Why Are Many People Choosing to Stay Anonymous?

Posted September 24th, 2019

In recent years, people have become more aware of the dangers associated with sharing mounds of personal information online. Data breaches are certainly nothing new, but used to affect larger organizations more so than the reputations of individuals. Then came a series of Facebook data breaches starting in 2013, followed by Tumblr, Twitter, Google+ and more. In total, more than 545 million records were exposed in Facebook’s breaches alone. Another 65 million were exposed in the Tumblr hack, and the list goes on and on.

At first, many thought the breaches wouldn’t make a dent in the massive numbers of people interacting within these networks. Over time, however people began to take action. One study conducted over the summer of 2018 found that 42% of Facebook users took a break from the site in the past year. It further found that 52% adjusted their privacy settings, and 26% deleted the app from their phone. While still growing, Facebook’s growth has been slowing down across North America and in Europe. In addition to Facebook, Tumblr growth has slowed significantly and Twitter appears to have plateaued several years ago.

On the other side of the coin is Reddit — a social network known for anonymity and “throwaway accounts.” Reddit’s user base has been skyrocketing over the past few years and is projected to continue growing through 2023. Unlike other social networks, many Reddit users attempt to remain anonymous and completely control what they reveal about themselves. Using these anonymous accounts, Reddit users are free to engage in candid discussion across millions of topics.

What Does This Mean for Workplace Feedback?

People have become much more aware of the dangers associated with sharing personal information. The lessons learned from social media can have a direct effect in other areas of life as well. Someone who is less likely to post personal information on Facebook out of fear of it being seen by the wrong pair of eyes may be equally as reluctant to comment on workplace issues out in the open. We’ve learned that data can be breached and anything we say can be used against us at some point. This is especially salient when dealing with contentious or sensitive issues.

So What’s the Solution?

Using an anonymous suggestion box to collect workplace feedback (like Incogneato) can help employees feel more comfortable giving candid, honest feedback. Additionally, using a trusted third party to collect anonymous feedback prevents organizations from mistakenly storing log files or other pieces of data that can inadvertently reveal the identities of respondents. As we’ve covered in another post, there’s lots more research supporting the use of anonymous feedback.

What Makes Incogneato Safe?

Incogneato takes anonymity and security seriously. In addition to using 256-bit SSL encryption for all communication within Incogneato, there is continuous threat monitoring in place, and the latest server software is always in use. Perhaps most significantly, Incogneato does not collect any personal identifying information from those submitting feedback, unless they choose to include an email address (which is encrypted before storing).

If you haven’t already, give Incogneato a try by setting up a free anonymous suggestion box. No credit card is required during your trial.

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Does Anonymous Workplace Feedback Really Work?

Posted September 3rd, 2019

If you know what we do at Incogneato, then you can likely assume our position on this question. However, as the number of companies we help collect anonymous employee feedback continues to grow, we uncover new reasons for why it is so effective. 

First, the counterargument…

Most often, we hear “anonymity breeds negativity.” It’s hard to argue with that one. Just hang out on Reddit for a few minutes and you’ll see it firsthand. However, we’ve found that anonymity does not exclusively breed negativity. And oftentimes when it does, the negative feedback is also constructive. The trick is to brush off the negativity — and if you can — learn to pick out the constructive pieces.

Take for example the following (fictitious) piece of feedback: 

Bob the manager is universally hated. He treats everyone like garbage and genuinely has a chip on his shoulder. I quit because of him.

Obviously, the feedback is harsh and Bob would prefer not to be told off in this manner. At the same time, it’s brutally honest. Bob likely does have issues with his employees and may have never known they felt this way before. He may have previously viewed himself as strict but fair based on face-to-face feedback he’s received. If Bob can move past the comment’s bluntness, he can change for the better.

Does anonymity breed honesty?

According to HR expert and author Steve Cohen, many employees fall into the category of flighters. In other words, they eschew conflict and often busy themselves with other work or avoid managers altogether when there is perceived conflict. Flighters are also more likely to withhold knowledge and gossip internally, which is never healthy for an organization. On the opposing end of course are fighters. These people gain power by force or personality. Often times when fighters go head-to-head with flighters, the flighter backs down and decides to withhold key information. Anonymous tools that remove the risk of conflict (like Incogneato) are highly effective in gaining honest insights from these conflict-averse employees.

But my organization is open and communicative. Can we still benefit from anonymous feedback?

