Recently, I was working on a marketing project, and I was reviewing how less-than-satisfied customer feedback is handled. I was impressed. There was a solid process in place–very buttoned up, immediate, with clear and simple language. After all, a dissatisfied customer is bad for business, right? Time and plain speaking are of the essence!

Then it occurred to me that many companies handle dissatisfied employees in a very different way.

When an employee expresses dissatisfaction, what happens? I suppose it depends on the source and topic of dissatisfaction, but I’ll bet you that many employees would say: Nothing.

Why is that, do you think?

If you’re in communications, I’ll bet you know! But indulge me, as I walk through this example: Employees participate in an annual or pulse survey. They like some things; they don’t like other things.

First, the results are collected and analyzed. Then, a select group of insiders and outsiders assign labels, develop organizing themes, and reference benchmarks. Next, a team works to lift the tone, and add importance to the process by using big words and arty and impressive terms. Then, someone applies those words and terms to produce a leadership results report that is, naturally, compared, contrasted and distilled even further. Until at last, another someone is tasked with the business of crafting a communication plan and a succinct message, with the intention of sharing the results with employees.

So from the employee’s perspective, it’s been a long time since they completed the questionnaire, and then they get this message–maybe the manager talks about it in a meeting, maybe it’s an email or a post on a executive blog–but they get this message, and it’s in an unrecognizable format and language. Why is that? Because during this process of evaluation, analysis, and distillation, everybody has been talking bureaucratese and doublespeak to put their meanings in employees’ mouths. You know, how it goes. The expert explains that employees say this, but mean that. (Really? What if employees actually meant what they said? But I digress.)

And when this message is delivered, the poor employee raises his hand and asks, what the heck are you talking about? Or doesn’t, which is worse.

The bottom line is it doesn’t have to be this way. If we have technology and processes in place to address the feedback of customers in a timely and straightforward fashion, then why can’t we do the same to recognize and address employee feedback? Instead of treating employees as the enemy, why can’t we use this opportunity to tell another side of the story, include them in the conversation and demonstrate how we’re listening? And what if we could respect the wake-up calls and acknowledge that something could improve? And finally, what if instead of issuing one message, we could put into place a program of communication that keeps the message alive and relevant?

If you’re an internal communicator I know you’re ready to leverage multiple communication channels, including new technologies, to transform this cumbersome survey-results-regurgitation event and use simple, straightforward delivery and language. Make the recommendation to your leaders. If they can set a quality tone for customer experience, they can certainly do so for employee experience, too.

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