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The 6 Ways To Get Actionable Results From Your Employee Surveys

April 8, 2015


April 8, 2015

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Engaged employees are one of the major drivers of business success. Studies have indicated that companies with engaged employees enjoy better productivity, greater client satisfaction, higher profitability and even greater shareholder returns. Basically, if you intend to make your business to fulfill its true potential, you need to ensure that your employees are as engaged as possible.

One of the first steps towards achieving this is by understanding how engaged your employees actually are. The standard method for reaching such an understanding is through employee engagement surveys. Now, engagement surveys can be a powerful force for good. However, they also have the capacity to produce the opposite effect. Carrying out a survey and then doing nothing about it can actually lead employees to become less engaged.

Therefore, to reap the benefits of an engagement survey, you need to do something visible as a result of the survey. This means that the survey itself needs to generate actionable results. The ultimate question is: how can you achieve this? Well, here are six strategies to ensure that your employee engagement surveys produce actionable results.

  1. Define Employee Engagement In Your Context

Employee Engagement is one of those buzzwords which keep getting tossed about in HR circles. But, what does it mean? Now, don’t rush off to Wikipedia or some HR reference book. What does employee engagement mean to your company?

You need a clear answer to this question. You need to figure out what employee engagement means in the context of your company. You can only measure what you fully understand. If you cannot define what engagement means to your company, how will you be able to measure it?

A simple way of defining employee engagement is through behavior. How do you expect an engaged employee to behave? How would they treat superiors, colleagues or clients? You can drop in a few feelings e.g. how would they feel about the company? Remember, you don’t need an academic or technical sounding definition. The most important thing is clarity.

Defining employee engagement in the context of your company makes it easy to design an actionable survey. It also comes in handy in case you decide to hire an external firm to carry out your engagement survey (which is a great for eliminating insider bias).

  1. Create Clear Objectives For Each Survey

When asked the question “Why are you carrying out the survey?” most HRs will come up with answers like “We want to know the level of employee engagement” or “We want to make our employees more engaged.” Now, these are noble goals, and there’s nothing wrong with them.

However, the ultimate question is: what do you intend to do with the survey results? This is where most companies fall short. They carry out great surveys, but then don’t do anything with the results. The most obvious reason for this is that they do not figure out in advance what to do with them. In fact, some HR departments take the surveys as an end in themselves.

To get actionable results from your engagement result, you need to figure out what you are going to do with the results. Have specific action points you will carry out on the results. They don’t have to be detailed (we’ll come to that in Number 5 below). However, you need to have action-based objectives for each survey.

  1. Ask Clear Questions

The most important thing you want from any survey is to collect accurate data. One of the major determinants of high quality data is question clarity. To collect the best quality data possible, you need to ask clear questions.

A clear question has two basic attributes. First of all, it should be easy for the employee to understand and answer. Secondly, it should collect information which is relevant to the needs of the survey. Basically, your survey questions should be clear not only to the employees who will answer them, but also to the analysts who will interpret them.

There are three kinds of questions which are common in employee engagement surveys. They are leading questions, vague questions and irrelevant questions. Leading questions influence employees towards giving specific answers. Vague questions are simply unclear. Irrelevant questions are questions which aren’t beneficial to the survey objectives. In most cases, irrelevant questions are pinched from standardized employee engagement survey questionnaires.

To ensure that you collect accurate data, you need to eliminate these three kinds from your survey. Otherwise, if you end up with inaccurate information, whatever action you take as a result of it may not be beneficial.

  1. Time Your Surveys Appropriately

The accuracy of survey data can greatly be determined by the timing of the survey. Timing in this context refers to the period in which the survey is carried out. Human beings are emotional creatures. As such, we are greatly influenced by the prevailing mood and atmosphere around specific periods.

There are certain time periods which are emotionally charged for employees. For instance, if the company has just announced a major pay increase, there can be an atmosphere of positivity and euphoria around the company. Conversely, if the company just revealed impending layoffs, there can be an atmosphere of pessimism.

Such time periods can influence survey results in one way or another. As such, unless your intention is to find employee engagement in response to specific events, try not to carry out your surveys immediately after emotionally arousing events.

Also, exit interviews aren’t the best time to carry out engagement surveys. Most companies do this for departing employees. When someone is leaving, it is too late to find out their level of engagement. The simple reason for this is that there’s nothing you can do about it.

  1. Communicate Your Survey Goals To Your Employees

The accuracy of survey data can come down to employee perceptions about the survey. For employees to give you accurate information, there are two things which they need to have at the back of their minds.

First, they need to understand that they can speak freely. In other words, anything negative that they say will not come back to haunt them. The last thing you want is employees to tell you what they think you want to hear.

Secondly, they need to understand that the survey is going to yield something positive for them. You don’t want employees feeling that the survey is just another activity. They need to view it as an opportunity to improve their overall employee experience.

To clarify these two things, you need to communicate to the employees. Let every employee clearly understand what you are trying to achieve through the survey. Let them feel a part of the process. This will enable them to provide you with the most accurate information possible.

  1. Create An Action Plan From The Survey Results

Employee engagement surveys shouldn’t be the endgame. They should be the starting point for carrying out specific interventions. Therefore, immediately after analyzing the results, you have to create an action plan. In other words, now that you have the results, what are you going to do about them?

In number 2 we mentioned having clear objectives for each survey. Well, this is the point where your objectives come into play. Under normal circumstances, your action plan should be in line with your objectives.

However, you also need to be flexible and open to the results. Sometimes the engagement surveys can throw up something totally unexpected. Let the results guide the formulation of your action plan. The most important is you have to create a plan

When creating an action plan, don’t forget to get some input from your employees. This will not only make them feel empowered, it can also give you some brilliant suggestions which you would have otherwise missed out on.

In a nutshell, an employee engagement survey can be a great opportunity to improve your employee productivity, increase your customer experience and ultimately improve your profitability. To bring such benefits, the survey needs to yield actionable results. The above six tips can enable your survey to yield actionable results. Ultimately, they can enable you end up with an action plan which you can execute and get take your company to the next level.

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