While unlikely, let’s pretend there exists an organization where every employee and manager is approachable, cordial, and accepts feedback graciously. Can this organization still benefit from anonymous feedback? Absolutely, and here’s why. Sitting in front of a screen composing feedback allows the employee to collect their thoughts without having to focus on a person in front of them. We are biologically attuned to the emotions of those around us. Removing them from the situation opens up our ability to convey our thoughts honestly without thinking about how others will immediately react. In other words, employees are in a safe place where they can focus on the feedback instead of the person. 

I’m convinced. But how is Incogneato different from other anonymous feedback tools?

One of the key differences between Incogneato and other suggestion boxes is the ability to hold an anonymous conversation. Often times that initial piece of employee feedback leads to more questions that would otherwise go unanswered. Our Anonymous Chat feature lets you immediately ask a follow up question or request further clarification.

Of course, there’s also the fact that Incogneato is less expensive than most competitors. How do we do it? We run lean. We do not employ a sales force so our team is solely focused on making the best product we can. 

We believe that all organizations should be able to safely collect anonymous feedback without having to pay hefty monthly fees.

When you’re ready, give Incogneato a try by setting up a free anonymous suggestion box. No credit card is required during your trial.

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The Research Behind Anonymous Employee Feedback

Posted July 23rd, 2019

Anonymous Employee Feedback

We often hear from organizations who like the idea of collecting anonymous employee feedback, but want to see some research before launching a suggestion box of their own. Fortunately, there’s lots out there. To assist, we’ve compiled the following list:

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Introducing Labels: One Powerful Feature with Two Great Uses

Posted April 24th, 2019

(Professional and Premier Plans Only)

Today we launched a new feature we’re calling “Labels and Assignments.” This single feature serves a dual purpose. First, it allows you to apply internal-only labels to your feedback for organization and prioritization. Next, it allows you to link your labels to individual box managers as a way to delegate the task of responding to (or implementing) the feedback you receive. Here’s how they both work:

Feedback Labels

To create a new label, expand the “Box Settings” area and click the green icon beside “Labels and Assignments.” In the window that opens, simply name your label (and optionally assign it to a box manager — more about that in the next section) and click “Add.” To assign feedback to a label, open your feedback and select the appropriate label from the drop down list.

Labels can serve many purposes. Here are just a few ways you can use them:

Feedback Assignments

When creating a label, you have the option of linking it to an existing box manager. When feedback is tied to that label, the box manager receives a notification. If they choose to hold an anonymous conversation, the box manager’s email addresses will display when you hover over the note (only in the dashboard, not in the respondent’s view). While not quite a ticketing system, it does allow for easy delegation and accountability.

How Are Labels Different from Tags?

Think of tags as a way for your respondents to self-categorize their responses. If your tags are descriptive enough, often times the chosen tag can be an important part of their feedback. Consider the following example. Let’s say you offer the following tags to your respondents: Cost Savings Idea and Employee Retention Idea. Then, an employee submits the following idea: “Offer the option of leaving early every Friday to employees who meet a goal.” Tagging that idea as a Cost Savings Idea implies that they feel the company will save money with improved efficiency throughout the week, while tagging it as an Employee Retention Idea implies the company may save money by keeping current employees happy. Both ideas may ultimately save the company money, but may need to be thought through in very different ways. For example, framing an idea as a Cost Savings Idea may spark other, cost-saving ideas, while framing it as an Employee Retention Idea turns it into an idea for HR to consider.

Ultimately, tags may not categorize your responses as accurately as your labels will, but they can give you a great head start in organizing your box or analyzing the feedback.


Closing the Employee Feedback Loop with Anonymous Feedback

Posted February 20th, 2019

Traditionally, collecting employee feedback was limited to annual performance reviews or irregular feedback requests. Smart organizations gradually realized that employee feedback should function as an ongoing loop, ever evolving to strengthen the organization.

Using a “loop” as a visual indicator helps to convey the revolving nature of employee feedback. The loop begins with the collection of candid, honest feedback, which management then analyzes and uses to develop a plan of action. Once the plan is in place, employees are encouraged to continue submitting feedback and the plan of action continues to evolve. The result is a stronger organization with happier employees, who in turn create more satisfied customers.

Limitations of Direct Employee Feedback

In order for a feedback loop to continue evolving, it needs a continuous supply of honest, open feedback. Without it, action plans can become watered down, or in the worst case, never develop. As we’ve covered in another post on anonymity, employees tend to avoid negativity when providing direct feedback and are reluctant to irritate or challenge their superiors. In an article on conducting employee surveys, HBR noted that when asked to submit feedback, anonymity is the number one concern for employees. The same study shows that when employees have a guarantee of anonymity, they are more likely to submit honest, productive feedback — and even submit more of it.

