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5 Ways to Bring your Employee Survey to Life

For many HR and Management professionals we will soon be turning our attention to preparing and delivering our annual employee surveys. (a.k.a. the employee “engagement” survey). This is the process where employers ask their employees to rate/comment on all things related to the company and where they pledge to “fix” items that employees rate low. For many organizations, the true challenge becomes trying to sustain activities related to the survey. The worse thing that you can possibly do is survey your employee population and then fail to communicate back to your staff on what they told you and what you are going to do to address any gaps.

The employee survey can, and often is, a great measuring stick (at the very least, a temperature check) on where your employees stand with your organization. Hopefully you have established an environment of trust where employees will honestly rate the factors you wish to measure and will provide candid commentary on what is working and what can be approved. To that extent, here are some suggestions on how to bring your survey to life and provide value to your organization through the survey efforts:

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate – identify the best channels through which your organization communicates to its employees. Then, provide them with the details about the survey. Tell your employees when they will be surveyed, in what form the survey will take place (paper, electronic, etc.), how long it will be open for and most importantly – why you are surveying and what you will do with the results. Communicate via your intranet site, email, department meetings, 1:1 coaching sessions, etc. Your managers should be your survey champions to aid in this communication process. Once you have the survey results back, make sure you communicate these results back to your staff. Whatever you do, do NOT keep them a big mystery. There is nothing worse than organizations that survey their staff and then tell them NOTHING afterwards about the results. It leaves staff wondering, “wow, were the results so bad they don’t even want to reveal them?” (This may or may not even be factual!)

Survey2. Formulate your action plan (in a timely manner) – once you have the results do not delay in communicating (per point #1), but just as important, do not delay in formulating your action plan to address survey gaps. You should identify 2-3 key areas to address and formulate your plans around those areas. Identify what gaps cause your organization the most heartburn and focus on those. If your gap is around communication focus on that. Perhaps your gap is more around proper employee recognition, if so, focus on that area. Most of all, as a leadership team, you need to WANT to address/fix these gaps because they are important to you and your company and they align with your values.

3. Solicit more info from your employees – part of the solution in addressing survey gaps is to gather more information from your employees. Whether you call them focus groups or something else, getting a cross section of employees together to gather supporting information will help solidify your action plans and ensure that they are aligned with what your employees are telling you and that they address root cause issues. Many times I have found that the really important information comes out in the employee comment sections of the survey and/or during these employee open forum meetings. Many clarifying points and discussion items come out of candid conversation with your staff and most importantly, it is NEVER a bad thing to talk to your employees!

4. Establish an employee survey action team – the key point here is that through some democratic process, a team of employee and management representatives meet on a regular basis (e.g. monthly) to discuss the survey action items, measure progress against the action items and the gaps they are addressing and provide feedback into future plans. This sends the message to your employees that the survey is an important event and needs to be continually discussed, action plans tweaked and progress communicated. It also ensures that the feedback loop (which includes observations, impacts and agreements) remains a focus. Typically survey action teams have a goal of providing feedback to the senior leadership team on progress against survey initiatives, thus ensuring an alignment between the survey results and what is being addressed. In the same matter, if also ensure an alignment between what the employees have told the leadership team and what the leadership has chosen to address because it is important to both parties.

5. Make the survey a standing agenda item – whether it is at Sr. leadership meetings, departmental meetings or employee town hall meetings, the survey (and its related action items) should be a standing agenda item. Staff at all levels should be versed in the results, the action items and what is being done to address them. This is a key way to bring the survey and its initiatives to life, to sustain the activities related to the survey and to make sure that you are moving from an event driven environment to one of continuous improvement. If the focus (cultural DNA) remains focused on addressing employee engagement and staff and managers are always focused on improving this area, the frequency of your official surveys may change as you will now have the pulse of the organization.

I encourage you to take into consideration these items as you roll out your next employee survey. You may find one or two items helpful as you focus on your own organization and addressing gaps that come out of your survey. As always, I welcome your feedback and comments.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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