Turning insight into action to improve employee engagement

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Written by Peter Wilde

In our blog series on employee engagement, we’ve covered everything organisations need to know to create an effective strategy and design and run surveys. The next step is critical: using survey insights to drive effective change.

In many ways, taking action to improve employee engagement is the most important part of running an employee survey programme, but is often the hardest to get right.

Failure at this stage can undermine the whole programme – if survey results are not used to drive improvements, the efforts to deliver an effective survey are wasted. In fact, instead of increasing engagement and motivation, the exact opposite will happen. Failure to listen and act and employees will lose faith in their employer’s ability to improve engagement and become actively disengaged from the business.

Avoiding this means focusing on these critical areas that complete the circle, demonstrate that you are listening, and turn insights into real improvements.

Ensure there is commitment from the top and that everyone feels involved

As we’ve mentioned before, successful surveys require management commitment at all levels. Before a survey launches, leaders need to be clear that they will listen and act on employee feedback, with a set timescale to communicate the findings to all staff.

Normally, line managers are expected to make improvements based on survey results, meaning they need to be aware of their responsibilities and have a clear understanding of why engagement is important and what they do with results once received. They must see feedback as a positive opportunity to make improvements, rather than a threat to how they operate.

Essentially, high-level issues affecting the whole organisation will be addressed by senior leadership, while local issues need to be addressed at the level of individual teams. This combined ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ approach is essential if all of your people are to be actively involved in the process of improvement. Employees need to see the commitment of leaders to act on their feedback.

Involve employees in discussions about survey results

Even the most detailed survey results can only point to where change is required – rather than provide the answers or show employee priorities. Therefore, all managers should discuss the results with their teams and get more detailed feedback on the critical issues.

Employees will help you understand the reasons for the scores received, which issues are the most pressing, and what solutions will have the most significant impact. Involving employees in the solutions to the problems or issues they raise is vital if they are to buy into improvements and ensure that they deliver the promised results.

Limit focus to three areas

Employee surveys should provide a huge amount of information and insight about your business and how engaged staff are. The natural temptation is to use all of these findings to make a large number of changes based on the employee survey. However, this risks a scattergun approach that does not deliver lasting results.

Because of this, we recommend that all managers limit their improvement efforts to three areas. This ensures that agreed actions can be progressed and given adequate attention in a timely manner. This reinforces the importance of working with employees to prioritise areas for improvement and agreeing on the most pressing issues to address based on their feedback.

Make sure your agreed actions are SMART

Once you have prioritised the areas you need to focus on, create action plans that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound (SMART). Otherwise, there is a risk that improvements won’t be made, undermining your engagement survey’s overall point.

Start by undertaking a detailed consideration of the actions required, how you will achieve them, and who will be responsible for them. Involving employees in this ideation process and working groups around specific actions can be beneficial, harnessing their views and energy.  Just make sure you set clear goals and timelines to drive progress.

Review progress regularly and communicate successes

Making a plan is the easy part – it is much harder to then successfully execute actions. Ensure that you are reviewing the status of efforts regularly to check on progress. Set deadlines and make sure you meet them. And if things are not moving forward, consider what needs to change to meet your objectives.

It is also crucial to communicate and celebrate successes, to ensure that employees recognise the role of employee feedback in driving organisational change. In turn, this will boost motivation and make staff members more likely to share their feedback and ideas in the next survey you run.

We’ve now outlined how to get your employee engagement strategy up and running, delivering real results that improve the experience. In our final blog in the series, we’ll focus on how you can accelerate your strategy by bringing in external support – and what to look for when choosing the right partner for your needs.