Closing the Feedback Loop with Incogneato

Incogneato plays an essential role in both closing the employee feed loop and helping it continue to revolve. As a trusted third party, Incogneato helps organizations collect anonymous employee feedback without having to worry about inadvertently storing log files or otherwise finding out the identity of an employee who wished to remain anonymous. With a trusted system in place, employees will be more likely to continue submitting the type of honest, productive feedback that keeps the feedback loop revolving.

How Is Incogneato Different from Other Anonymous Suggestion Boxes?

One of the key differences between Incogneato and other suggestion boxes is the ability to hold an anonymous conversation. Often times that initial piece of employee feedback leads to more questions that would otherwise go unanswered. Our Anonymous Chat feature lets you immediately ask a follow up question or for request further clarification. This one feature is key to a more effective employee feedback loop, as it helps management to more thoroughly understand the issue before an action plan is developed. Another difference is price.

We believe that all organizations should be able to safely collect anonymous feedback without having to pay hefty monthly fees.

If you haven’t already, give Incogneato a try by setting up a free anonymous suggestion box. No credit card is required during your trial.

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Putting a Hard Value on Your Anonymous Feedback Program

Posted December 27th, 2018

Before initiating an anonymous feedback program, many organizations attempt to forecast its annual value in terms of revenue saved or earned. Those who have tested anonymous feedback programs in the past have an excellent benchmark to gauge future results, but for those who have not, forecasting can be a challenge. Cost-effective and simple-to-setup solutions like Incogneato make it easy to launch a short-term test to collect data without incurring a significant expense. However, some organizations have internal policies (or preferences) that require a forecast before any program can be initiated.

Here are several strategies to help you forecast or gauge the hard value of your anonymous feedback program:

Look at Employee Retention

According to SHRM, the average cost per hire is $4,129. Another study found the cost of re-hiring a midrange position ($30-$50K per year) to be 20% of the employee’s future salary. But how do you know if you’ve actually retained an employee by addressing their anonymous complaints?

Due to the nature of anonymous feedback, you cannot actually tie an individual employee to a problem solved. You can, however, look at the severity of the anonymous complaints you’ve addressed. For example, you will likely not lose an employee over unpalatable vending machine options, but if you seriously address multiple complaints about a toxic manager or co-worker, it may be reasonable to assume that you have retained an employee. The Balance Careers published a list of the top reasons employees quit their jobs. Reasons ranged from sour relationships with coworkers to a lack of autonomy on the job.

For those forecasting potential results of an anonymous feedback program, it may be useful to look at past exit interview records and make a list of reasons employees cited for leaving. Then determine which employees could have been retained had you known about the issue and had a chance to fix it. Research shows that employees are more candid when their personal anonymity is guaranteed and may not share important information while still employed.

Are Your Customers Happy?

Customer happiness can be a difficult metric to directly measure, but in many cases can be indirectly observed by looking at repurchasing behavior or loyalty. For organizations with customer accounts, tying initial purchases to repeat purchases is simple. Those with referral or affiliate programs have the added benefit of measuring customer evangelism (word-of-mouth marketing).

Like with employee retention, you cannot tie a specific customer to their anonymous feedback, but you can look at trends while the anonymous feedback program was in place. If your repurchasing/loyalty rate jumped while you were addressing anonymous customer feedback, you may be able to assume a causal relationship.

For those forecasting potential results of an anonymous feedback program, it can be useful to look at past customer retention rates over time. If they are stagnant or low for your industry, look at exit surveys you may have collected and try to determine if any issues could have been solved had you known about them. You can also reach out to past customers to ask why they moved on.

Look at Recent Growth

Lastly, you may be able to tie organizational growth to an anonymous feedback program. It’s easy to downplay the significance of your feedback program by calling it a “simple suggestion box”, but organizations are complex entities with many inputs and outputs. A good anonymous feedback program lets you address key customer and employee concerns or ideas in a safe, meaningful way that can have massive impacts on long-term growth.

Incogneato makes it easy to collect and address anonymous feedback from employees, customers, or just about anyone else. If you haven’t already, start your free trial now. Not convinced yet? Here are five reasons to choose Incogneato for your anonymous feedback.

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Should You Reply to Negative Feedback?

Posted September 11th, 2018

Should you reply to negative feedback?

A common question asked by those collecting feedback is whether or not to respond to negative feedback. In our opinion, the answer is YES.

Positive feedback is great. It’s a virtual pat on the back. More importantly, it validates the work you’ve done and makes you feel good about yourself or your organization. Negative feedback on the other hand is much easier to ignore. It can often present additional work or invalidate the work you’ve done. But it should never be ignored. Here’s why:

It offers a rare path to improvement.

