There is great intent behind engagement surveys and they are an invaluable source of information. However, they often don’t quite tell you exactly what it is that you need to know, or there is so much data it’s nigh on impossible to know what to do first.
Sometimes, by the time the results are in and analysed, it’s nearly time for the next survey to get rolled out and the employee population is left questioning why they bothered to complete it in the first place.
Organisations want to increase engagement, but the tricky thing is, the reason for disengagement will be different for every team, if not every person. There will certainly be themes across the business or by division, but you can bet your bottom dollar that an initiative that will work for one team, will have no impact on another.
So how do you know what to focus on to make a difference?
Top level approach
By all means pursue improvement at the organisational level. This is almost without exception going to be related to communication, change, leadership presence or perception of effectiveness. Without running a survey, you could be confident that if the Executive team were more visible, the vision and direction for the organisation further clarified, and any communication related to change in the business tripled, you’d be well placed to lift your engagement scores before you even begin.
Target the people who can make the biggest difference
In parallel, it’s critical to spend equal, if not more time focussing on the activities of frontline and middle managers in response to the survey feedback. Every manager in your organisation influences and impacts the majority of your workforce on a daily basis – they have a disproportionate impact on performance, engagement and retention than any other work factor. They are the conduit through which everything about every individual’s employment flows – connection to the organisation, customers, daily work activity, clarity of role and expectations, relationships with colleagues, direction and support.
However, asking managers to generally ‘improve engagement’ can result in haphazard team building events, lunches or informal reward programs that can do more harm than good. Inspirational speakers get brought in, and yet managers are left no clearer about what they might do differently each day. In fact, it may be the case that they are all too aware of their faults so lose confidence and retreat entirely to a lower level of performance and engagement themselves.
Amplify incremental action
Imagine instead, working with managers individually on their survey results at a team level, helping them to see what they’re doing right and exploring the ways in which to do more of it. To build on their unique strengths and identify specifically where they need support to develop as managers and in turn engage others.
Likewise, if each manager targets only 3 statements from the survey that they would like to improve on and are supported to put a plan together about the incremental actions they will take to address them, several things will happen:
- Team members will immediately start to notice a change, so they can see that their survey feedback is taking effect.
- Managers will feel empowered by having clear and achievable actions to undertake in response to the feedback
- Engagement in the targeted areas will improve
When this is amplified across every team in an organisation, the cumulative impact is significant and high value. Engagement scores improve across the board, but in varied and meaningful ways for each team.
So when it comes to survey feedback, act quickly, put the data to best use and run organisational improvements alongside dedicated support to team managers in order to make a real difference.