Meet Debbie Winkelbauer, CEO of Surf Search

Debbie Winkelbauer
July 19, 2021

This article is part of our new State of Employee Feedback Series which will interview a diverse mix of HR experts and thought leaders with a goal of better understanding their perspectives on the current state of and future of HR.

The following is an interview we recently had with Debbie Winkelbauer, CEO of Surf Search.

What is the state of human resources today?

My best description is that I would say it’s in a state of flux. The widespread disruptions to the work environment and hiring process over the past two years has led many companies to rethink the role of HR in their business, and the importance of effective HR policies is clearer than ever before. 

Employee health, both physical and mental, is a growing concern, and this adds to the increasing focus on HR improvements.

What are the most common challenges you face when managing employee feedback and reporting?

My most significant challenge with employee feedback recently has been figuring out the right frequency and collection method to get useful, honest insights. Interpreting that data can also be a challenge, especially when you get contradicting responses from team members and need to make sense of those discrepancies to decide what changes will be the best for the team as a whole.

What are 3-5 pieces of advice for organizations looking to improve their employee feedback culture?

1. More frequent manager/employee one-on-ones, which are treated more as two-way conversations. Rather than a single yearly conversation, have these meetings quarterly or even monthly. Don’t only focus on what the employee can improve, either. Making this a place for employees to give their manager feedback, or share concerns or ideas for the company as a whole, encourages more accurate, timely feedback.

2. Provide an option for anonymous feedback. Some employees won’t share their true opinions about the workplace if they’re concerned they’ll face reprisals for critiques. An anonymous feedback option encourages more honesty in employee feedback because it removes much of this fear.

3. Increase transparency from leadership. Employees can’t provide feedback on managers’ decision-making process if they’re not told what that is. The more information is shared with employees, the more accurate and open their feedback will be.

What's the future of HR?

I see HR evolving into a more employee-focused department in the coming years. The role of HR varies widely depending on the company, but in many it’s treated as a logistics-oriented department, or in some cases as something that protects the company over the employees. As the perception of the employee’s role in the workforce shifts to bring more power back to the employees, the role of HR will shift with it. 

How do you see your role evolving over the next 3-5 years?

I see automation and technology having a much more significant role in HR across sectors within the next 5 years. This is one method to take some of the work off of HR’s plate so they can focus more on collecting feedback and improving employee health and wellness.

Don’t get caught off guard by employee feedback. AllVoices can help.
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