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What is Participant Worker Feedback?

Participant worker feedback refers to the formal process of gathering and responding to feedback from social enterprise participant workers, with an emphasis on equity, ease of use for decision-making, review by leadership, and continuous improvement. Historically, some organizations used a “client satisfaction” approach which was focused on hearing from participant workers about their experiences. Participant worker feedback differs from client satisfaction because it is focused on lifting up actionable insights and implementing them. 

Why is it important?

  • Having strong participant worker feedback processes enables employment social enterprises to:
    • Elevate participant worker voices in the design, implementation, and assessment of services, as well as in organizational decision-making. 
    • Identify organizational strengths and weaknesses to improve services, processes, and outcomes.
    • Connect with and empower participant workers to actively contribute to and co-create solutions at the social enterprise. 
    • Equip staff with tangible data and feedback from one of their main stakeholders (participant workers).  
    • Glean insight into the long-term employment of staff and participant workers when combined with analysis of outcomes data.
    • Center equity in shifting to a more balanced power dynamic between participant workers and the social enterprise. Further, when participant worker feedback is disaggregated, organizations can begin to move beyond understanding the majority experience and understand subsets of participant workers (the “outliers”) where needs may be greater and an equity-based response is more critical.

Best practices   

Build a high-quality participant worker feedback loop, such as the Listen4Good approach below, that centers equity and includes the following steps:

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Source: Listen4Good 
  • Design the methods and tools that you will use to gather feedback in an accessible and inclusive way, and in a manner that builds trust and allows participant workers to feel they can provide honest feedback.
  • Collect participant worker feedback via your selected methodology (e.g., survey or interview), striving to capture a large number of representative voices and gather credible, candid feedback.
  • Interpret the data collected and distill insights and takeaways; highlight areas for celebration as well as areas for improvement, while shedding light on differing experiences and feedback from historically marginalized groups.
  • Respond to the feedback as appropriate; for example, this might take the form of program changes, staff behavior shifts, policy revisions, or follow-up discussions. 
  • Close the loop by sharing back with participant workers what was learned from listening to them and the specific ways in which your enterprise is responding to their feedback.
  • For more guidance on how to build a participant feedback loop for your organization, review these detailed best practices from Listen4Good.

When designing your feedback collection approach, consider ways to make it inclusive, accessible, and actionable

  • Feedback can be gathered from participant workers at three primary stages – before program participation (to better understand their needs, preferences, and interests), during program participation (to identify any service changes or adjustments that may be needed), and after program participation (to learn more about the participant experience and whether the program is working as intended, and if not, how the program might be refined).
    • Being thoughtful about the timing and frequency of when data is collected is important, as timing can help or hinder participant worker recall and ease or contribute to survey burn-out. Further, timing feedback collection and analysis with decision-making or programmatic cycles can help ensure that feedback is acted upon in a timely way. 
    • Consider various approaches for collecting feedback to determine the optimal method(s) for your organization.  
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Source: “Perceptual Feedback: What’s it all about?” Threlfall Consulting for Fund for Shared Insight
  • Participant councils offer another approach to collecting feedback.
    • Pros: Direct qualitative feedback from a subset of selected participant workers; can also task the council with gathering information from other participant workers to increase representation and reduce power dynamics which might otherwise be at play if all participant workers were directly asked for feedback; could also lead to shared decision-making  
    • Cons: Less representative, potentially skewed pool
  • Other potential methods include documenting learnings from informative conversations and leveraging external evaluators/consultants to talk to participant workers anonymously 
  • Think carefully about the questions that you want to ask participant workers and how you ask them.
    • Best practice is to keep your list of questions short – ideally under twenty. Ask for both positive and negative feedback. Include questions about a participant worker’s experience with your organization, staff, and services, with a goal of continuous improvement. Try to include questions that will produce feedback that you can respond to right away. Make sure to ask a few questions about a participant worker’s demographic background so that you can analyze feedback by subgroups to identify any inequities.
    • It can be helpful to engage employee success program alumni, an advisory council of participant workers, or frontline staff in coming up with and reviewing questions for participant workers, as they may know more about what is going on participant workers’ minds.
    • Consider including a Net Promoter Score question (e.g., “How likely is it that you would recommend <X> to a friend or family member?”) to assess participant worker experience and loyalty.
    • You may want to consistently ask certain questions so you can benchmark your results and track progress over time. This is especially important when you have identified a specific area of focus within your employee success program that you want to continuously improve. 
    • Use language that is simple and understandable.
    • Check out this customizable template for a participant worker survey from Listen4Good.

Make your feedback collection as accessible as possible, and encourage candor to capture many representative voices 

  • Be clear and explicit about how data will be used to both combat survey fatigue and build trust when you follow through and use the data as you stated. Assure individuals that survey responses will not impact their relationship with your organization.
  • Try to employ simple, yet flexible, data collection approaches to increase accessibility. For example, surveys can be administered in a variety of modes to accommodate participant worker preferences (mobile phone, computer, paper) and in multiple languages.
  • When possible, gather anonymous feedback, as it will likely help participant workers feel more comfortable sharing openly and honestly, particularly when providing negative feedback. This should help mitigate courtesy bias, which occurs when respondents understate dissatisfaction out of fear of consequences or not wanting to offend. Here are more tips on ways to reduce courtesy bias from Listen4Good.
  • Consider compensating participant workers for their time, if appropriate, or if conducted outside of work hours. You can be creative in coming up with incentives encouraging participant workers to provide feedback, such as gift cards, coupons, free books, treats, or raffle prizes.

Have a secure and easy-to-use system for storing and analyzing feedback collected from participant workers

  • As survey responses are complete, ensure that data is stored in a secure repository so that only those responsible for conducting analysis can access the data. 
  • Protect anonymity if anonymity was promised. If not, tie feedback to the participant worker and ensure that proper follow-up is conducted.
  • Analyze the quantitative and qualitative data – highlighting overall trends/themes, identifying areas for improvement, segmenting by participant worker demographics and service experience to look for any inequities, and comparing results to external and internal benchmarks. Be sure to elevate the perspectives of those most underrepresented when analyzing and summarizing.   
  • Share initial descriptive summaries of key stats / charts with staff and leadership, as well as with participant workers, so that they are all included in the review and discussion and have a seat at the table as the organization moves from summary to solutions and strategies. 

Determine when and how often your organization will solicit participant worker feedback, and make sure that staff and leadership are prepared to review, discuss, and respond to collected feedback accordingly

  • Commit to learning from and acting on participant worker feedback at least several times per year, perhaps as part of quarterly strategic reviews and discussions.
  • Map out the use case and frequency of review for each piece of participant worker feedback that is gathered, and ensure that appropriate actions are taken.
  • Identify tangible changes to implement based on what you learn from participant worker feedback, and develop a plan and timeline for response.
  • Staff and leadership should regularly review participant worker feedback (e.g., weekly, monthly, or quarterly) to ensure it is acted upon in a timely way in order to improve the participant worker experience and outcomes.

Loop back with participant workers to thank them for their feedback and share what you learned

Consider ways to engage participant workers even more in your organization beyond collecting and responding to feedback

  • Participant workers can help co-create at each stage of the feedback loop outlined above – from question development, to analysis of feedback results, to decision-making about how to respond to feedback. For more detail on opportunities to deepen engagement with participant workers, see Listen4Good’s Client Engagement Pyramid.