The Psychology of Honest Feedback: How to Get New Employees to Share


You cannot underestimate the value of employee feedback, especially during the onboarding period.

Companies draw significant benefits from employee feedback. Take a look at the stats:

  • HR managers who regularly receive employee feedback, get 8.9% more profitability.
  • Companies who get regular employee feedback, have 15% lower turnover.
  • 69% of employees, who regularly share their feedback to their managers, are more engaged and productive.

Getting employee feedback is especially important during the onboarding period. The onboarding period matters for new hires because their desire to stay in your company depends on how smoothly this period goes.

Numbers prove this claim. According to Sapling HR:

  • Employee onboarding can improve employee retention by 82%.
  • Only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job with onboarding.
  • The negative onboarding period results in 2 times more hires.

According to the same source, 88% of the companies don’t pay enough attention to the onboarding process, limiting it only to the paperwork. As a result, they get higher turnover rates and lower employee engagement rates.

More Reasons to Collect Feedback from the New Hires

Apart from making the transition period less stressful, there are a few other reasons why employers should cherish early feedback from new employees.

  • Getting feedback from new hires makes them feel valued. Many employees who have just entered the new workplace, constantly compare themselves to others. Getting their feedback on how they feel at their new workplace will make them feel more valued and confident to perform at their highest capacity.
  • You make honest feedback a part of the corporate culture. If your new employees feel welcome to share their feedback, they will be more productive and open to new roles and challenges.
  • Regular feedback brings more loyal employees. If you’re open to feedback as a manager, you will be more likely to retain new employees for longer.

The impact of early employee feedback is obvious. Yet, many HR managers find that new employees aren’t keen on sharing about their first experiences in the company.

Why Do New Employees Hide Honest Feedback?

If you go through the companies with a low rating on Glassdoor, you will find that many former employees list ‘being unappreciated’ as one of the reasons why they left the company shortly after getting hired.

A newly hired employee often doesn’t have the need to share feedback if they see how other employees are being treated.

From my personal experience, I can tell you that I decided to leave the company shortly after getting hired because I saw how the other assistant was treated by our manager. Soon I got this treatment myself and left only after a month of working at the company.

Early treatment says a lot about the company. If the new employee sees how others are treated, there is no sense in sharing your feedback, which other employees could have shared a long time ago.

Also, in other cases, employees may feel the threat of sharing honest feedback. Threatened by the idea of losing their job, they will hide their feedback.

What’s the result?

Such companies have low engagement rates, low productivity, and high turnover.

How to Get Honest Feedback from Your Employees?

The reason why your new employees aren’t sharing their feedback may not be connected to the situations described above. Your new employees may simply be shy, and successful pre-boarding and onboarding can’t fix that.

That’s why we offer you the following tips to get honest feedback from your new hires backed by psychology.

Note: The main focus of these methods is establishing trust between a manager and an employee.

Method #1: De-individualization of Feedback

In other words, the first approach is about ensuring anonymity. Managers might not love it, but it works if you want to get honest feedback from your new employees.

Here’s why it works:

  • Anonymity caters to diversity. This means that ensuring the anonymity of the feedback will help you get a 100% honest feedback. Especially in diverse teams, where feedback is less likely to reach its recipient, making feedback anonymous will also make every team member more confident about sharing.
  • Anonymity helps avoid scarcity of feedback. If you ask an employee for feedback directly, you’re more likely to get a sort of ‘I’m fine’ response. However, provided with anonymity, your new employees will give your richer feedback, as they won’t be afraid of being judged.
  • Anonymity helps preserve relationships. This point stems from the previous one. In the beginning, the relationships between the manager and the new employees are only being formed, and since we naturally are predisposed to give preferences to certain people, anonymity makes feedback more objective, thus, preserving the relationships between the new employees and their management.

What does psychology say about the de-individualization of feedback?

A few studies that researched the connection between anonymity and behavior has determined that people usually showcase two types of behavior when they give anonymous feedback:

  • antagonistically and brutally honest feedback
  • positively honest feedback

What’s in it for you?

Think about the nature of anonymous feedback. Many companies have the policy of giving anonymous customer feedback. When browsing through online paper writing service reviews, you will rarely find a person’s name under a review because this is how the companies try to get honest feedback.

Anonymity powers honesty. When giving your new employees the option to provide anonymous feedback during the onboarding period, you need to be prepared for any kind of feedback. The key factor is that it will be honest enough for you to start working in the right direction to improve the employee onboarding process.

Method #2: The Eye Contact Method

Now, let’s talk about person-to-person feedback and how you can get your new hires to be honest in this case.

You may have heard about the positive effects of eye contact on establishing trust, which is your goal during the onboarding period.

How does it work?

Take a look at the social experiment conducted by The Liberators International:

the psychology of honest feedback: how to get new employees to share

Video credit: YouTube

Have you noticed how only one minute of eye contact prompted people to smile, hug, and even cry? This is because establishing eye contact means connecting with someone on a personal level.

How does psychology back it up?

Humans experience eye contact sensitivity in early childhood. Research says that infants of only two days prefer looking at people’s faces who look directly at them. This way, they can learn how to express emotions and how to get others to react to emotions they express.

This is where we inherit the feeling of distrust in people who avoid direct eye contact. It makes us instinctively presuppose that these people are lying to us.

That is why establishing eye contact when discussing feedback with the new hires will impact your further relationship and their ability to trust you as their manager.

Note: prolonged eye contact can be perceived as a threat in different cultures. For instance, in the majority of Asian cultures, extended eye contact can be taken as an effort to challenge authority. So, be careful when using this technique to get employee feedback, not just from the new hires.

Method #3: Mirroring Technique

This technique is another method in psychology to establish rapport. Those who have gone through therapy know that therapists use the mirroring technique to establish trust with their patients.

What does this technique presuppose?

Mirroring means copying the behaviors of someone you’re communicating with. These behaviors also include the way your communication partner speaks, sits, their body position, posture, gestures, etc.

How does psychology explain the effectiveness of mirroring?

We can also trace mirroring back to the infancy. Children learn by mirroring the behaviors of others. That is why mirroring is our instinct to build rapport with others and establish mutual understanding.

Mirroring makes our communication partners think that we share their beliefs, concerns, and behaviors, thus, establishing relationships based on trust.

How to use mirroring to get honest feedback from your employees?

Here are three steps to follow:

Step #1: Take a few seconds to observe. It takes only a few seconds to notice and analyze the body behavior of your communication partner before you can start mirroring it.

Step #2: Start with the tone and pace of the conversation. While doing that, observe their reaction.

Step #3: Mimic their posture and position of the body. Remember that your pose needs to be comfortable enough to establish eye contact.

Remember to remain respectful. Mirroring doesn’t mean mocking, so don’t mimic your employee’s accent or manner of speaking.

Be Feedback-Friendly!

Establishing rapport from the first days of an employee’s experience in the company is very important to make a smooth transition. That’s why you should make regular feedback a part of your onboarding period to make your new employees feel comfortable and welcome.

We invite you to try our psychology-backed tips and share your experience with us. You can also join our Bootcamp to help your new employees integrate into your company easier and make the onboarding process in your company more inclusive and diverse.

About the author: Daniela McVicker is a career expert and contributing editor at Essayguard. She’s also a business communication coach, helping future job applicants to write business emails to help them achieve success on their career paths.

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