How to Act on Your Listening Results: The Crawl, Walk, Run Method
Organizations launching ambitious employee listening strategies have taken a critical first step up the maturity curve that leads to world-class business outcomes. However, the steps following an organization’s first listening event can prove unsteady, with the failure to implement appropriate follow-up actions among the most significant barriers to success among less mature organizations.
Moving up the Maturity Curve
If your organization is trying to elevate its listening program and one of the planned changes includes a shift to a more frequent listening cadence — such as by shifting from one annual census survey to a biannual cadence, or from biannual listening to quarterly — then action planning has to quickly follow data collection. If it doesn’t, and employees instead end up continuously surveyed without discernible follow-up by leadership, these employees could believe their opinions aren’t valued and may experience inaction fatigue. Here are best practices to help organizations act more quickly to align with a more frequent listening cadence.
Before You Start: Survey Questions Must Be Actionable
Before you start actioning, remember that questions truly make the survey. If you aren’t asking the right ones, what’s the point? For instance, asking for feedback about things that aren’t within the power of the organization to change, or that organizational leadership are simply not willing or prepared to act on, is pointless. Additionally, some questions may be poorly worded or constructed, leaving respondents confused. Others may not be focused on a clear topic, are ambiguous, or are too high level to result in clear takeaways. Asking these types of questions will only serve to frustrate responders and leave leaders confused as to what actions to take.
Avoid this pitfall by ensuring questions are written clearly and concisely, and have a clear action. Use clear rating scales throughout the survey to ensure employee perceptions are accurately captured. And when it comes to employee perceptions, remember that the questions themselves can sway opinions or influence overall results about how employees perceive the organization. By asking about experience, clarity of direction, manager effectiveness, and company culture, it communicates to employees that leadership cares and is listening.
Actioning: Start Small
Actioning doesn’t have to start with a grand plan that involves hours of strategy sessions. As you mature your listening program, it is important to start to gain trust and credibility with employees. The more trust you gain with employees, the more honest and accurate insights they will offer. In order to accomplish this, focus on small steps as you begin to transform your organization from an open-loop model to a more closed-loop feedback approach that fosters transparency and feedback.
Crawl, Walk, Run
Having the right survey questions in place, though, is only a small part of the much bigger picture. When thinking about how to launch your program, it is helpful to envision moving through a series of stages that mirror childhood development. You have to crawl before you can walk, and only after getting your feet under you can you focus on running.
Actions that you can take in the “crawling” phase of your listening program include:
- Formally thank employees for their participation via internal communication channels
- Socialize a few high-level insights from the survey
- Follow the 1-2-3 action taking approach by presenting one topic area of focus and two actions to address that focus area. Actions could be something you are already doing or planning to do — they don’t have to be new initiatives
- Communicate the actions being taken to improve that focus area at least 3 times to clearly demonstrate how actions tie back to employee feedback
With a sufficient foundation in place, steps you can take during the “walking” phase of your listening program include:
- Implement informal action planning for executives, mid-level leaders, and front-line leaders in which these individuals are provided with tools and resources but no specific leadership directives related to actioning
- Providing external and internal resources for coaching and development of leaders that detail how to take meaningful action from employee surveys, as well as targeted supplemental material for direct leader development if leaders scored low in areas such as manager effectiveness
- Communicate the actions and results leaders took to improve metrics — both at the system level and direct manager level
As your listening program becomes increasingly mature, you can begin “running:”
- Implement formal action planning for all leaders in which specific instructions and accountability metrics are provided to ensure timely and appropriate follow-up on actioning
- Have leaders continuously follow-up with their employees to show how they used their insights to make changes
- Utilize pulse surveys and crowdsourcing to understand if leaders have:
- Socialized their insights with the team
- Shared their action plans
- Followed up with their team after actions were taken
- Checked to see if actions led to improvements in the subsequent results
Front-line Actioning with Perceptyx
How does the crawl, walk, run method translate into front line leader actioning? Perceptyx makes turning insights into action very simple for leaders. Our dashboard interface has all of the information leaders need in one place to begin taking action.
Using this dashboard, leaders will receive their:
- Team report
- User guide to lead insightful conversations
- Response rate
- Recommended focus areas to drive the most meaningful change
- Recommended action steps
- Learning resources
We recommend that front line leaders utilize weekly meetings and huddles to:
- Thank their team for participation
- Share top-line insights
- Identify one area of focus and two actions to take
- Share when there will be follow-up to evaluate the effectiveness of actions taken
Above all else, it's imperative for leaders to follow through on steps being taken to improve their employees’ experiences. Direct action and follow-up signals to employees that the organization takes their feedback seriously, which can positively affect participation and improvement of scores in future surveys, as well as improve the lives of employees through better work experiences.
Action Planning at Carhartt: Surveys Tied to Improvement Initiatives
At apparel manufacturer and retailer Carhartt — a Perceptyx partner since 2019 — Carhartt associates have connected the surveys with the improvement initiatives the company is promoting and see the value in the program.
Since October 2020, when the organization conducted its first survey in partnership with Perceptyx, Senior Organizational Specialist Scott Hicks said, “We’ve seen a focused and consistent response in action planning. We’ve been able to open up the survey dashboard to our leadership population which has allowed us to share more department-specific results than ever before. It’s an easy and meaningful process for them to dive into their own team’s responses.” As a result, action planning has become more decentralized, because leaders are able to own and take individual action at the team level.
The focus on action planning is paying dividends. The idea that associates are connecting survey feedback with the actions taken in response has limited inaction fatigue and driven employee buy-in across the organization. In addition to these improvements in engagement, Carhartt experienced a record sales year in 2020, despite the pandemic. The work the company has done to improve the associate experience continues to have a positive impact on business outcomes.
You Want to See More — and Perceptyx Can Get You Started
Whether you need to start crawling, walking, or running toward becoming a more mature listening organization, Perceptyx stands ready to help. Our consultants work with your team to ensure that you’re asking the right questions via the best listening methods tailored to the needs of your organization — pulses for quick feedback, recurring surveys for understanding changes over time, safety culture surveys to understand safety perceptions specifically, and crowdsourcing to quickly co-create solutions — and then quickly convert these data-driven insights from our People Insights Platform into meaningful action planning.
To learn more about how Perceptyx can help your organization trailblaze its path toward listening success, schedule a meeting with a member of our team.