Around the office this spring and early summer, it seems as though we are knee deep in survey work. This is a popular time of the year for 360 feedback, but it’s also time for a lot of organizations to do their employee satisfaction survey. One of the questions that comes up frequently from new clients doing employee surveys, is “How will I know if the survey is working?”
This is a trick question. The answer to the question that’s asked is that if your employees can access the link we provide and answer the questions, and if at the end of the process, you receive a report with your data, then the survey worked. The question that needs to be asked is whether or not the data provided will give you the information you need to make changes that will impact your company in a positive way. In other words, are the things you are doing as a result of the survey moving the needle.
You see, an employee satisfaction survey is no different than the gas gauge in your car. It take a measurement at a given point in time, and when your eyes move to that spot on the dash, it shows you how much gas you have in the tank. Even then, it doesn’t give you precisely how much gas is in the tank. It gives you an approximation which is divided into (most commonly) 25% increments. If you happen to look down while you are on a long two lane highway in the middle of nowhere, and see that the needle is on “E” or close to it, you’re are going to have what is commonly referred to as a holy crap moment. To respond to the data, you have to provide some sort of action. Hopefully the action required is not walking six miles to the nearest town and then walking back with a brand new fuel can in one hand.
Your employee survey works exactly the same way. This is why when working with new clients, we usually say that you won’t know what’s working and what’s not until you go through the cycle a few times. Each time you take a measurement, you have to plan an action that, just like the gas gauge, will cause the needle to move. At least that’s what you hope.
Given the analogy above, we hope you can see that this becomes easier, the more focused you are in your survey process. Just like a car dashboard that came from the factory with 145 gauges shouting at you from behind the wheel, there’s a real danger that you get so much data from your survey that you can’t make the necessary changes to see any movement in performance.
Taking the time to narrow the focus of the survey to the actionable items you really want to get feedback on and feel like you can impact will greatly increase the chances that you will see improvement from one survey period to another.
Once the data is collected, the real work begins. You have to put the time into planning what the actions need to be to move the needles in the direction you need them to go. One of the clients we’re helping right now took a very focused approach to their survey process. First they identified the data that if changed, would have the greatest impact on the work they were doing. Next, they communicated with staff that they were focusing on one particular area and then shared the detailed plans about what was going to take place. Lastly, they assigned responsibility and accountability for making sure the action plan was followed.
The result? I think you can already guess. Not only did the results from the focus area increase, as much as 25-30% in some cases, but all the scores increased in the following measurement cycle. Why? Because the staff saw that action was taking place based on the feedback they provided. It sent the right message to the employee base and improved the overall engagement as a result.
We know employee surveys work, and they don’t have to be a complicated or time consuming initiative. Take some time to plan what you really want to know and then take a focused approach to getting things done.