Trolls aside, people leave negative feedback because they are trying to help. They care about your organization or about it’s potential benefits. For every person who leaves negative feedback, many more will stay silent and simply walk away. Take negative feedback seriously and use it to improve your product or service. It may even be the case that no improvements are necessary there was a simple misunderstanding. In any case, you should always reply back to the respondent.

It opens an important dialogue.

It can be very angering to have feedback ignored, especially if the person is already upset. A quick reply can diffuse the situation immediately and open a meaningful dialogue between you and the respondent. You might not be able to solve their problem right away, but letting them know you care is a good first step. If you’re using a canned response, consider customizing it a bit by reiterating their concerns. As you work toward a solution, reply back with occasional updates or an estimated timeframe.

Not responding is responding.

Giving a respondent the cold shoulder signals that you don’t care enough to respond. At this point, they may take their grievance public and potentially damage your organization. A quick response only takes a minute and could save you significant trouble in the future.

What about anonymous feedback?

Before the release of Incogneato, replying to anonymous feedback was difficult, if not impossible. Incogneato solved that problem by allowing organizations to anonymously communicate with those who leave feedback. Acting as an intermediary, Incogneato relays messages back and forth, allowing the respondent to remain anonymous.

Improve your organization with Incogneato. Start your free trial now. Not convinced yet? Here are five reasons to choose Incogneato for your anonymous feedback.

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How Can Your Organization Benefit from Anonymous Crowdsourcing?

Posted May 6th, 2018

A paramount feature of Incogneato’s Premier Plan is a powerful anonymous crowdsourcing forum. This feature enables the ability to selectively add suggestions already received via an Incogneato anonymous suggestion box to a publicly available site for anonymous voting and discussion. Here are just a few practical uses by field:

Does Crowdsourcing Really Improve Ideas?

Recent studies from both the Harvard Business Review and MIT’s Sloan Review suggest that crowdsourcing ideas is an effective and necessary exercise for companies interested in improving both their operations and knowledge base.

Findings from a study released last year by MIT’s Sloan Review were among the most promising. The researchers spent four years at three large organizations, one each from the telecommunications, healthcare, and retail fields, studying the implementation, reception and results of crowdsourcing initiatives. Their findings were unequivocal: “Because many large companies have pockets of expertise and knowledge scattered across different locations, we have found that harnessing the cognitive diversity within organizations can open up rich new sources of innovation. Internal crowdsourcing is a particularly effective way for companies to engage younger employees and people working on the front lines.”

This study suggests that crowdsourcing taps into existing company resources by leveraging the innovative power already present in employees. Sometimes all it takes is bringing people together to collaborate and share knowledge.

An article by Henry Chesbrough in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) also suggests that companies willing to crowdsource beyond the confines of their own organization may stand to reap enormous rewards, even if that means sharing proprietary information. “Companies must become nimble at “open innovation”—at accessing and exploiting outside knowledge,” writes Chesbrough, “while liberating their own internal expertise for others’ use.”

Whether companies are providing internal crowdsourcing tools to gather suggestions from employees, or expanding beyond the bounds of their organization to source solutions from external groups, they’re acquiring new knowledge, ideas, or resources at a very small cost.

Why Does It Have to Be Anonymous?

When not anonymous, employees tailor their feedback to avoid irritating or challenging their superiors, which guarantees that potentially difficult or groundbreaking discussions end up watered down or withheld altogether. Other groups, like customers, students and coworkers, may also hesitate to engage in a candid discussion when they feel their words can alter or jeopardize a relationship.

This desire for anonymity is well-documented in research on employee feedback. In an article on conducting employee surveys, HBR noted that when asked to submit feedback, anonymity is the number one concern for employees.  When employees are certain that their feedback will remain anonymous, they are not only more likely to submit honest, productive feedback, they are likely to submit it more often. This type of environment is vital for the successful implementation of a crowdsourcing initiative. Candid, secure employees are far more likely to provide innovative insights than those worried about the consequences of alienating leadership.

Anonymous Crowdsourcing with Incogneato

Incogneato’s Premier Plan offers company managers the opportunity to crowdsource ideas and feedback from employees in an open and anonymous setting. It does this by expanding upon Incogneato’s core functionality by letting managers selectively add suggestions they receive to a public voting and discussion box. The box can be both password-protected and restricted by IP address to limit access.

Incogneato can help to validate employee contributions while providing the company with tangible suggestions for improving workplace culture and adjusting operations—it has the potential to bring forth truly innovative ideas from a company’s workforce.

Give your organization the powerful benefit of honest employee feedback. Start your free trial now. Not convinced yet? Here are five reasons to choose Incogneato for your anonymous feedback.

