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How To Have an Effective Feedback Hotline

April 13, 1999
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Pillsbury employs an anonymous hot line to solicit frank employee feedback. Peter Lilienthal, creator of the InTouch hot-line system Pillsbury uses, offers ideas to ensure such hot lines are effective.

  1. Differentiate the hotline from other employee services: It isn't a counseling line like an EAP. It isn't a whistle-blower line. It isn't solely for venting or for voting on company policies. It's a means to make employees heard on any number of issues.

  2. Publicize: Send out stickers, magnets and pamphlets with the phone number.

  3. Make sure management leads the way: If management isn't involved at the highest levels, nothing will get done.

  4. Make sure to offer progress reports: Use postings, newsletters and CEO communications to tell employees the different ways that the company is using feedback from the hotline.

  5. Use feedback to fix problems, not to punish: If managers work in fear that every anonymous tip an employee leaves will get them in trouble, you'll face a big backlash.

  6. Have legal counsel look over the transcripts: It will save big money if the company can act on feedback to stop discrimination, sexual harassment or wrongful demotion.

  7. Trust employees: Let employees know what the hotline is for, but don't put too many boundaries on it. Most employees appreciate the opportunity to use the hot line and do so responsibly.

  8. Ask for site or department identification for feedback: This helps focus management response better. But--don't force it.

  9. Use the hotline as a survey tool: Some companies include a specific question or issue on the hotline recording and ask employees to respond. This offers two-for-one feedback.

  10. Enjoy the frankness: Don't expect all hearts and flowers. Remember that the most effective feedback isn't always glowing. It does, however, offer a chance for growth you didn't have before.
SOURCE:: Management Communications Systems Inc.; 3100 West Lake St., Suite 430; Minneapolis, MN 55416; 612-926-7988.
Workforce, February 1998, Vol. 77, No. 2, pp. 56-59.

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