How Do You Incorporate Employee Feedback into Strategic Planning?

How Do You Incorporate Employee Feedback into Strategic Planning?

In the quest to create robust strategic plans that resonate with the entire company, we've gathered insights from fifteen CEOs on integrating employee feedback into their strategic planning. From discerning employee feedback for strategic impact to implementing regular feedback mechanisms to drive strategy, these business leaders offer real-world examples and approaches that ensure every voice is heard and valued.

  • Discern Employee Feedback for Strategic Impact
  • Invite Diverse Insights Using Reverse Town Halls
  • Foster Process Improvements with Biweekly Meetings
  • Assess Feedback Before Informing Strategy
  • Cultivate a Culture of Co-Creation
  • Utilize Diverse Channels to Uncover Strategic Themes
  • Conglomerate Employee Ideas for Strategy
  • Prioritize Feedback for Top-Down Strategy
  • Ensure Honest Input with Anonymous Feedback
  • Link Feedback to Strategy Using Performance Pulse
  • Shape Strategic Paradigms with Inclusive Ethos
  • Inform Decision-Making with Team Perspectives
  • Incorporate Feedback in 360-Degree Reviews
  • Take a Proactive Approach to Employee Feedback
  • Include Employees in Strategy Development

Discern Employee Feedback for Strategic Impact

Those in the C-Suite (or business owners) must use discernment when incorporating employee feedback into their strategic plans. This is because different types of feedback require different solutions that may cause short-or-long-term profitability, or chaos, if implemented.

It is important to remember that employee feedback is often tactical to their functional area, and they may not fully understand the goals or needs of other departments. Their feedback may also present opinions and ideas that change the strategic plan or focus away from the organization's business plan.

However, it is also important to realize that your employees are the best observers of your organization and that you would pay consultants thousands of dollars for what your employees have already identified and often solutioned. The discernment leadership must employ is the wisdom to know when employee feedback is strategically helpful or harmful to the organization's success.

Katherine Fleischman
Katherine Fleischmanceo, Do Tell

Invite Diverse Insights Using Reverse Town Halls

To truly integrate feedback from all levels into strategic planning, we’ve developed a 'reverse town hall' approach. Here, employees from various departments present their ideas and challenges directly to the leadership team. Each session focuses on a specific theme relevant to our strategic goals, allowing for targeted and actionable discussions.

In a recent session, our entry-level teams were invited to present fresh approaches to customer engagement. Their insights led to the piloting of a new client co-creation workshop series that’s already enhancing our product development and customer satisfaction metrics. This approach not only surfaces diverse perspectives, but also actively involves employees in decision-making, ensuring that strategies are grounded in real-world application and team insights. This method fosters a loyal, dynamic, inclusive, and genuinely innovative culture.

Tara Furiani
Tara FurianiCEO, Not the HR Lady

Foster Process Improvements with Biweekly Meetings

We run biweekly internal team meetings to go over things like specific client issues, reporting, and general industry trends. In these meetings, we often discuss our process and deliverables, what people do and don't like about them, and how we can improve them. This has resulted in a fairly consistent improvement in our processes and how we present data and deliverables to clients.

Miguel Salcido
Miguel SalcidoCEO, Founder, Organic Media Group

Assess Feedback Before Informing Strategy

The adage goes, "Feedback is a gift," and it undeniably rings true. Feedback, whether from teams, individuals, or peers, is frequently invaluable in identifying issues, rectifying existing problems, and highlighting critical areas requiring leaders' attention. It originates from various levels and perspectives within an organization. Despite its importance, understanding its context is crucial. Hence, it's wise to collect, review, and assess feedback before acting, acknowledging that not all feedback is relevant for informing decisions or strategies.

Stephen Spellicy
Stephen SpellicyChief Operating Officer, Wallaroo.AI

Cultivate a Culture of Co-Creation

Hiring the best team and supporting them to excel is key to success. Diversity of opinions and perspectives leads to better outcomes. Every voice and opinion matters, period.

This attitude becomes the culture of the team—feedback from all levels is not only welcomed but expected.

We co-create.

