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True Confessions: The Biggest Mistake Organizations Make in Employee Surveys

Your company issued an engagement survey. Employee participation was enthusiastic. The results are in. what’s next?

One of the biggest mistakes an organization can make during the survey process is failing to disseminate survey results management and employees. While it is improbable to address every complaint, it is possible to identify the most important areas to concentrate and develop a strategy.

The Debriefing Session

Two key themes related to employee engagement are communication and trust. You have an opportunity to build trust by debriefing your workforce on the survey findings. One standard survey question is, “How confident are you that some type of action will be taken as a result of this survey?” If your respondents reported high confidence, don’t let them down. Similarly, if your respondents were skeptical, here’s a chance to earn their trust.

Start by acknowledging the strengths – by department, if possible – and then address areas that need improvement. Celebrating annual positive results and accomplishments that employees achieve impact morale and engagement. Close your survey debrief with explaining the actions your company plans to take to address the candid feedback.

Make Your Action Plan S.M.A.R.T

Developing S.M.A.R.T goals is critical to managing your own and your employees’ performance. When you communicate next steps with employees, be sure they are in line with the S.M.A.R.T. acronym –specific, measureable, achievable, results-focused and timely.

Specific: Clearly define what you are going to do. Share the what, why and how.

Example: By May 1, implement a new employee advocacy program using a clearly defined referral process so employees and managers have a stronger work environment with less turnover.

  • What – “Implement a new employee advocacy program”
  • How – “using a clearly defined referral process”
  • Why – “so employees and managers have a stronger work environment with less turnover”

Measureable: You need tangible evidence to determine if a goal or plan was successful. Using the example from above, the measureable metric is whether or not the advocacy program is operational by your May 1 deadline.

Achievable: Goals should stretch you slightly, but also be attainable. Reasonable goals pump up motivation; impossible goals deflate it.

Results-driven: Goals should measure outcomes, not activities. The outcome of our example would be that employees feel their work environment is stronger and with less turnover.

Timely: Aligning a goal to a time frame creates a sense of urgency, so results are more likely to be obtained.

Communicating the Action Plan

Before sharing an action plan with employees, secure buy-in from the senior leadership team. Having a unified front will impact employee confidence in the overall plan moving forward. Once your senior leadership team is on board, share the results with your managers, you don’t want your leaders to be caught off-guard once results are shared with the entire organization. When communicating the action plan to leadership, allow for time to prepare responses to any foreseeable questions that may arise once employees are notified.

As you share survey findings with employees, share your action plan as well. Don’t leave it up to workers to imagine solutions; specifically communicate they can expect moving forward.

Failing to act on survey results can severely impact future attempts to gauge employee satisfaction. However, organizations who choose to engage employees, hear their responses, and act honestly and openly about new approaches will see the greatest amount of improvement.