Is it Safe to Give Honest Feedback in Your Organization?

October 31, 2012

Kirkpatrick Quick Tip Vol. 2 #33

Monica wrapped up her three-day communication skills program, bid the participants farewell and turned her attention to the evaluation forms.

Nearly every participant had given her a rating of 5 out of 5. There were few comments or complaints, although some participants said things like “great job” on the bottom of the form.

Monica thought this was positive, but wasn’t completely sure. After such a robust program, shouldn’t there have been more comments?

Monica’s intuition may be correct. If she has followed the rest of the quick tips in this series, she has put thought into the types of questions she asks, how they are phrased and the amount of time provided to respond to them.

Monica may be discovering that her training participants do not feel comfortable to provide “real” feedback. The culture or norms of some organizations inadvertently prevent honest feedback due to subtle or blatant retribution for negative feedback or constructive criticism.

Rate the degree to which the following statements are true of your organization:

  • We truly have an open door policy. Any employee can approach a manager to discuss their observations, concerns and ideas.
  • Confidential issues remain confidential.
  • We enforce workplace laws related to harassment, hostile work environment, favoritism and discrimination.
  • We actively solicit and welcome new ideas from our employees.

The more you agree that these statements reflect your organizational culture, the better chance you have of getting honest feedback, positive or negative, about your training.

If you could not say that your organization scores well, then it is unlikely that it is a place where people feel comfortable to give honest feedback. If you are in this situation, the importance of providing a well-designed evaluation with objective, depersonalized questions is all the more critical. Review your questions to make sure that it doesn’t seem like the only “correct” answer is positive; for example, “The facilitator of this program was excellent.”

In addition, consider obtaining feedback in one-to-one interactions, as this may feel safer for the training participant. A combination of “on the record” and “off the record” data may provide better, more actionable input than one approach alone.

Have a comment related to this quick tip, or your own tip to share with the Kirkpatrick Community? Please list it below!Additional resources:

Kirkpatrick Four Levels® Evaluation Certificate Program

Kirkpatrick Four Levels® Evaluation Certification Program

Quick Tip #26: Do You Get the Truth in Your Evaluations?

Quick Tip #27: Is Your Evaluation “All About You”?

Quick Tip #28: Is More Training Evaluation Data Better?

Quick Tip #29: Are You Asking the Right Survey Questions?

Quick Tip #30: Are Your Survey Questions Impossible to Answer?

Quick Tip #31: Is Your Training Survey Too Late?

Quick Tip #32: Do You Allow Time for Training Evaluation?

Please share your thoughts on this Quick Tip.

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