As I write this, I’ve just put my 1-month-old baby daughter down to sleep. Being a first-time parent, I’ve discovered that the only chunks of time I get to focus completely uninterrupted on a piece of work – a blog post, for instance – are during the times when she’s out cold.

The only way I can get away with doing this, of course, is by keeping the video baby monitor close by at all times. This new technology is awesome – no matter where I am in the apartment, I can always have a live, streaming audio and video feed of the baby, even in pitch black due to the super-cool infra-red sensors built in! This means that, despite her being in deep sleep when set down, I have the peace of mind that I can see her across the apartment, and know she’s completely happy while I toil away in my office.

If only monitoring the happiness of your employees and staff were so easy.

Now, I’m not talking about literal video – in the absence of legitimate security/attrition concerns that’s a bit excessive, and won’t lead to the high-trust work environment you’re seeking with your staff and customers. What I’m talking about is having your finger on the pulse of your people’ feelings about you and your company.

how.feedback.employee.clientIn his recent book How, author Dov Seidman writes passionately about why how we handle ourselves in business means so much more than people realize, and I tend to agree. Given the economic climate we’re in, companies wishing to retain the loyalty of their highest-performing staff and most important clients in 2012 had better start listening closely to just how satisfied these stakeholders are, and not take either for granted.

Things may indeed appear fine on the surface; staff turnover rates are low, and reliable clients keep buying. And yet, how much of this is due to circumstance, rather than true happiness with you and your offerings? It’s possible that your staff is sticking with you for lack of better options in this shaky economy. It’s possible that your clients are simply content with the familiarity of you and your brand, rather than completely over the moon with your product or service.

Okay, that’s enough of me singing such a depressing tune – I think you get the point! Now, what can you, the boss, do to ensure you have the full picture when it comes to the satisfaction of your staff and patron?

Here are 3 tactics which I’ve seen smart companies employ, to monitor the happiness of both their workforce and client base:

1.         Utilize Blind Surveys – Extremely low-tech and brutally honest, there is no better way to receive feedback from your staff and clients than by simply asking them. Do it in a way which makes they feel safe to answer candidly – an anonymous email or drop box, perhaps, or even a mail-in. Use a scale, say 1-5 with 5 being “Excellent” and 1 being “Poor,” and allow a comments space for their subjective answers.

 2.        Conduct 1 on 1 Meetings – Sit down with your top performers and most important clients, and ask them flat out, “How are we doing? Are you getting what you want and expect from us? What could we be doing better?” Doing so communicates a sincere respect and concern for the relationship, and will be extremely well-received and appreciated as a result. As such, you will get honest feedback as a result – the kind that will only help strengthen your bonds with these people.

 3.        Maintain a True “Open Door” Policy – I’ve worked at lots of places in my life, as I’m sure you have. How many of those places claimed to have an “open door” management policy? Almost all of them, right? Now, how often did you truly feel comfortable marching into your boss’s office (or your boss’s boss, or higher) to share your concerns or discontent with the workplace? Unless the manager-employee relationship is particularly warm and candid, employees are often just too intimidated to speak their minds honestly. Change this – foster an environment of trust in your office. Make your employees know that there will be NO repercussions for honest feedback, and that private conversations will indeed remain private, if requested (this goes for client relationships as well, though clearly approached from a different frame of reference).

As a business owner myself who is dedicated to strengthening the relationships between companies and their staff/clients through corporate team building in NYC and elsewhere, I too must maintain vigilance over the happiness of my core stakeholders, and employ the above tactics to the best of my ability. As Dov Seidman says, it’s not just what you do, but how you do it which will bolster your most important relationships.

In the time it’s taken me to write this, I’ve watched my baby wake up a few times, start to cry, and then peacefully fall back asleep. How happy do you think your employees and clients have been feeling today?