Engaging Executives: Bridging the Gap Between Analytics and Action
In the bustling corridors of corporate strategy and executive decision-making, consultants often find themselves navigating a complex maze of beliefs, biases, and barriers. From statements reflecting complacency to misunderstandings of data and employee needs, the challenges that consultants and HR professionals face in executive consultations (EC) and executive presentations (EP) are multifaceted. This article outlines some common statements and offers insights into handling them effectively, including drawing on the power of Perceptyx's People Insights Platform to help facilitate organizational alignment.
- "My engagement is already high; therefore I don't need to act."
The Challenge: This statement reflects a belief that current successes are self-sustaining and that continuous efforts to maintain or enhance engagement are unnecessary.
The Solution: Even when engagement overall is high, or above internal and/or external benchmarks, this does not tell the whole story. As consultants, we must share that, as an outcome, engagement is not actionable, which is why we measure the entirety of the employee experience (EX) to understand 1) what aspects of EX are positively influencing engagement, and 2) which aspects may be inhibiting or serving as barriers to engagement. When we survey at Perceptyx, we compare those who are highly engaged with those who are having a less-than-ideal experience to understand where there are the largest gaps. Demonstrate to your people that, by acting on these areas, we can bridge those gaps and ultimately improve engagement for everyone. Further, by deep diving into key business and people demographics, it’s common to see differences in engagement levels. Create a data-driven story to show that focusing on engagement drivers for specific groups will improve engagement overall.
Engagement requires continuous nurturing. Emphasize that even high-performing teams need to adapt to ever-changing business landscapes. Utilize data to demonstrate historical fluctuations and tie engagement efforts to measurable outcomes in productivity and satisfaction. Encourage leaders to see engagement as an ongoing process, not a static achievement.
- "The subjective and objective data don't match up; I'm going to ignore the subjective data."
The Challenge: A dismissal of subjective employee experience (EX) data reveals a preference for cold, hard numbers over the insights that human experiences can provide.
The Solution: Show that both objective and subjective data offer unique insights. While numbers provide measurable metrics, human experiences add color and context, allowing for a comprehensive understanding. Offer examples from other organizations that have successfully used a blend of data types to foster an empathetic and efficient decision-making process.
While in many cases, EX data provides support for objective data, we sometimes see a disconnect, where the hard data may reveal one story, while the subjective data reveals something entirely different. A good example of this is DEI-related data, as many organizations are trying to marry their data together into a comprehensive scorecard or dashboard. While sentiment data may reveal differences in fairness by demographic groups, the hard metrics may show equity in key aspects of EX, such as advancement. When consulting with leadership teams, demonstrate the importance of understanding both data sources and coach executives on how to be transparent, while acknowledging (not ignoring!) gaps in sentiment. Suggest focus groups or ask-me-anything sessions, where key groups have direct visibility into leadership teams to have an honest conversation about what’s driving their sentiments. Building trust and understanding will make a world of difference, and likely offer innovative solutions to common problems.
- "I'm going ahead with my decision regardless of what employees say/want."
The Challenge: This assertion highlights resistance to considering employee input, which may lead to disengagement and mistrust.
The Solution: As consultants in the EX field, it is critical to reinforce to leaders that, if you are going to ask for employee opinions, you better be ready to act on it! Or, if you can’t act, be prepared to communicate why. In a post-pandemic world, a great example of this is demonstrated through work-life flexibility data. Many organizations did an exemplary job of gauging employee opinions (and acting on them) during COVID. Employees felt a sense of psychological safety to share their opinions; they felt that their companies cared about them, their well-being, and their needs. This boosted EX data and engagement overall, with research also demonstrating positive impacts on productivity, and was a true testament to how listening to your employees can reap great benefits.
Now, as many organizations are grappling with decisions to return to the office, they are once again soliciting feedback on sentiments and preferences. However, many companies are not listening to that feedback, which directionally points towards more hybrid and at-home options for white-collar roles. As consultants, we can warn customers to design surveys based on issues that they are willing to act upon. We can also emphasize the importance of communicating results and connecting decisions back to employee feedback, wherever possible. Even when we cannot act, leaders can build more credibility and trust by simply acknowledging the feedback and sharing why they are choosing to go in a different direction.
