Embracing Feedback: How to Take Action on Employee Survey Results

Embracing Feedback: How to Take Action on Employee Survey Results

Sending out an employee engagement survey is just the beginning. Understanding the data and making real changes to your workplace culture is where the real work begins. When done right, taking action on survey results can lead to happier employees, better productivity, and a more enjoyable work environment.

Embracing Feedback: How to Take Action on Employee Survey Results

So you’ve sent out an employee engagement survey — and now your employee experience will become wonderful and welcoming just like that, right? Unfortunately, it’s not quite so easy. Writing great questions and sending out the survey is actually the easy part. Understanding the survey data and using all of that employee feedback to make meaningful, lasting changes to your workplace culture comes next, and it’s challenging. 

But when it’s done right, taking action on your survey results can get you more engaged employees, which will give you a whole host of benefits including increased productivity, profitability, and a much more pleasant work environment. 

How can you effectively turn your employee engagement survey results into real, sustained action? This is more than just an academic question — employees will feel discouraged and ignored if they’re regularly giving your organization feedback on what they need, and not seeing any action as a result. 

This five-part guide will take you through everything you need to know to act on your survey responses and improve your employee engagement. 

Your Guide to Acting On Employee Engagement Survey Results 

1. Dig Deep Into the Metrics

The first step starts with gathering all the survey data you’ve collected and analyzing it carefully. If you’ve used an employee engagement survey tool or platform, it should have analytics capabilities built in which will make your task simpler by helping you identify important trends in your survey responses. 

If this is your first year conducting an employee engagement survey, then you won’t have any prior benchmarks to compare your results to. But if you’ve sent out surveys in the past, even with slightly different survey questions, you can compare your current responses to last year or any years where you have data. 

It’s particularly helpful to break down responses by demographics, like employee tenure, level, age, gender, or any other sorting that you notice to identify trends. You should also compare company-wide responses to different departments to see if there are outliers (either positive or negative) in engagement scores. 

Once you’ve carefully scrutinized the data, see what trends you notice and if there are any surprises in the feedback you received. This data won’t tell you everything you need to know right away, but it’s the starting point for the next steps in the process and will tell you where to look to improve your company culture and engagement rates. 

2. Hold Follow-Up Focus Groups

Engagement surveys are an effective way to measure how employees feel about their experience, but they leave out a critical component of any action plan: why they feel that way. The only way to find that out is by engaging employees in an open dialogue. Of course, it’s not feasible to talk to every single employee, but you can convene focus groups that represent a broad swath of your employee populations, or focus on the most disaffected groups. 

Focus groups are the most efficient way to gather this feedback, but you can also hold one-on-one conversations with key team members or attend team meetings to gather more feedback. Dig deeper into the responses to survey questions that surprised or alarmed you the most — ask employees why they feel that way, and assess the sentiment behind the survey responses. 

In this step, it’s especially crucial to focus on the key drivers of disengagement if you have concerningly low levels of employee engagement. Addressing the biggest drivers of dissatisfaction and turnover first can make a bigger impact on your organization than smaller positive wins, at least at first. For example, if employees are overwhelmingly unhappy with how promotions are conducted at your company, fixing that will have a much larger impact than, say, adding in a well-being program (which is great, but won’t affect engagement as much). 

Employee surveys are most effective when you set clear expectations on how you'll take action, like by showing you'll dive into issues using focus groups or creating an employee task force.

3. Create Your Action Plan

Now you have your quantitative and qualitative data, and it’s time to create your comprehensive action plan for making the changes employees want to see. Gather your key stakeholders, including your leadership team and HR teams, and determine how you can effectively move the needle on the key employee asks and pain points from your survey results. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy that we can give you here — it depends on what your employees are telling you is and isn’t working in your current organization. But your action items should meaningfully address the feedback they’ve taken the time to give you, even if that feedback is hard to hear or hard to act on. The results will be worth it. 

When creating your action plan, don’t forget to determine how you’ll measure your success once your initiatives are in place. You can use benchmarks beyond just engagement scores: consider measuring employee satisfaction, retention, and even survey participation rates to see how employees are responding to the changes you’ve made. 

Also, assign clear lines of responsibility and accountability among your stakeholders so you’re set up for success from the beginning. This should go well beyond HR — employee engagement is also the remit of your leadership and your managers, so be sure they know what’s expected of them and have the resources they need to succeed. 

This action plan should also tie into your larger employee engagement strategy, if you have one (and if you don’t, this is your sign to create one!). 

4. Communicate Changes to Employees

One critical element of engagement surveys that is too often ignored is ongoing communications with employees. Start with a simple message — thank them for taking the time to respond to your survey. Once you’ve received the responses, follow up by transparently sharing results and survey findings (yes, even if they’re negative, because otherwise it looks like you’re hiding something). 

When your action plan is finalized, share that with employees as well. They don’t need to see every line item, but they do need to know the key takeaways and understand what positive changes you’re making to the organization as a result of their feedback. It shows that your organization is accountable to them and takes their feedback seriously. 

Once your engagement initiatives are underway, keep employees up to date regularly with the information that matters to them. This should be an ongoing conversation as you enhance and refine your company culture so it becomes a highly engaging and satisfying one. Employees will see the real changes made as a result of their feedback, and feel valued and heard (and that’s great for your engagement levels as much as many initiatives). 

How to Communicate Results to Your Teams 

The best method of employee communication depends on your organization, but email is always an effective channel. If those emails come from leadership, that’s even better. You can also hold town halls or team meetings to share survey results and allow for employee questions and additional feedback. 

5. Continue to Measure engagement and Collect Employee Feedback

The final step in this process is continuing the excellent work you’ve done on creating a better company culture with ongoing measurement and improvements — improving employee engagement is not a one-and-done initiative. 

And if you’re only conducting a single yearly engagement survey, you should consider expanding that with pulse surveys throughout the year. If you’re measuring engagement once a year, it’s easy to miss progress or make adjustments to your action plan as you go. Pulse surveys can fill in the gaps, and they’re great for quick check-ins to measure progress in key areas. 

Also, don’t forget to share any significant areas of improvement with your employees. It can be easy to focus on what’s going poorly, but noticing and celebrating the wins that come from your new engagement initiatives is just as critical to keep the momentum going and keep engagement top of mind for everyone. 

Enhancing Your Whole Employee Experience 

Engagement is a key ingredient in employee experience — feeling fulfilled and motivated in your role is a great recipe for happy, loyal, productive employees. And Cooleaf can help you improve both your employee engagement and experience with one easy-to-use platform. Our customizable employee surveys help you gather and understand employee feedback regularly, and our engagement consultants will help you create the perfect action plan based on your survey results. Try it today


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