Jeannie Fontana
Jeannie FontanaCEO & Founder, TREAT Humanity

Utilize Diverse Channels to Uncover Strategic Themes

We prioritize input from our talent at all levels, utilizing diverse channels such as rearview-mirror meetings, brainstorming sessions, the start-stop-keep approach, focus groups, weekly one-on-ones, and having teams talk to each other to ensure inclusivity. We actively seek feedback across our organization, valuing the perspectives of all team members. This feedback uncovers common themes and innovative ideas that shape our decision-making.

For instance, in a recent session, our developers advocated for improved project-management tools, while our designers proposed regular feedback rounds to enhance collaboration and cohesion across the project. In response, our leadership team hosted a focus group to choose the right project-management software, and introduced regular design demo sessions within the sprints. Project efficiency has significantly improved, and collaboration among teams has strengthened our culture.

We make it a point to share these outcomes, underscoring how talent feedback directly informs our strategic direction. This fosters a culture of transparency and engagement, empowering every individual to contribute meaningfully to our studio’s success.

Karen Farah
Karen FarahCEO & Co-Founder, The Melting Pot Studio

Conglomerate Employee Ideas for Strategy

It all boils down to asking and listening, then doing it again. Employees are generally the people who know the most about our products, our problems, our customers, and our competition, and their feedback is invaluable. This feedback does not always agree with each other, so most times I feel my role in the process is more of a conglomerator of the various ideas, and in our case, presenting back to the same group with everyone's ideas for further discussion and distillation into future strategy. This is not the only feedback—customers, market conditions, costs, etc., also play a big role—but that is how we do it with employees.

Scott A McDonaldCEO, Body-Solid Inc.

Prioritize Feedback for Top-Down Strategy

All employee feedback is not created equal. And while I do want to hear from every level of worker, I need to rank their opinions carefully.

For starters, upper management has eyes on the entire company. They're able to see how shifts in policy might eliminate (or induce) systemic issues, so I value their thoughts highly. Next up are department heads. They tend to have more intimate knowledge of their teams and can take into account individual personalities. Then I turn to the general workers, who may not possess the big picture but can speak to their own needs and desires, and those of their co-workers.

Prioritizing feedback this way allows me to implement new strategies from the top down, and that's an efficient way to move forward.

Rob Reeves
Rob ReevesCEO and President, Redfish Technology

Ensure Honest Input with Anonymous Feedback

Keeping it anonymous is a great way to ensure honesty in employee feedback. So, when you are looking to incorporate worker suggestions into your strategic planning, make sure you're giving them space to speak freely without repercussion. Otherwise, you're not going to get the commentary you really need to move forward successfully.

A simple suggestion box is underrated. Put it in an unmonitored corner that's accessible to all, and you'll be surprised at how openly employees from every level critique the company. And that's a good thing! You have to understand issues in order to rectify them and develop improved protocols.

Travis Hann
Travis HannPartner, Pender & Howe

Link Feedback to Strategy Using Performance Pulse

We use a process called "Performance Pulse," which is how we get feedback in between the traditional performance review process. Once a month, all staff have a conversation reflecting on the past month's work, wins, and opportunities for growth. We discuss the personal core values of the staff member and link them to the company's core values to align priorities and relationship to the company's strategic goals.

We have a folder for every staff member that is rolled up in the annual performance planning process, and key insights are collected every quarter to discuss as part of our strategic planning so that those insights are relevant and fresh—and it also serves another critical role: assuring we are on the same page while having a dedicated space for the staff member to be heard, and for managers to give them feedback too. Clear communication is a core value of our company, and this helps us move more quickly, transparently, and with staff who are committed to winning together.

Jen KemCEO,

Shape Strategic Paradigms with Inclusive Ethos

In steering through the transformative waves of blockchain and FinTech, we recognize that innovation and strategic foresight are not merely the province of the leadership team, but are a collective endeavor that pulsates throughout the entire organization. We not only encourage, but also value a culture where dialogue and feedback traverse the hierarchical strata, informing and shaping our strategic paradigms.

Our approach to integrating these diverse perspectives is not confined to structured sessions or periodic reviews; it is woven into the fabric of our daily operations and long-term strategic deliberations. This inclusive ethos ensures that every voice can echo in the decision-making corridors, contributing to a reservoir of ideas that fuel our adaptive strategies.

