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Employee Engagement Surveys: Why the Follow Up is So Critical

August 10, 2015

When employees have low morale and productivity issues, companies usually first administer an employee engagement survey. It’s not a bad idea, however, they must follow the correct survey process.

Frequently companies put the majority of their energy and efforts in the actual survey while neglecting one of the key success factors; follow up. For more than 20 years, I worked for a Fortune 100 corporation. Each April, the yearly employee survey rolled out.  For three weeks, we as leaders jumped through hoops to get more than 200,000 employees to complete the survey. Within a week of launching the survey, the threatening emails began to roll down the chain of command.  If you were less than 100% compliant, you would receive a “not so friendly reminder” email telling you to “get this task completed or else.” However, the survey was being done to find out about the things our leaders need to improve upon. How about stopping the threats and focusing on improving engagement? 

Once the survey process closed, there was more emphasis put on those that didn’t achieve a 100% completion rate than the people who actually received a poor survey rating from their employees.

In all my experience working with employee engagement surveys, it is far more damaging to do a survey and not follow up than not doing a survey in the first place. A survey cannot change your culture. What you choose to do with the information revealed in the survey is the place to start if you want engaged employees and a culture people want to be a part of.

If you decide to do an engagement survey, ensure you are willing to “at minimum” do the following:

  • Communicate the purpose of the survey on the front end
  • Make this communication positive - what is in this for your team
  • Once the survey is completed,  analyze the results for common themes
  • Have an open mind when reviewing the results and don’t become defensive when they mention you in a bad light or bring up your shortcomings (some people go as far as to try and guess who said what on the survey)
  • Look for small wins you can provide for your team immediately
  • Get back with your team and speak candidly about the results
  • Provide the team with a copy of the results (transparency) for your follow up meeting
  • When meeting with your team on issues raised, never make excuses. Feedback is a gift. Accept it openly because the minute you don’t, you shut the feedback down
  • If something is not doable for any reason, don’t promise it
  • Focus on what you can change and try and keep the first meeting geared toward that
  • Ask for suggestions from the group regarding a solution to issues
  • Agree on “what” you will be addressing and when your next follow up meeting will be
  • Don’t treat your action plan as a checklist

So can a survey start your team in the right direction in regards to engagement and culture shift? Absolutely! If it is done correctly. Spend the energy on following up on the information the survey provides. Use this information as a baseline and build something better than the current state.