12 Tips to Turn Employee Engagement Survey Results into Increased Organization Performance
In a study conducted by Alex Edmands on the stock performance of companies listed in Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For", companies with engaged employees returned 14 percent per year on each dollar invested, while the overall market return was only six percent per year.|
The key to increasing employee engagement is to accurately measure it and use the results to make changes that impact organization performance. We've created a list of 12 recommendations for a successful employee engagement survey process based on our experience working with hundreds of organizations over the years.
Remember that employee feedback is extremely valuable. Not only are you investing money to administer the process, but employees put a lot of thought, effort, and time into their responses. It is important to show your employees that you value their feedback and that their opinions will be used to make improvements in the organization. If you are not careful on how you administer your employee engagement survey, you can loose the support from your employees the next time you try to solicit their feedback.
The following recommendations outline steps you can take before (tips 1-6) and after (tips 7-12) the survey is taken to improve organization performance.
1. Customize the Survey: Employees are much more interested in responding to a survey that solicits their feedback on the issues that are important to them than they are in answering a standard survey. In other words, the survey needs to be relevant. Standard surveys sometimes discourage participation because employees feel that the survey does not "speak" to them and the issues they are facing.
2. Consider the Length of the Survey: We recommend using shorter surveys of 40 questions or less because they take less time to complete and still provide very useful feedback. Longer surveys lead to rater fatigue and become a burden to complete.
3. Use Open-Ended Questions: Using open-ended questions helps to capture the true thoughts and suggestions from your employees. Employees appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback free-hand because they can express themselves and cover any areas that might not be addressed by the standard survey questions. We recommend using two or three open ended questions.
4. Make Participation Easy: Don’t require special login instructions or other complicated methods of administration. Make special considerations for departments or employees that work odd shifts or have other special circumstances.
5. Limit Demographic Questions: Be careful not to ask too many demographic questions (gender, tenure, department, etc.). Employees will become suspicious that their responses will be recognized and that their anonymity will be compromised.
6. Create Incentives for Participation: Many organizations offer a variety of incentives for participation. These may include a free fountain drink in the cafeteria, paid time for hourly/union employees, or other give-aways.
7. Report the Results: Reward employees for their participation by sharing a summary of the results. This tells the employee that "we heard, and we care."
8. Take Action at the Top: Employees will be more likely to participate the next time if they see that the executive team used their feedback to make changes and improvements in the organization. If you are not prepared to take action on the results, don’t ask for employee feedback.
9. Action Plan at All Levels: Every manager needs to meet with his or her direct reports to discuss the results for the team and set improvement goals. Employees need to be engaged in the action planning process to bring about change for the factors they can control as a team.
10. Communicate Actions: As an organization, be sure to let your employees know what you plan to do based on this year’s results and make sure to follow through on it. Communicate this throughout the year so that the process maintains momentum when the next survey begins.
11. Teach Engagement: The more employees and managers understand the relationship of engagement to business metrics, the more likely they are to see value in this process.
12. Hold Managers Accountable: Require a team action plan from each manager and monitor progress by incorporating these plans into their yearly performance review goals.
If you are starting an employee survey process for the first time, keep in mind that it can take some time to get buy-in and participation from all leaders in the action planning process. You may have some reluctant managers during the first year. These managers become convinced by the second year as they see their peers using the results effectively to increase performance. The key is to be consistent in following the steps above. Which leads to one last tip: Repeat the process yearly so that it becomes part of an organization culture of continuous improvement.