Sorry boss, there's something you should know... (please don't fire me)

Protecting anonymity with employee feedback

Dan October 01, 2021
Reading time: 4 minutes
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Have you ever had one of those moments where you find out that something bad happened in the workplace? How about when one of your team knew and it wouldn't have been a major issue if only you had found out sooner?


Although the employee will often know that they should share the information, they can find it difficult to share.  This can happen for many reasons. The employee may find the subject embarrassing. They could have concerns about being treated differently. Worse still they may feel that their job is on the line if they share.


It isn't a reflection on the workplace, the manager or the employee that this happens. Even the best managers with the strongest relationships will find this from time to time. It is human nature.


A lot of psychology research demonstrates that when people believe they are anonymous, they are less inhibited. 74% of employees said they’d be willing to give more feedback if they were truly anonymous. Compare how often you see strong opinions from Internet trolls versus people making the same statements on your high street. When we are unafraid of negative consequences, we're more willing to do something. The veil of anonymity can help remove those fears.


But what is anonymity anyway?


Anonymity can be defined as "the state of remaining unknown to most other people". In many platforms, "anonymity" means not sharing a name, or hiding an email address. In its simplest form, this may be enough. When the data is a little more complex, anonymity often can't be that simple.


To make the best decisions and gain the greatest insight from data, we often need more than one piece of information. With employee feedback, we often want to know not only what our employees think, but also if there is a particular group that thinks that.


If I were running a national chain of restaurants, I would want to know if employees in one restaurant think differently to those in others. As a diverse employer, I may want to ensure that employees have the same great experience in the workplace no matter what gender they identify as. I likely also want to make sure that my waiters and chefs feel valued in the same way. To get that information, we need to know not only what the person wants to share, but also where they work, their identified gender and their role.


In this example, anonymity isn't as simple as omitting the name. If Mary is the only female chef in the Hull branch, and we can filter our data by all those things, then she is no longer anonymous.


If you want to get the best feedback, making sure that your employees know that what they share won't be traced back to them is crucial. If they don't feel safe, they may not be as open and honest. Trust is incredibly easy to lose and much harder to build back. If breached, employees may even choose not to offer their thoughts at all. 


At Space HR, we’ve built our platform specifically to handle employee feedback, where anonymity is vital. Space HR guarantees anonymity by blocking any filters with fewer than 5 results. To ensure the valuable feedback isn't lost, the results are available rolled up, but we won't ever compromise the employee's anonymity. This means that sometimes, when applying a set of filters to results, we may have to say "no" but that is a small price to pay to ensure that there is trust in your feedback process.


If you’d like to find out more about our platform and how we look after your employees data, you can find us on www.spacehr.co.uk.

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