklogic. Click here to visit the Integrity Line website.