It seems so basic, yet these issues are the crux of any employee engagement survey failure: lack of communication and follow through. As we mentioned in an earlier blog post, a great burden of convincing employees that engagement matters, that they matter, falls on senior management. Companies must start with respect as a mindset. Senior leaders really need to feel it, and if they don't, things won't change. Senior management must make the first overture, and sharing the results of an employee survey, no matter how bad, is an excellent first step. This is an opportunity to own the problems and demonstrate to employees that they are respected enough to share the ugly.
If management fails to share the results with all employees, the engagement survey becomes an abstract idea that feels like busy work just so the HR department can document “something.” Management loses a valuable mirror into the organization and, inevitably, the organization’s investment in the survey is lost. Transformation can only happen when employees feel there is a level of transparency, when employees feel they are trusted with the truth, and when employees’ time invested taking the survey is respected by sharing the results with them.
One of the most common things people say is, “I want to write a novel.” It sounds romantic, sitting in some remote, secluded area, putting words on a page with the sound of waves lapping against the shore, or rustle of wind in the leaves. Until all you can hear are the waves or leaves and bird chirping and splashing. Stop maddening nature sounds now! The romance ends about five minutes into it, and it becomes pretty easy to stand up and leave the book for another day when inspiration hits.
Follow through is key to success in any activity. Employee engagement problems and following through with action plans are not exceptions to this life rule. Just as books are not written by waves of inspiration and muses, employee engagement problems cannot be tackled with good intentions and saying, “I want my employees to feel they matter, so I’ll give them a barbecue.”
Measured action must take place. Moreover, it cannot be only top-down action. The most effective action planning comes from the individual team level and areas within an organization where managers and employees roll up their sleeves to solve problems and implement significant change. Use employee involvement in crafting solutions to engagement problems as an opportunity to show employees that they are respected. Following through on promises is critical.
So, you’ve invested in a survey. Do not make the mistake of losing credibility as an organization by leaving the results shelved in some top-level room for only the board to see. Really listen to what your employees are saying and take the time to dig deep and resolve the deeper cultural issues of the organization. By not following through with and communicating survey results, the only thing you will accomplish is alienating your employees and, perhaps, further disengaging them.