Ok, you know my feelings about employee surveys in general. When done correctly, I love them! They bring data, insights, and quick pulse checks on how your organization is doing. But there’s one piece missing from them. Let me explain.

Think about how many opportunities we prioritize getting feedback around individual contributors. How are they doing? How are they feeling? What’s their morale? Now compare these efforts to how many times we prioritize soliciting feedback around managers…I’ll wait.

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The reality is, companies can often fall into a pattern of one-directional feedback. They ask managers how their direct reports are doing, but they rarely ask direct reports how their managers are doing.

This is a big missed opportunity. Here’s why:

5 reasons why you should start manager feedback surveys

1. Find out if a direct report needs support 

If a direct report is struggling because of something the manager is doing or not doing, but we never check in with the direct report, it’s going to be pretty darn difficult to uncover and make sure the direct report gets the support they need.

For example, what if you have a manager who doesn’t set clear expectations or tell their report they’re underperforming or help them uncover underlying issues? From the outside, it could look like the direct report just isn’t trying or doesn’t care, but really, they’re not even aware that they’re underperforming because the manager doesn’t like confrontation and hasn’t told them where they’re falling short. (I address this in our In Good Company course. It’s a free manager training with tips on how managers can have these tricky conversations.)

2. No feedback can stymie the manager’s growth

Managers are hungry for feedback. Especially first-time managers. They want to know what’s working, and what’s not. But oftentimes, managers are so focused on supporting their teams, that they forget to stop and ask how they themselves can grow, do better, etc. And so does the rest of the company. 

Feedback from a direct report could help a manager stretch and grow, i.e. a manager who doesn’t realize that they’re holding on to too many responsibilities and not delegating enough. They’re doing it because they’re trying to protect their team from too much work, but meanwhile, the team is getting frustrated because they feel like the manager doesn’t trust them and isn’t providing them opportunities to grow.

3. It’s not all about constructive feedback

So much of the manager-direct report relationship is focused on the direct report’s performance. Managers often do hard work and feel undervalued and underappreciated because no one is pointing out all the great and impactful work they’re doing as a manager. 

Soliciting feedback could help build up a manager’s confidence, especially if they have a tendency to focus on all their missteps and worry they’re doing a terrible job while overlooking all the good that they’ve done. Taking the time to provide feedback and appreciate their great work is key to maintaining engagement and morale.

4. Build better trust and partnership between manager and direct report

Giving feedback to your managers shouldn’t be scary or taboo. It should be normalized as part of a healthy working relationship. Soliciting feedback from direct reports about their managers helps build this muscle, helps build trust and psychological safety when they see that managers respond well, and builds confidence on the manager’s side that their direct report will speak up if something’s not working.

5. Managers play such a critical role in culture-building and retention 

People literally leave companies due to poor management. It’s important you maintain an awareness of how your managers are performing. By conducting manager feedback surveys, you can measure where your management performance is at, take steps to improve it, and then measure again in 6 months time to see your progress. 

Bonus tip: If your company isn’t already doing skip level (aka your manager’s manager) check-ins, we think you should!

How to start a management survey initiative 

Here’s 4 steps to a low-lift way you can roll this out at your company today:

  • Step 1: Start with a company-wide survey — here’s ours.
  • Step 2: Share results with skip level managers of skip reports. Have skip level managers open up office hours so skip reports can follow up to provide any additional context, questions, etc.
  • Step 3: Have the skip level managers review and meet with managers to review the data together and commit to goals and action items.
  • Step 4: Have managers share those goals with their team for transparency and accountability, while thanking them for the feedback.
  • Step 5: Rinse, repeat. The frequency is up to you, but we recommend running these at least once per year.