Why Employees Distrust Engagement Surveys and What You Can Do to Change That:

Make Your Employee Engagement Survey Process Matter

Employee engagement surveys are critical for an organization to detect challenges, flaws in processes, skill sets that management needs to refine, teams and managers that are high performers, and key motivators for the employees, among many other things. However, there continues to be a sense of distrust and “time wasted” when an organization conducts a survey. Why?

Without a plan, without a strategy pre-survey through post-survey, and even six months down the line, a survey, no matter how good it is, will lose its effectiveness.

Here are some tips to make your employee engagement survey process matter and how to maximize it.

1. Conduct a readiness assessment Why are you conducting a survey? What do you intend to do with the results? How will you socialize the results with the team? Who will be in charge of socializing results? Do you have a timeline? Are your senior leaders committed to the process? Will senior leaders and human resources dedicate time, each month, to the survey results and action plans developed from said results? Before mentioning the word “survey”, there has to be a lot of groundwork ahead of time.

2. Cultivate a culture of feedback. Throughout the year, a manager sets the tone of receiving, and giving, candid feedback. This always has to be from a position of developing her team, supporting her team, and learning from her team. If this hasn’t been part of the day-in-day-out, it’s tough to count on candid feedback in a survey, more so if the employees don’t feed the survey is anonymous.

3. Contract an independent survey organization. In-house surveys are problematic. Think of it this way: creating an in-house survey is similar to creating your own personality test. You have the right questions, no doubt. But where are the comparatives on a national and international standard to make sense of the answers? This is called benchmarked data. Even more critical is the fact that in-house surveys lack the anonymity an engagement survey requires for honest answers.

4. Socialize the survey before the survey. This means more than sending out an e-mail. Have directors and coordinators meet with their teams, discussing the survey and its benefits. If directors aren’t sold on the process, their teams won’t be sold, either. This should happen approximately 3 weeks before the survey.

5. Conduct the survey. Give your employees 2 – 3 weeks, maximum, to complete the survey. Send out reminders. Provide a safe place for employees who don’t have their own computer or access to Internet (this is critical!). Be available for questions. This load is carried by HR, but senior directors and managers are the ones who will encourage employees to follow through. If response rate is low, you might want to extend the survey for another week to get in those stragglers. (Keep in mind a low response rate is a symptom of a flawed process or challenging company culture.)

6. Socialize results! Within a couple weeks after receiving survey results, the HR team must meet with senior leaders and socialize the results. Recognize challenges. Be honest. Further socialization will come department-by-department. Then, create a plan of communication with each director and department. If they’re not communicating, the survey will get forgotten.

7. Create action plans with departments and teams. Surveys often get shelved in the “checked” box. Oftentimes employees don’t participate in action plans based on survey results. Ensure all employees understand the action plan, how it benefits them, and the senior leaders' commitment to the plan.

8. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Revisit the survey results, action plans, and implementation progress several months later. Remind employees what changes have been made and why.

A flawed survey or flawed process? Oftentimes, it’s the latter. Without making the entire process part of your engagement strategy, surveys become blips on the organization’s calendar, nothing more than a things-to-do list HR checks off. Action plans based on survey results with solid communication are what will make the difference between a so-so survey experience and one that has real impact.

Is your organization ready?

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