Employee engagement surveys (or employee opinion surveys) are an investment of time and money. They can become “check off the box” exercises, or they can be used to promote understanding, dialog, and organizational impact. The goal is to maximize the value of employee feedback.
Employers commonly conduct employee engagement surveys every couple of years. Employees are highly encouraged to participate and usually expect their feedback to positively impact their work experience. How employers respond to the feedback determines the value of the results.
Reporting survey results to employees with no real analysis or follow-up is the least effective response, because employees conclude their feedback is not taken seriously, analyzed, and/or addressed. If employee input does not impact the work experience, it can breed cynicism and distrust, in which case it is better not to conduct the survey. To avoid this outcome and realize the most value from survey results, consider these suggestions:
Understand what drove the results. Typically, survey questions are general, and the results are summarized and aggregated. While maintaining participant confidentiality, it is important to get a sense for what the results really mean and what is driving them. What are the key findings and themes? Are there differences by department, business unit, or level of employee? How do the current results compare with prior surveys? What are the trends, and what might be the key drivers? Are these drivers based on isolated events, or are they based on new norms? Are there seasonal or external factors influencing the results? The goal of analysis is to transform survey data into actionable insight.
Foster dialog with employees. Ongoing, constructive dialog between leadership and employees creates understanding and trust. Human Resources professionals can facilitate the dialog and/or act as leadership representatives. Stay interviews, focus groups, facilitated employee committees, and town hall meetings are valuable forums for engaging in dialog with employees. Generally, individual and smaller group settings tend to be most effective. The goal is to understand how employees view the survey results and to solicit ideas that the organization can consider implementing.
Leadership can’t act on every item of interest to employees. But effective dialog means that leadership commits to understanding what matters most to employees. Leadership further commits to discussing key items and themes with employees and considering their feasibility and fit with organizational goals and priorities.
Assess the organization’s people practices. Surveys generally solicit feedback on new-hire orientation/onboarding, training, performance management, total rewards, culture, leadership, etc. Survey results provide valuable feedback on the effectiveness of these people practices. Assess the results to determine where these practices are effective and where they need to be improved. Use the results to drive effective people practices and remove or reduce obstacles that keep employees from performing at the highest levels possible.
When organizations commit to understanding their employees’ views and to following up on key items and themes, employees are more likely to feel they have been heard. This gives leaders more credibility, and employees are more likely to demonstrate trust in return. When conducting an employee engagement survey or employee opinion survey, maximize return on investment by using the results to actually drive greater understanding, dialog, and positive impact.