Many organisations run an annual employee engagement survey to determine how happy and involved their people are in their roles and with the company. Leaders then review the results and comments from the survey and identify areas for improvement. Done well and if action is taken, this should lead to better results for the company and better engagement scores the following year.
Sounds easy, but in practice organisations often find it difficult to improve employee engagement year on year. One year sees an increase in engagement but the following year results fall back again. So what are the steps you can take to dramatically increase your organisation’s engagement scores in your organisation? Here are 8 steps we’ve seen work.
1. Get real buy-in from your leaders and people managers
As a leader, it’s not enough for just one person to be focused on and passionate about people engagement. Get your people managers, business unit and divisional leaders together and help them understand how important this is for your business. They should be measured and rewarded on the engagement of their people and their participation rates in the survey. They should also be advocates and supporters of the annual survey and the value that can be derived from it.
2. Focus on participation rate first
Many leaders become obsessed about the engagement score to the exclusion of everything else. Always look first at the participation rate. If this number is high, it demonstrates that people believe in the value of the survey and the likelihood of management taking action on the back of it. If this is low, the opposite is true and work needs to be done to convince employees of the value in participating. Higher participation rates also give a more accurate picture of your entire organisation, as opposed to the smaller subset that completed the survey.
3. Remind people of the actions taken last year
Twelve months can be a long time. It can be difficult to remember what happened this time last year. Take opportunities during the year and again in the lead up to this year’s survey to remind people of the actions taken based on last year’s feedback. This is an excellent way to demonstrate the value of participating in future surveys.
4. Share the results and comments in full
Good, bad or indifferent, please share the full results and all comments with your people (unless of a personal, specific nature). Talk about the aspects you’re happy with; share the areas where you are disappointed. Give feedback on your key learnings and takeaways from the results and comments. Ideally all of this should be done in person with your people together or in groups where the organisation is large.
5. Highlight the actions you plan to address and the ones you won’t
Be very clear with your people on what actions you are going to take to address the findings in the survey. If there are areas you’re not going to act on, let them know that too and why. There’s never an expectation that every single item will be acted on. There are also situations where there’s a good reason why something can’t be addressed. But don’t assume your people know this. Let them know why.
6. Do what you said you would do
The biggest sin you can commit with feedback of any kind is to ask for it and then not act on it. If you commit to acting on certain findings from the survey, then make sure you act on them. And promptly. If you don’t, you raise the risk of apathy from your people when it comes to the survey next year.
7. Give regular updates on the action plan
Some actions take time and it’ll be a number of months or even longer before they are fully implemented. Don’t wait until the item is implemented to update your people. Keep them posted on progress on a regular basis as part of your normal communications plan and activities.
8. Continue to seek feedback during the year
Remind your people that feedback is something that you and your people managers value at any time during the year, not just in the survey. Be open to picking up and acting on feedback on an ongoing basis too as you meet with people. Ask them about the actions being taken on the back of the last survey.
If you’d like to explore how to improve employee engagement in your team or business, we’d love to hear from you!