Actioning Employee Survey Results Part One:
Macro and Micro Level Approaches
Acting on employee survey feedback is something a lot of organizations struggle with. And lately, with more companies taking a quick pulse of their teams every two weeks or month, it can be even more challenging from a data perspective to act on this frequent feedback.
A survey without acting on information is like taking a temperature, noting it’s on the rise, and doing nothing afterwards.
Every time you ask a question the employee expects an answer. More precisely they expect you to do something with the answer they gave you. Otherwise, they don’t think you’re listening. And when they don’t think you’re listening they don’t answer surveys anymore.
Well known for his ability to turn mountains of data into cohesive, compelling and insightful stories that lead to action, the most common question Employee Engagement veteran and founder of Entergritē Norm Baillie-David gets asked is “how do we go about the action plan? Do we do it top-down? Or bottom-up? “
The answer to that question is really both and neither at the same time.
Essentially everybody, executives, senior leadership, middle managers and employees need to contribute to the engagement conversation.
Sitting in a boardroom thinking up an action plan, which is a very quintessential top-down way of doing things – guess what – it’s going to fall flat. Because employees don’t feel involved.
Engagement relies on the individual; each individual owns their own engagement. You can’t improve employee engagement without the employees themselves.
It’s the fusion of leadership and employees through conversation that results in plans and actions that are effective.
HR can set policies and deliver programs, manage benefits and compensation, but what you’re not able to do is act for the managers in the line. And that’s where employee engagement takes place, in each individual’s own work environment. Employee Engagement has to be an organization-wide, leadership-driven, management-style initiative.
One of the biggest differentiators between those organizations with strong engagement and those that struggle is those that struggle do surveys because they think it’s trendy, the buzz, it’s the right thing to do, and then, they dissociate and turn the mantel over to HR. But when the CEO and C-suite say, “Yes, we want more engaged individuals in our organization. We understand the benefits. More engagement is good for the work experience and the organization and we’re going to drive that through,” – the chances of higher engagement improves exponentially.
Given that executives are responsible for the organization they must be responsible for employee engagement – not HR. All the success and outcomes you see as an organization, the inputs, are the employee behaviors that occur. Every. Single. Day.
During a webinar with WorkTango, Baillie-David presented two different methods for actioning from a top-down and bottom-up approach, though really, he stressed, it’s a combination of both.
A Macro Organization-Wide Method
In most organizations of 500 employees or more, you’re going to need some sort of overarching policy or program to do some of the things you need to do for engagement.
What you should be looking at are those themes or drivers that have been shown in your survey to influence engagement. Things like leadership, vision, professional or career growth. Are scores consistent across the organization? If they are, you certainly don’t want every manager reinventing the wheel. You want corporate consistency. This is where it makes sense for an organization-wide approach.
If for example in response to career growth issues you’re going to start a corporate-wide program, people might think, “Oh, okay so this is going to be decided in the c-suites. But NO this doesn’t mean the initiative will be handled by senior management. On the contrary. The strongest, most impactful Employee Engagement action plans are actually employee led.
How? Especially if you’ve got thousands of employees?
There are two ways.
1. Form a Working Group
The first is to create a task force, steering committee, working group – call it what you will – made up of employees from all areas of the organization.
The group should be a small team of 8 to 12 participants. They need to come from every part of the organization – call it diagonal representation – cut across departments and cut across levels. You’re looking for a group dynamic where participants get equal airtime, participate in discussions, and have their ideas heard, without issues of dominant personalities.
Senior leaders may try to beg off arguing they’re going to be too influential and the group won’t talk freely. But top leadership participation is mandatory. Not as the group leader. Not as the chair. But as an equal participant. Because if leaders are participating in those deliberations they can act as advocate with their c-suite colleagues, countering objections and answering questions from a position of first-hand understanding.
The group should have a clear mandate outlining
- their responsibilities (to understand and focus on the drivers of engagement which emerge from survey results)
- what they’re going to produce (an action plan)
- when deliverables are expected
How does this work for a large global company?
If it’s a centralized global organization with a lot of decisions that have to take place at the top, then it should reside at the top. Technology is wonderful for this. But when you’re talking about multiple countries, you’re going to have cultural issues, different things that engage in different countries or in different department that’s where bottom-up works best.
“Its hard to prescribe one hard and fast way” says Baillie-David. “It really is a case-by-case scenario.”
2. Action Planning Workshops
A professional facilitator from inside or outside the organization, someone who knows how to manage a group, can turn what might seem like a daunting task into something fun and highly productive.
A successful Action Planning workshop has to comprise people from all over the organization for the same reasons that drive a successful Employee Engagement working group. The ideal size is 20 to 50 participants.
Start by establishing a non-threatening and fun atmosphere so participants feel comfortable enough to be creative and generate ideas. Focus the workshop on survey results. Focus on emerging issues. Focus on ideation. To help make those results and issues more relatable create different fictitious scenarios.
Here’s an example:
A manager in Sam’s area has left the company and Sam knows they have the ability to do that job. Sam approaches the director and enquires about the position. While the director is polite, they basically say that a decision has been made to fill the job with a candidate who comes from another organization with expertise that will benefit the team. Sam is devastated. They feel they’ve been busting their butt and should have at least been considered.
Fill out AT LEAST 5 actions idea cards to help Sam stay motivated and engaged, and that will improve how professional growth is viewed in the organization.
This is the kind of stuff people talk about over their Lattes, Espressos and Americanos. Everybody’s got ideas. Post them on the wall. In 90 minutes using these sorts of scenarios, you’ll get 75-100-150 ideas. Once all those ideas have been generated participants look at them, evaluate them, vote for the best, and figure out how they’re actually going to be rolled out.
What comes out of these workshops is typically six key actions, a description of what’s involved, who owns the action, and when it’s going to happen. It’s not more difficult than that. Six ideas. That’s it.
All of it through a macro organization-wide approach.
A Micro or Decentralized Bottom-Up Approach
Not all issues are going to apply consistently across the board. Finance, operations, sales, field services … if they each have different concerns trying to tackle them with an organization-wide approach isn’t going to be very helpful.
Even though drivers may be consistent, the perception (and this happens in many siloed organizations) might be, “You know what, we’re different. We need to do our own thing here.”
Fine. Let them. Don’t impose anything.
If there are common issues, common themes, yes, use a corporate-wide approach. But that doesn’t mean you can’t allow nor should you inhibit a bottoms-up decentralized approach. The challenge is making sure everybody is consistent in their “localized” approach. Some departments are going to be gung-ho. And others aren’t. They don’t see it as a priority. The manager isn’t interested and doesn’t want to do it. Establish consistency with a clear mandate and precise instructions about the process being employee-led. Provide support templates and tools inviting managers to use them at their own discretion.
This is where technology enables engagement in a number of ways
It helps with that action plan. It provides the templates, the tools and the guidance. It provides a collaborative opportunity, especially when working in multiple remote locations. You can see people’s faces now when you have those conversations – which is so important. But remember Employee Engagement is a human process. Technology should be used to encourage and facilitate the connectedness, the conversation, the collaboration, that humanization.
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