Employee Engagement Survey Results: 3 Principles & 3 Processes For Analysis

By Megan Steckler - March 28, 2019

In a recent article, we discussed the importance of survey design for getting actionable insights. Careful design is just the first step, however. A well-thought-out employee engagement survey can provide a wealth of data and results, but without proper analysis it can be difficult to get to the insights leaders are looking for to drive improvement and success.

Knowing how to approach the analysis of your data can help you get the most from your employee satisfaction survey report. This relies on three underlying principles and a three step process, which will be the focus of this article.

Looking to boost engagement at your company? It starts with improving the employee experience. Download our free guide, The Employee Experience Playbook, for tips on enhancing every step of the employee journey.

3 Principles For Employee Engagement Survey Results Analysis

When a survey is completed, HR, survey administrators, and leaders are confronted with a flood of data. Follow these three principles for analyzing survey data to keep the focus on what is most important:

1. Consider the business’ needs.

Approach the data with the business context in mind. What are the strategic challenges, goals and priorities for leaders? What are the challenges and opportunities employees are facing right now? What do you need from employees and what do they need from leaders to succeed? As you review the data, keep this context at the forefront and analyze each data point in terms of its relationship to the business’ needs.

2. Craft a coherent story.

Being able to tell the story behind the numbers of the survey in a compelling way is critical to ensuring the data will be understood and acted upon. Make sure that leaders and employees understand that strengths, opportunities, and focus areas are key elements of the story. What are the themes that emerge from the data? As you review each element of the data, look for themes, and piece together the story. Construct a logical narrative for sharing these results with your team or leaders.

3. Remember that the survey is a starting point.

The survey is just one part of this process, the starting point. It has a wealth of data and critical insights from your people, but survey insights shouldn’t be used in isolation. Survey results provide the opportunity for you to start a discussion with leaders, managers, and employees. It’s ok to come away from the analysis with more questions. (Tweet this!) The insights you do have are a powerful conversation starter and allow you to ask the right questions during the survey follow-up process. Determine what clarification you need and make that a part of the ongoing conversation.

3 Processes For Analyzing Survey Results

The principles for analysis of employee engagement survey results are linked to each of the three processes outlined below:

1. Review The Results

  • Consider the participation rate and sample size for your group. It’s important to know the data you will be analyzing. Were there factors that kept some people from participating? Was there a high level of trust in the survey process? If the participation rate or level of trust were low, that is valuable information in itself. Don’t discount survey results based on lower response rates. The survey still provides valuable feedback from those employees who were willing to share their experience and allows you to start a conversation.

    The size of the group should also be considered when interpreting results. Larger groups tend to have more stable scores, and smaller differences would be considered meaningful. By comparison, in a small group the responses of a few people can have a much bigger impact on the group scores.
  • Identify areas of strength and opportunity. Explore the category and item scores as a starting point. What topics or items did employees rate more or less favorably? Explore those scores in relation to the company overall, as well as internal and external benchmarks and scores from previous surveys. Are there topics that emerge as true areas of strength where you have made a lot of progress or are scoring far better than the comparison groups? Are there clear areas of opportunity for improvement where you’ve lost ground or have a lot of room to improve to catch up to the company overall?

    Generally, survey measures on a five-point agreement scale are reported as percent favorable. This is a good way to start getting an overall sense of the results, but consider items that might have high percent neutral or unfavorable scores as well. Neutral responses may represent areas of opportunity where employees are sitting on the fence or are unsure about a topic. They may also indicate areas where employees see inconsistency. Where there are a high percentage of neutral scores, providing clarity, communication, and consistency may offer a quick win to move responses into the favorable range. In contrast, a high percentage of unfavorable responses may represent areas where employees have strong negative opinions that will be more difficult to change.
  • Explore the Engagement Index. What is the overall level of engagement for your team? How do the engagement scores compare to internal and external engagement benchmarks? Understanding the overall level of engagement can provide valuable insight into the level of motivation and commitment of the team, but also provide insight into how to approach the barriers to engagement as well.
  • Explore the drivers of engagement. The driver analysis allows you to identify aspects of the work experience that are barriers to engaging employees. This analysis is done by studying the perceptions of the most highly engaged employees, and comparing them to those of less-engaged employees.

    Drivers of engagement should be the focus for action planning. This portion of the analysis is critical to ensure you get focused on the right things to discuss with your team and to take action on. As you explore the list of drivers, look for themes. Are there multiple items related to a common topic? Are some of the drivers current strengths that can be leveraged? Are there others that will be more challenging to address?
  • Dig into the comment data with a purpose. Leverage the information from comments to gain insight into how to address specific topics or drivers of engagement. Go into the comment data with specific questions in mind. For example, if a lack of available tools and resources were identified as barriers to engagement, explore the comments to clarify what types of tools or resources employees need. In addition, exploring the comment data at a high level to identify key themes and commonly used terms can provide insight to support the quantitative data and reinforce or add to your understanding of the barriers that need to be addressed. Are there themes emerging from the comment data? What clarity can they provide to support or inform your action plans?

2. Define Themes

  • Synthesize the key findings into themes that help tell the story. Consider relevant business and functional factors that provide context. What do leaders and employees need to take away from the survey data to understand and act? What themes or stories emerge from the data? How are these themes important to business priorities, challenges, and opportunities? As you interpret the data, consider the context and meaning. It’s important to keep in mind how these aspects might have impacted responses and scores:
    • External factors (changes within the market, competitors, natural disasters, etc.)
    • Business context (new initiatives, technology, processes, etc.)
    • Changes to leadership or team structure

3. Discuss The Results With Your Team

  • Prepare to tell the story you’ve identified. Draft some open-ended discussion questions to start dialogue with the team, clarify your findings, and refine the benefits, risks, and potential roadblocks to addressing the key items. This is important to guide the discussion, gain participation, and also inform potential action plans. What additional information do you need from your team to establish an effective action plan? What questions do you have for employees based on your analysis?
  • Discuss the results as a team. Giving all employees who were invited to participate in the survey an opportunity to see and discuss the results is a critical step. Asking for their feedback sets an expectation that leaders will act on it, so not sharing the results can have a serious negative impact on the credibility of the survey process and trust in leaders. This discussion is also an important step for narrowing the focus to the key areas to address with action plans. Engaging employees in brainstorming and allowing them to be part of the solution can be very fulfilling.
  • Narrow the focus. As a team it will be important to come to an agreement on which focus area to address with action plans. Keeping the team focused on the drivers of engagement, consider:
    • Which matter most to our team?
    • Which will have the greatest impact?
    • What needs immediate attention?
    • Which align to broader company focus areas?
    • How can we leverage our strengths and current initiatives?
    • Which items are within our control?

Following these principles and processes will separate the signal from the noise when conducting your employee engagement survey analysis. Use them to bring focus to your analysis; they will help identify the areas of most importance to employees and the business, where you should dig deeper and take action.

Get expert assistance interpreting your employee engagement survey results.

Employee survey data holds valuable insights—but the data can be confusing. Perceptyx can help you make sense of it so you can begin to address your biggest obstacles to employee engagement and business success. Get in touch and let us show you how expert analysis can help you focus in on the action that will have the most impact on your company’s success.

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