Your staff surveys are just the beginning – make it matter 

When used well, engagement or ‘climate’ surveys can help a management team understand where their team is at. Employed carelessly, however, and these popular tools can line you up for a clumsy own goal. If you’re reading this as a senior exec or HR lead you will no doubt have used or considered using a staff survey. You may use them regularly to continually check the pulse of your team.

Today, there are various platforms for ‘pulse checking’, such as Bob, Workleap and Clear Company. A lack of SaaS options for ‘the how’ is certainly not a problem. The issue, in my view, is more about ‘the why’ – the survey is considered by too many organisations as the box ticked on employee engagement. It must, of course, be just the beginning of a virtuous circle of employee engagement.

You will agree, I’m sure, that the only thing worse than not asking your employees how they are feeling is asking them how they’re feeling and then not acting on it. This is a surefire way to demotivate your team. Even taking a while to respond, waiting a few weeks to tell your people about the survey findings and actions, is to be avoided. In a fast-changing world of work, you need to retain the trust of your team in the process.

Feedback, then, should be part of a dynamic loop of continuous improvement, in which the findings inform an action plan that is then reviewed regularly. Findings from these reviews are then fed back into the process of engagement.

There is another problem with engagement surveys, however. They can counter attempts to encourage a healthy culture of continual daily dialogue. Consider for a second the frequency of issues, in work and out, that affect our performance at work. Anxieties about money or job security, or breakdowns in communication between departments, can swiftly undermine performance. If you’re an Engage for Success reader with responsibility for employee engagement, you will know that if the lines of communications are always open, and you make sure leaders, managers and their teams engage regularly, then solutions will be more timely.

A jumping point

Those of us involved in helping organisations to engage effectively with their people know that employee or ‘climate’ surveys can be a really helpful tool for staff engagement and nurturing a healthy work culture. They can enhance communication between managers and their teams and give employees a voice. For fully engaged employers, however, the two-way conversation is ongoing and feedback can be given and acted upon at any time.

You will no doubt have your own views on the use of staff surveys. For me, it is just the start of it; a jumping off point, if you like, for a really rich conversation. If you run a survey and you gather your insights, you’re on the right track if you use this as a catalyst then for a healthy, ongoing discussion, and make sure you act on the insights on a regular basis.

I talk frequently to those responsible for employee engagement, including C-suite, HR and internal communications specialists, and I know there are some very good examples out there of how to use the staff survey. If you’re at start of your employee engagement journey, however, my advice is to do the following three things:

Make sure that you’re very clear on why people should participate in the first place, and set the expectation that this about gathering insight as a basis for an ongoing dialogue. There is no expectation, then, that this is a one-off hit.

Start that dialogue very soon after getting your results from the survey. Drive to get the survey results out and into people’s hands quickly so the conversation can begin

Involve people in the conversation in a very adult way, where there is shared ownership for this – ie. we’re very happy for you to make those asks, as long as you understand the impact of those asks.

You may already be doing this and if so, great. As a work culture specialist, I think you are on the right track with a central pillar to building a strong, sustainable work culture.

And a more personal viewpoint on using staff survey findings; don’t leave it a while before publishing a ‘you said, we did’ list message to your team. To me, this is clunky and turns the process of employee engagement into a piece of internal marketing. It’s much better for managers to have these conversations with their team on a monthly basis, as part of that regular dialogue, so teams can see in real-time that they are being listened to and heard.

use surveys strategically

Finally, you may well be thinking about the strategy behind your survey. Surveys are, after all, only a tool or tactic to help you achieve your objectives as an employer and organisation. Before flicking the switch on your staff questionnaire, my advice to any HR or employee engagement lead would be to get a firm understanding of what engagement success looks like. What are you trying to achieve here?

When I talk to businesses about organisational engagement, I present these four levels:

Understanding – I understand where we are going and what I need to do

Commitment – I feel and am committed to delivering for this organisation

Attachment – I have a positive emotional attachment with the organisation

Significance – I see significance in what I do each day as part of this organisation and it
aligns with my personal values and what gives me meaning in life

To achieve commitment with engagement, you need to communicate very clearly the direction of your organisation, and most importantly its purpose. Strong, clear communication about the purpose and direction, and opportunities for employees to engage, will help ensure your people are emotionally invested. Surveys can help to gauge the level of understanding.

To achieve attachment, invest in your people for the long term. Use your survey to ask about their wellbeing, and provide a meaningful benefits package. Share ownership schemes can be an excellent mechanism for strengthening that bond with employees.

Companies that invest in career development will often see returns in their people’s emotional attachment. Your survey can help inform the benefits your provide.

And this brings us to the pinnacle of employee engagement: significance. There is plenty of evidence of the link between personal significance, meaning and performance. It’s clear that high engagement levels come when people see a deep connection between the purpose and values of the organisation and what’s important to them. This alignment can be achieved through talent retention and recruitment strategies. It is also helped by how the organisation prioritises corporate social responsibility CSR).

People want to see the organisation they work for give something back. Can your survey help you shape your CSR strategy?

The staff survey, as a starting point for an ongoing conversation, can play an important role in how you engage with your employees. It can even help you shape the direction of your organisation. On its own, however, it is a futile tick-box exercise that will lose you employee goodwill.

Author: Jane Sparrow – Founder & CCO of Tuddl, and Director of The Culture Builders

Photo credit: Fauxels

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