Encourage leaders to recognize that embracing employee input can foster a sense of ownership and alignment with organizational goals. Use real-world examples to demonstrate how participatory leadership can enhance innovation, team morale, and overall business success. Reinforce that their insights, rather than being threats to authority, can be powerful catalysts for growth.
- "A census survey every year or two is enough."
The Challenge: This belief may limit the frequency of feedback and insights from the workforce.
The Solution: While annual- or every-other-year census surveys are helpful, point-in-time surveys do not capture the nuance and constant change occurring in most organizations. They are great at understanding overall sentiment and year-over-year trending on key outcomes, and can provide a foundation for a solid action strategy. However, listening to employees should be a key facet of any culture, where creating a continuous conversation becomes part of an organization’s strategy. Stress the importance of continuous listening and action, and illustrate how more frequent surveys can catch trends as they are developing. Share best practice examples where data are integrated across multiple listening channels, such as always-on surveys (e.g., onboarding and exit surveys through Perceptyx’s Sense product) and more topical surveys (e.g., DEI, change). This integration creates a more holistic listening strategy, and allows for action to be aligned more strategically to ongoing priorities, as opposed to a once-a-year event where managers are just “checking the box”. Highlight the agility it offers in responding to fast-paced business changes, thus enabling more timely and effective interventions.
- “We have new leaders so these results don’t apply to us.”
The Challenge: This dismissal overlooks the value of historical data and patterns. A lack of appreciation for historical data can lead to missed opportunities for growth.
The Solution: Articulate how past data, even under different leadership, can provide valuable context for understanding organizational dynamics. Use examples to illustrate how this continuity in data provides insights into long-term trends, helping new leaders to build on past successes and avoid previous pitfalls. Consultants should reinforce to new leaders that they can build trust with their new team by hearing from them during a feedback session, even if the results don’t necessarily apply. Acknowledge that changes have occurred since the survey closed, but that their input on what drove their responses, and how they may be feeling now, is important. And finally, emphasize to new leaders that they should involve employees in the action planning process so that they have a chance to be a part of the solution and make it more applicable to their current sentiments.
- “We can ask but we can’t act.”
The Challenge: This statement reflects a perceived inability to act on feedback.
The Solution: Provide examples of actionable insights and small, measurable steps that can be taken. Foster a belief in the power to change and the value of incremental improvements. For example, here at Perceptyx, after understanding each client’s business problems and strategic goals, we partner with them to create a listening strategy that may leverage a variety of survey types (census, pulse, new hire, exit, 360 feedback, etc.) and survey frequencies (from daily to annually, and everything in between) to collect the information we need at the most appropriate time. There are many methodologies that can be successfully deployed, depending on what the client needs to know about their people. There is one methodology, however, that we recommend to all our clients: action planning.
Our action planning tool is an evidenced-based method for behavioral change and improving engagement at the grassroots team level. As easy as 1, 2, 3 in the Perceptyx platform, managers:
- Select one issue to focus on. Our AI-powered platform provides suggestions to the manager front and center in their results dashboard. These are the issues that, if focused on, will produce the most significant gains in the team’s engagement.
- Identify two things to do about it, nudged with platform-generated recommendations and resources customized to each issue.
- Commit to three dates they will discuss/review this topic with their team.
As consultants we sometimes hear about “analysis paralysis”, or that there is too much data, causing teams to get overwhelmed. Reinforce that most sentiment data is correlated. By focusing on one area, leaders will more than likely positively impact several others. And, if you don’t know where to focus or how to act, this is where it’s so critical to engage your employees in these processes. Employees have the most context to reinforce and explain their insights and results. By simply listening to them during feedback sessions, leaders will be in a great position to partner with their teams to create meaningful solutions that last.
How Listening Data Drives Organizational Alignment
Perceptyx's reporting capabilities, an integral part of the People Insights Platform, offer a robust solution to many of these challenges. By enabling a cascade of listening results across the organization, this ecosystem of data-driven insights can deliver timely, executive-level results that far surpass a traditional PowerPoint-based executive presentation.
By using the powerful features of Perceptyx's platform in concert with insightful executive consultation, consultants can create a wave of enthusiasm for engagement and positive change, overcoming barriers and aligning strategies with real-world needs. To learn more, reach out to a member of our team.