Stop sabotaging your engagement survey follow-up!

Leanne Buehler, Ph.D., Principal Science and Innovation AdvisorEmployee Engagement, Leadership, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

Each year at Newmeasures I have the opportunity to work with hundreds of leaders and provide guidance on how to respond to engagement survey feedback. After a year has passed from the engagement survey and discussions begin to plan for the next employee survey, it’s not uncommon for me to hear that leaders haven’t had enough time to take action on the feedback from the first survey.

This always surprises me. I get it – leaders have many competing priorities and there never is enough time to get it all done. But I also believe that an engagement survey is the start of a conversation and ultimately, fostering engagement is about connecting with and listening to your employees!

And, if the job of a leader is to bring out the best in others to foster productivity, innovation and enthusiasm, responding to engagement feedback should be a valuable means to accomplish that goal.

Here are the three most common ways I see organizations get a slow start to responding to engagement feedback:

Stuck in Analysis Paralysis

Understanding engagement survey feedback from a variety of perspectives can be incredibly useful. The feedback certainly can vary depending on department, location, leader level etc. And while understanding themes is informative, in the end, most of the time we find that “what” needs to be worked on is largely consistent across the organization. 

Here’s a classic example.

Let’s say the organization has learned that communication is a key opportunity. Leaders may invest a tremendous amount of time slicing and dicing the feedback to determine where improvement in communication is most needed. But if only 30% of employees in department A agree that communication is ok and 40% of employees in department B agree, even though department B is perceived to be  communicating “better”, the implication is still that perceptions of communication are low and need to be addressed everywhere.

It’s my belief that leaders get stuck in data analysis because they tend to be more comfortable working in the numbers than answering the harder question – what do we do to improve?

The takeaway – Use survey analysis to identify critical differences that may impact your follow-up response, and then get on with the work of addressing the themes.

Bogged Down in Focus Groups

Another common engagement survey follow-up activity is focus groups. Focus groups can be very valuable to get rich information and ideas on how to follow-up on key survey topics. But the downside is they can be very time consuming and labor intensive.  To keep focus groups efficient, consider:

  • Focusing on key populations that are critical rather than trying to reach everyone.
  • Encouraging each manager to talk to their team regarding the topic and report back key learnings quickly.
  • Considering a pulse survey that goes deeper into understanding a topic.

Waiting for a Company-wide Initiative

The results of an engagement survey may point to the need for large-scale organizational change: a review of policies, revisiting career paths and training resources, manager training, etc., are all are topics that an employee engagement survey may indicate deserve a refresh.

This work is important and should be undertaken, but these bigger system-wide approaches are typically resource and time intensive, and the truth is, there are often simple things that leaders can do TODAY to begin responding to the feedback.

Rather than waiting for an organizational-level response, we encourage leaders to pick ONE thing they can do in the next month to respond to the feedback from their teams.

Here are a few easy wins that some of our clients have implemented that require little time or money:

  • Provide a piece of equipment that makes life easier
  • Re-organize workspace to make things easier to access and more efficient
  • Talk to at least 3 direct reports about their career goals
  • Recognize at least 3 people for their work in overcoming day-to-day challenges
  • Commit to providing just-in-time feedback to at least 3 employees immediately after the completion of a milestone
  • Talk to the team about what work-life balance means to them, how it’s going, and ideas for improvement
  • Discuss with the team: is there work that is currently being done that no longer adds value? What can we eliminate?
  • Have an informal lunch for the purpose of listening. Ask questions like: What’s going well? What are your challenges? How can I help?

We find that these simple, yet personal acts can go a long way to remove frustrating barriers and demonstrate that employees are valued. If every leader identifies ONE thing to work on within a month of receiving the results for an engagement survey, the cumulative impact is tremendous.     

In summary, it’s not that understanding the data, getting rich feedback, or planning large-scale changes are bad. But we need to remember that engagement happens one person at a time on a moment-to-moment basis.

When it comes to engagement survey follow-up, our mantra for leaders is:

Just do something!

What barriers do you see get in the way of responding to employee engagement survey feedback?