While specific examples of this process in action are manifold and varied, the essence lies in our ability to remain agile—constantly absorbing and responding to the insights garnered from our team. This ongoing synthesis of collective intelligence is pivotal as we navigate the uncharted territories of digital finance, ensuring that our strategic initiatives are robust, responsive, and resonant with the values of our diverse team.

Kevin Hobbs
Kevin HobbsCEO, Aventus Ventures

Inform Decision-Making with Team Perspectives

I believe that feedback from every echelon is important to the strategic process. The top levels don't have the visibility or hands-on experience that the lower level has in terms of their day-to-day interaction with the process, people, or the product. You need that perspective to ensure decision-making with all the data and all possible effects a decision made will create.

Just yesterday, our newly appointed VP of Operations asked me about the prioritization process for backlogs and/or bottlenecks. It was a valid question, but I immediately gathered the team and asked what has been done in the past and how they are prioritized. Being that no recent situation has arisen to change an existing process, I didn't want to introduce a change that would degrade a working process.

As it turned out, the subteam had a system for this that had been working, of which the new VP was unaware. Gathering all team members for a short 10-minute meeting eliminated a possible degradation in service and/or tons of confusing emails up and down the chain of command.

Bradley Kugler
Bradley KuglerCEO, DirectMail2.0, LLC.

Incorporate Feedback in 360-Degree Reviews

The most efficient way I've found to do this is to make the feedback a part of your annual review process.

Presumably, you're doing some form of 360-degree review, where employees assess themselves, their boss, their peers, and their direct reports. It's a meaningful amount of work when done thoughtfully.

As such, it's not a huge lift to add a section providing feedback on the organization and its direction. Asking questions specifically about ways to improve culture or embody organizational values, or ideas for accomplishing the company mission are all useful.

This only works if the most senior leaders read the feedback and take it seriously—I typically advocate reading all 360-degree reviews anyway, as the most senior leader on the team, as it's the best way to get a pile of data on the health of your organization.

A quick note from the CEO to team members who provided constructive feedback is always remembered. You obviously aren't obligated to incorporate every element into a strategic plan, but recognizing that you saw it and appreciate it is huge.

Sean Johnson
Sean JohnsonCEO, Madison

Take a Proactive Approach to Employee Feedback

The traditional annual review system for gathering employee feedback is outdated and ineffective. Waiting until then can lead to employee dissatisfaction or frustration. Inspired by Mike Abrashoff, author of It's Your Ship, I adopted a proactive approach. Regularly meeting with my team, I fostered open dialogue over shared meals to identify areas for improvement. This quarterly practice allowed us to address concerns promptly and enhance our workplace environment.

Jennifer Hill
Jennifer HillCEO, OptiMatch

Include Employees in Strategy Development

Incorporating feedback from all employee levels into strategic planning is crucial, not just beneficial; it's essential for cultivating an inclusive and innovative organizational culture. Here's my approach:

1. Regular Feedback Mechanisms: Establishing consistent and structured avenues for feedback, such as surveys, suggestion boxes, and town hall meetings, ensures that employees feel heard. For instance, at Global Wizards, we conduct a quarterly survey to explore employee satisfaction and collect ideas for operational improvements.

2. Participation in Strategy Development: Inviting employees from various company tiers to strategic planning sessions offers fresh perspectives that might otherwise be missed. This method proved invaluable when developing a new gaming platform at our company. We included team members from development, marketing, and customer support right from the start, gaining critical insights that guided the project's trajectory.

3. Specialized Task Forces and Committees: Forming task forces or committees for particular projects or initiatives empowers employees and allows them to contribute directly to strategic decisions. For example, when exploring new cybersecurity technologies, we assembled a cross-functional team that included junior tech staff, whose new perspectives significantly improved our strategy.

4. Open Door Policy: An open door policy promotes informal feedback and discussions, capturing daily operational nuances that might be overlooked in formal settings. This method has kept me connected to the grassroots challenges and innovations within the company.

5. Integrating Feedback into Strategic Planning: It's vital to show how employee feedback has been woven into the planning process. This not only refines the strategies but also enhances employee morale and engagement by demonstrating the tangible impact of their contributions.

For example, when our development team suggested the need for better collaboration tools to support remote work setups, we didn't just adopt new tools; we also revised our project management strategies to enhance communication and workflow among distributed teams.

Fernando PoltiCEO, Global Wizards

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