Making sure your survey leads to change
Updated: Nov 19, 2018
It is now commonplace to measure employee engagement. But many organisations still claim not to see notable improvements in employee engagement over time. This is disappointing. It has given engagement surveys a bad rap when the real reason for a lack of progress generally lies with what happens (or doesn’t) following the survey.
An employee survey just gives you a bunch of data. Some of which will likely be disappointing. Employee surveys by themselves cannot solve any problems.
Ensuring surveys make a difference requires a clear focus and sustained effort from across the organisation.
And make no mistake, change is hard. Up to 70% of all change fails, so we should not be surprised when change on the back of a survey is limited or non-existent.
On a more positive note, change is possible, and I have seen many examples of great improvements implemented following an employee survey. But it does require effort.
Here are my 6 essentials for driving change following a survey.
#1: Commitment from the top
There is no point in running an engagement survey without buy-in from the senior team. But it is not enough to seek permission to run a survey. There needs to be a real commitment to use the results to drive change – and a realisation that this will take time, effort and possibly investment. And that includes time and effort from the top team themselves.
#2. Get engagement-ready
It will be far easier to improve employee engagement if everyone understands why it is important. Make sure that the benefits of engagement are clear to all, and that everyone sees the value of creating a great workplace. Managers need to understand their role in driving improvements locally, and employees need to recognise that they also play a role.
#3. Move from problems to priorities
A survey will generate a lot of data and may seem to highlight hundreds of issues. This can be overwhelming, but it is neither sensible nor practical to try to tackle everything. Just make sure you do something!
It is best to focus on making a small number of changes that will have a positive impact. Look at your data and speak to your employees – what are the critical issues that will make the biggest difference? This is where you need to focus.
#4: Proper planning
When looking at survey data, the emphasis tends to be on what to change rather than how, with little thought to the who should lead it and by when.
But a clear plan is essential, otherwise it is impossible to execute it effectively.
Once you have decided what needs to change, agree how this will happen, by when and who will have responsibility for driving each change.
With a well-defined plan and clear accountability, your chances of success will soar.
#5: Excellent implementation
Once there is a clear plan, it of course needs to be implemented!
The change should be broken down into manageable chunks with timescales for each element.
And whilst one person needs to take accountability, having an action team to work together can really help to keep things moving.
Ask for volunteers to join the action team. This will enable those who feel most passionately about the change to step forward and help to drive progress.
Driving change is unlikely to be anybody’s full time role, so it is important to keep the change moving forward.
Set up regular meetings to check how agreed actions are progressing and to understand the impact they are having.
Don’t be afraid to change course and adapt if necessary, and don’t forget to communicate progress to others so that they are aware of the efforts being made.
#6. Communicating and celebrating success.
Once improvements have been made on the back of the survey, they need to be communicated widely.
There are many examples of organisations using the survey to make changes, but then forgetting to communicate what has been accomplished.
If employees don’t hear about changes, and cannot see and experience them for themselves, they may well assume that nothing has been done.
Conversely, regular updates of progress and celebrations of success will help employees to understand and appreciate the good work that has been done to create a better workplace. And it will demonstrate the value of providing feedback in future employee surveys!