Your survey results are the beginning of a journey. You now have initial data about your employees’ perceptions but turning data into action requires digging deep. Here are a few ways to start digging.
- Be Transparent
- When your employees took the survey, they trusted that you meant it when you asked for their feedback. And let’s face it – they know what they said and they told each other what they said. Here’s your chance to tell your employees that they’ve been heard – by you.
- Feeling anxious about sharing negative feedback? Don’t be – your employees already know what they said in the survey. Sharing feedback of all kinds serves to improve employee perception of you as a leader. Hiding feedback, on the other hand, creates an entirely different perception – one that leads to distrust.
- Try using a phrase like, “You spoke and we listened,” to help emphasize that your employees’ voices have been heard.
- Resist Temptation
Leaders often have strong feelings about survey responses which can lead to tempting behaviors. Before you react, take a minute to resist these temptations:
- Getting defensive: survey results can cause a gut reaction but keeping your initial emotions in check will help prevent defensiveness. If you find yourself becoming defensive, try asking questions like, “I wonder what could be contributing to this perception?” “How can I learn more about what employees meant by this?”
- Trying to figure out who said what: The whole point of a survey is that it’s anonymous. Attempting to pin comments or scores on a few employees won’t help you gain further understanding. And keep in mind you could be wrong, causing you to dismiss otherwise valuable information.
- Blaming a few disgruntled employees: The survey results came from every single employee who participated. A couple of people won’t significantly impact your scores. Besides, sophisticated surveys account for the responses from both positive and negative outliers. Again, be careful of dismissing the results.
- Assuming your employees didn’t understand the questions: Avoid the temptation to attack the survey results and the survey questions. Inferring that employees didn’t understand a question sends a clear message that you don’t like their responses, or even worse, that you’re dismissing them.
- Involve Employees in Creating Solutions
Your employees want to make things better which is why they responded to your request for feedback in the first place. Conducting “solutions forums” with managers and their teams goes a long way to making plans that everyone can live with. Often companies use professional facilitators to conduct solution forums to help ensure that the results are non-biased with both managers and employees walking away feeling heard and respected. After solutions are identified, create an implementation plan with clear accountabilities so the solutions don’t fall into the company “blackhole”. Communicate the plan, update it at least quarterly, and then communicate the updates so your employees stay informed of progress. Better yet, ask your people whether they believe that progress is being made. Consider using a technology platform making it easy to solicit employee feedback with just a few clicks.
- Communicate (again and again and again)
Use every opportunity, whether it’s written, spoken, formal or informal to let employees know they have a voice and that you are listening.
- Throughout the year, tie your actions (both company-wide and department-specific) to survey results.
For example: The survey revealed that your people aren’t feeling well informed about the company’s direction so you decide to hold regular town hall meetings. Get full credit for your actions by stating, “You told us you want more communication about the company’s direction. We heard you – that’s why we’re here today.”
Here’s another example: Your team expressed concern that the company isn’t living by its values. You decide to support a local charity by involving your employees in efforts to collect school supplies for needy kids. Tie your actions to the survey by communicating, “You told us we can do a better job of living our values. We heard you and this is one of the ways we’re making that happen.”
You cannot overcommunicate.
Use your voice to let your team members know that you heard theirs.
Terri Casey is an HR expert and employment attorney who partners with employers to achieve rapid business results through people. She has developed a clear-cut easy-to-follow approach enabling her clients to establish a sought-after employer brand known for attracting top talent. Through her consulting firm, Engagement Advisors, Terri and her team have taught thousands of managers how to connect with their employees resulting in peak organizational performance and public recognition as an employer of choice.