How to Turn Employee Satisfaction Surveys into Corporate Action

October 10, 2017

Before you ask…be ready to act

The labour market is tightening and competition for top talent has increased. Your company is not only competing to recruit great candidates, it is also competing to retain high performing employees. It helps to gain a good understanding of what is important to your employees through satisfaction/engagement surveys.

Simply fielding a survey and collecting answers does nothing to improve the state of employee engagement within an organisation. That’s why HR experts caution that employers have to be ready to act on the key findings revealed by employee surveys. If you’re not prepared to create a viable action plan, don’t send out the survey.

Two types of employee engagement surveys

Employee surveys can be proactive or reactive, depending on the company’s objectives. Many companies field annual surveys as part of their regular employee engagement strategy. But sometimes, there is a situation in the workplace where employees seem to be disengaged and leadership needs an ad hoc, reactive survey to determine the root cause of dissatisfaction. Typically a proactive survey is longer and covers more areas that might impact employee engagement. An ad hoc survey should be short and quite targeted, with the company ready to take action immediately to fix any problems revealed.

There are many factors to consider when designing an employee engagement or satisfaction survey. We’ll cover survey design in a future post, but it is important to know that you have options when it comes to survey design. Many companies now turn to outside providers for expert guidance about how to design an unbiased survey, as well as collect and analyse its results.

Communicate results back to employees

The first step in your action plan will be to communicate the results to your workforce. It is important that when employees take the time to participate in surveys, they hear from their employer in a timely manner. Otherwise, they may infer that nothing will change as a result of the survey, and that leaves a negative impression.

While it is important to communicate the results, it is equally important to communicate in the right way. It is not necessary to disclose all of the raw statistics for each survey question. Instead, create a summary that allows leadership to have a little control over the message while still being forthright and honest with employees.

The format for communicating the summary results may vary depending on the nature of the results and what the survey was about. For example, if results show very poor employee engagement and high dissatisfaction, you need not announce that in a company-wide meeting or an email from the CEO. Smaller team meetings, or even one-on-one discussions between managers and direct reports, would provide a better context for communicating those results and soliciting additional input.

Build your action plan

Timeliness is critical when assembling your action plan based on survey results. Employees don’t expect you to change everything overnight, but they do expect to see a plan and anticipated timeline for changes (if survey results were negative). Delivering the overview of the survey results will be your first step, but as soon as possible, communicate the company’s strategy for addressing change.

HR experts suggest that your action plan should include employees, not just management and executives. Consider creating a committee of employees to help improve company-wide engagement programmes. Employees need to feel involved and have a voice in the way that company culture and initiatives will change. When employees see their peers having an active role in the action plan, it reinforces for them that the company truly values their feedback and the contributions they make to business success.

How outsourcing your employee survey can add credibility

There are some important benefits available when employers use a third-party consultant to design, distribute and analyse their employee surveys . First, an outside vendor provides an unbiased perspective. Too often, HR professionals and managers believe they know what employees feel and want. This can introduce biassed assumptions in the survey design or in the interpretation of results. Second, from the employee perspective, hiring a third-party survey consultant may create more trust, because it shows that management takes the survey seriously. Many employees believe that their anonymity is better protected by an outside agency.