Here at Zensai we regularly hear from small businesses. They tell us that they see the value and potential in our product. But, that as a small business, they simply do not need technology to facilitate and monitor feedback and communications. But the idea that only big organisations can benefit from a digital system for two-way feedback is ridiculous. So, let’s look at the benefits of feedback apps for small businesses.

Before the Pandemic hit, small-time organisations weren’t interested in our tools. Managers and leaders told us that, if they want to communicate with their teams, they simply walk across the office and approach them face-to-face. This matches up with the findings of the Human Resources Professional Association in 2017. They found that 36% of businesses were unlikely to adopt feedback apps with built-in AI analysis tools. And it’s simply because they believed they were too small to need such assistance.

This type of hands-on management style is extremely commendable. And there’s no doubt that it facilitates a strong leadership presence within the company. We at Zensai believe technology which generates, and monitors feedback should never be a replacement for this style of management. But, when used effectively, it can complement and facilitate it, no matter the company’s size.

Take our weekly employee check-in, for example. It’s designed to supplement your performance management and sentiment channels without adding more meetings to the schedule. Employees submit an update, and their manager reviews it. Either side takes only a few minutes. But, despite being light-touch, it’s a rich source of sentiment data that can establish trends which are easily missable. And those are just a few of the qualities that make it such a useful feedback tool.

The particular challenges of running a small business

In small businesses, problems of employee engagement and productivity are perhaps at their most critical. For a small business, every wasted hour of employee presenteeism or disengagement effects a far larger percentage of the company’s economic performance.

Similarly, a new business might expand at a substantial rate. But let’s say they’re not yet able to afford an expansive HR department. As a result, problems of staff turnover or extended absence leave huge holes in their infrastructure. Gaps which the remaining staff often do not have the capacity to fill. Without a large HR department, it often falls to mid-level managers to monitor their staff’s performance, satisfaction and growth.

For small businesses without extensive resources, efficiency is key. Invest in technology that allows instant feedback and recommendations from your employees. That way, you’re investing in those people best placed to comment on the company’s inefficiencies.

How to get results with feedback apps for small businesses

Even with feedback apps for small businesses, you can’t just leave things on autopilot. As with any feedback tool, managers will get out what they put into it. So, let’s look at how you can secure the most insightful feedback from your people.

Creating a culture of feedback

You might, as a manager or director of a company, be confident to approach your employees across the office. But are you sure they are confident to approach you? The best way to create a culture of feedback and improvement is to lead by example. Facilitate feedback on your own performance. Create a culture of improvement and communication. This can be a great way to use 360 feedback tools. Or, if you’re worried about honesty, an anonymous feedback survey.

Make feedback structured and regular

Ensure feedback is always constructive and helpful by providing guidelines and format. Informal discussions are brilliant. But can you ensure that all levels of management are always communicating in the way you want them to? Are they always phrasing questions in an unbiased, non-judgemental manner regularly? Can you communicate a clear feedback framework to employees? They need to feel you’ve given them one so they know how to respond. Not to mention the question of who will receive their feedback and who will be responding to it.

Regular, two-way feedback ensures confidences are not betrayed. Getting approval for sharing employee check-in data is about meeting expectations. Managers should be sure to inform employees when they pass their feedback on, or implement it in a timely manner. Similarly, these conversations should be recorded in a helpful and accurate way. So, that way, you can use processed data to monitor the individual and the wider workforce.

Provide a range of methods to suit every employee

In order to ensure everyone is always giving feedback, all voices need to be heard. That means you must ensure that there is a range of ways people can offer feedback. You, as managers, know the range of personalities and diversity of skills it takes to run a successful business. If you’ve only invested in one method of review and communication, whether that be an annual review or around the table conferences, can you be sure this one size fits all your employees?

Follow through and take action

Internal communication apps can ensure the most important thing. You should inform the actions you take based on the feedback your people give you. Feedback and resulting actions should have actual relevance to factors of economic performance. Not just your “gut feeling.” Make sure your chosen action hasn’t been dictated by those who shout loudest in the office. Or who you unconsciously hold a biased towards. Similarly, they remind and monitor leaderships’ response to queries ensuring employees feel listened to.

Getting informative and timely feedback should be part of every business. It is about investing in what creates the company’s value: its employees.