Signed, Sealed, Delivered, and Then What?

During the past few weeks, I've been involved in a number of conversations having a recurring theme: upper management asks for feedback, employees give it, and it seems to disappear into a feedback or idea vortex, never to be heard from or acknowledged again.

This, of course, is not a new concern, but the repetition of its expression has been weighing on me causing me to wonder why are so many people from so many different organizations all commenting on the same frustration at the same time? Why isn't employee feedback being managed in a more thoughtful and respectful manner? What would it look like if it was?

One possible solution hit me when I was engaged in another activity that consumes many people this time of year: shipping holiday gifts. While printing shipping labels on the UPS website, I had my "aha" moment. Perhaps one of the reasons the feedback process seems to be broken is because we now are empowered to track our packages at every stage of the delivery process and want to be able to do the same with ideas or concerns we express.

Many large corporations or organizations already attach a tracking type of code number to emails they receive or complaints/service issues, but this is definitely not the norm across the board for all organizations, and particularly not typical for tracking internal employee or volunteer ideas or feedback.

What if every piece of feedback or idea was entered into a common database tracking system? It would receive the equivalent of a date and time stamp and a tracking number. In real-time fashion, anyone can enter that tracking number and see which upper managers have reviewed the idea or concern, what action has taken, where feedback has stalled, etc. When I pass on an idea I want to know what action is taken on it, or know who to turn to to learn why no action has been taken? Managers should be held accountable for feedback and ideas employees or volunteers offer, but we can't do that unless the process is managed in a more systematic manner.

I don’t think the tech side needs to be incredibly complex. The goal here is to create a system that (1) shows what has happened to an idea or complaint once it has been submitted, and (2) allows an organization to generate some internal metrics about how it manages ideas and feedback, so that they can improve their processes in the future.

With Wal-Mart and others exploring how to use the RFID tags to track items for comprehensive inventory management and the current ability to track packages and priority mail, it seems that tracking has entered the mainstream of our social consciousness. Now we need to bring its potential to bear on how we manage and ideas and feedback, voluntary input from others that is too important to lose.