 

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Big Voting and Discussion Update

Posted April 9th, 2018

Today we launched a big update to Incogneato’s “Voting and Discussion” tool (Premier Plan only). In addition to a new responsive design, the tool now includes the ability to sort by tag, search within, and link directly to specific discussions. Box owners can moderate the forum by locking/unlocking discussions and deleting individual comments. Locking a discussion allows people to view past vote counts and discussions, but not contribute to it.

If you haven’t already, give Incogneato a try by setting up a free anonymous suggestion box. No credit card is required during your trial.

 


How Anonymous Feedback Creates a Better Work Environment

Posted March 15th, 2018

Attracting and maintaining a talented workforce is a perennial problem for employers and one that has become especially frustrating in the past several years. Conventional incentives like competitive salaries, robust benefits packages, and spacious offices are still useful tools, but they are no longer enough for today’s office population.

Recent studies by hiring industry leaders like GlassDoor.com have shown that less tangible factors, like company culture and workplace values, are vital to employee satisfaction. Corporate employees spend more time per week with their co-workers than they do with their own families, and they crave an enjoyable and nurturing environment.

But what practical steps can an employer take to improve something as difficult to define as company culture? A company’s greatest source of ideas for improvement can be its employees, but soliciting these ideas can be a challenging process. Implementing tools for anonymous feedback is a fantastic way to open lines of communication with employees, and can be a huge first step for a company seeking to make changes to their workplace culture.

Why anonymous feedback?

Many company leaders feel that they can meet the needs of their employees by simply asking them what they can do better. While this might cultivate an appreciation for the leader, it is ineffective when attempting to change or create an employee-driven work culture. Why? Despite the best efforts of the leader, employees will tailor their feedback to avoid irritating or challenging him or her, which guarantees that potentially difficult or groundbreaking suggestions end up watered down or withheld altogether.

But while an employee may be ambivalent about giving their opinion directly to a manager or an HR representative, that does not mean that they do not want their opinion to be heard. This Forbes round-up of studies on employee engagement suggests that finding ways for employees to thoughtfully express themselves can have across-the-board benefits for a company, including improved employee retention and increased discretionary effort on the part of employees.

So while employees are hesitant to express themselves to leadership, the ability to express themselves is a vital component of employee satisfaction. Anonymous feedback tools provide a solution to this dilemma. A recent article from Wharton Business School explores why anonymous feedback is such an effective tool for improving company culture – it empowers conscientious employees to bring their full capabilities to bear on improving the company, without fear of reprisal.

In an article on conducting employee surveys, Harvard Business Review (HBR) specifically outlined that when asked to submit feedback, anonymity is the number one concern for employees. When employees are certain that their feedback will remain anonymous, they are not only more likely to submit honest, productive feedback, they are likely to submit it more often. This is the type of positive communication cycle that can quickly help employers take an employee-driven approach to improving workplace culture.

Implementing Employee Feedback

When implementing an employee feedback program, employees want to know that their voice has been heard. This does not mean that every piece of feedback submitted has to end with reform, but employees need to know their concerns are at least under consideration.

A publication by the Society for Organizational and Industrial Psychology explains that the role of HR managers is vital in this process. The HR manager’s role has shifted over the past few decades from a position that is concerned only with the needs of individual personnel, to a position that is concerned with a company’s well-being as a whole. A large part of this role is analyzing, implementing and leading changes that affect the company’s culture. For many companies, this is the position that will be responsible for generating and responding to employee feedback.

The importance of Human Resources’ role in facilitating a comfortable and engaging workplace culture was discussed in a study published in the International Journal of Economics and Financial Issues. This study showed that HR has to maintain a state of constant evolution in its relationships with employees. When HR creates changes based on the feedback that has been provided through open dialogue with employees, the employees, in turn, feel a stronger relationship with the company and are more likely to continue their position with the company long term. Anonymous feedback tools are a great method for facilitating that type of communication.

Create Open Communication with Incogneato

Incogneato is an online tool that allows for open, anonymous communication between employees and company representatives, particularly the HR department. Incogneato not only allows employees to provide their opinions, but it allows for real-time chatting with company representatives, which evolves the feedback process from a tedious back-and-forth to a constructive conversation.

Because Incogneato opens anonymous, real-time communication avenues between employers and employees, it validates the employee’s contribution while providing the company with tangible suggestions for improving workplace culture. As illustrated above, the benefits to this mode of communication are plentiful, and its implementation is exceedingly simple. Incogneato offers a chance to improve communication and culture at companies of every size.

Give your company the powerful benefit of honest employee feedback. Start your free trial now. Not convinced yet? Here are five reasons to choose Incogneato for your anonymous feedback.

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