Taking Action From Employee Engagement Survey Results

By Mark Gonzales - October 26, 2018

Ever since the term “employee engagement” gained currency over 20 years ago, it has become a kind of holy grail for companies and HR departments. Mountains of employee engagement data have been generated in pursuit of greater engagement. The reason for the focus on engagement is that data shows it is a predictor of business success; companies with high levels of employee engagement consistently outperform companies with low employee engagement in productivity (tweet this!), according to a 2013 study by the Harvard Business Review. Yet in spite of all of the surveys and data collection, engagement remains a difficult challenge for many businesses.

There can be a number of reasons why engagement remains elusive for many companies, but perhaps the most common one is a lack of action on the data gleaned from employee engagement surveys. As we’ve noted in other posts on our blog, data is helpful for defining issues and areas that need improvement, but collecting data without taking timely and appropriate action can actually create new problems.

Action, determined by analysis of employee engagement survey results, is required to drive engagement. Otherwise, employees are likely to view surveys as an insincere exercise—a perception which may foster a reduction in engagement. In this post, we will explore approaches to action that, informed by employee engagement data, can lead to an increase in engagement.

The 1, 2, 3 Approach To Action Planning Based On Employee Engagement Survey Results Analysis

One straightforward approach to action is the following:

  1. Focus on one theme or issue revealed in the employee satisfaction survey results.
  2. Do two things to address it.
  3. Talk about it three times throughout the year.

It’s a simple formula, but there’s a reason we’ve seen it work with so many clients over the years, and here’s why:

Focus on one theme or issue:

Focusing on one main issue makes it easier for managers, business units, or organizations to take action. Instead of trying to take on too much and getting overwhelmed, focusing on a key point simplifies problem solving. If managers feel like everything has to be addressed at the same time, the task appears impossible. Think of it in terms of “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” A single-issue focus gets the ball rolling; success with action on the initial issue builds momentum for tackling other issues down the road.

Do two things about it:

Choose at least two activities, while also keeping action focused on the single theme or issue. Rather than getting caught up in choosing the “right” action, just do something. All survey items and results are interconnected. The mere fact that a manager, division, or organization addresses an issue with action will improve survey results in other areas.

Communicate three times:

While managers and leaders might work to address a particular issue, there are numerous occasions where circling back to employees to communicate progress is neglected. This means that during the next annual or pulse survey, the expected improvement in scores isn’t seen, as some groups aren’t aware of the progress that is being made. It is important to remind employees of the context for action, share progress, and continually seek their input and feedback. This serves as a reminder to employees and leaders that the survey and results are intended to facilitate an ongoing conversation and communicates the authenticity of the process.

Using Employee Engagement Data to Determine Barriers to Engagement

When interpreting employee engagement survey results, focus on what actually matters most to employees, which may not be the lowest scoring item.

For example, survey feedback may indicate that most employees are unhappy with the procedures for requesting vacation leave―60% of employees express dissatisfaction with the current procedure and policy. On the same survey, 35% of employees say that they don’t feel their manager is interested in their ideas about how they can do their jobs more effectively.

Clearly, if over a third of employees feel disengaged due to their relationship with their manager, this is the bigger threat to organizational success. The procedure for requesting leave can probably be addressed fairly easily, but it is not an issue that impacts employees on a deep level―unlike going to work every day with the belief that a supervisor dismisses an employee’s contributions.

To zero in on the issues that are most important to employees, organizations need a simple and effective way to identify barriers that prevent engagement. A system that extends beyond just looking at the drivers of engagement, to also identify items where the trend shows significant decline or where major deviations have occured from internal benchmarks, will offer a more complete picture of those barriers. Assessing employee comments also allows for deeper insights on engagement. The process of surveying and assessing multiple data points helps organizations get a more robust understanding of where action is needed the most.

Want to see how a focused people analytics program can help your company thrive? Request a free demo to see what Perceptyx can do for your business.

Make Action More Meaningful for Employees in the Workplace

No matter what the analysis of the engagement survey data reveals, action has to be meaningful to people in their workplace. If the action doesn’t resonate with them, employees will feel they haven’t been heard.

It’s important to customize action and communication to the employees’ immediate context; to drive broader action, leaders should connect the dots between the input and the initiative. An action that may not be meaningful for employees in one location will make more sense if they understand how it aligns to company’s mission or business objectives. Don’t assume that employees understand why an action is being implemented; be explicit about what the engagement survey revealed and how the initiative is intended to address it.

Above all, keep in mind that there needs to be authenticity throughout the listening process. Surveying engagement is about fostering improvement, not checking boxes, which is how it will be interpreted by employees if no action is taken. Always remember that asking for input and then failing to take action is worse than not asking at all.

Does your company need help moving from data analysis to action?

The divide between analysis and action is where many employee engagement efforts hit the wall. If your company needs help moving past analysis to meaningful action, get in touch with Perceptyx today. We’ve helped some of the biggest names in business overcome barriers to employee engagement, and we can help your company, too.

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