Implementing an effective action plan after conducting an employee survey is the essential next step for a number of reasons. First and foremost, making improvements to your work environment and helping knock down barriers to your employees’ success should be the reason you did the survey in the first place. Equally important, asking your employees to share their thoughts and opinions through a survey and then ignoring the results is actually worse than not doing a survey in the first place and damage employee’s trust and confidence in the organization.
So what does a great action plan look like? We know from experience that there is no “one-size-fits- all” approach and flexibility is key. In some organizations, strategic planning is very “top down” while in others it is very decentralized. Survey action planning should work the same as other similar processes in your organization. Also, some groups require the structure of a formal planning process while other groups may be equally effective using a more informal approach.
But all action planning should follow these key guidelines:
- Prioritize your action items and don’t tackle more than 2 or 3 at a time. Implementing too many priorities often leads to inconclusive outcomes.
- Involve employees in the search for possible solutions since they are facing these challenges every single day. There are lots of ways of getting additional input from your workforce. The more popular methods including setting up multi-functional task forces, generating ideas in information-sharing or brainstorming sessions and inviting employees to participation in formal focus groups.
- Require mutual respect and openness to all suggestions as ground rules, balanced by the practicalities of what is achievable in a reasonable time frame. Don’t give your employees the impression that they have no input into the solutions – one of the biggest complaints we hear is that senior management refuses to take employee recommendations into consideration when making key policy decisions.
- Build accountability into each stage of your plan through to execution and beyond. Remember that this is an “action plan” not an “intention plan.”
- Don’t forget to keep employees informed of what’s happening at every stage of the process. And remember to celebrate key milestones and successes!
Of course, all of these guidelines mean little if you’re unable to make sense of your survey findings. You need to identify the themes, patterns and issues that will guide your action planning. That’s why we developed the “SOCQ” model as an efficient way of organizing your survey findings. Using this approach, you start your analysis by identifying:
Strengths: What does your organization do really well, both in terms of absolute scores and compared to other organizations?
Opportunities for Improvement: Where are your consistent weak spots? What negative factors keep coming up in your ratings and your employees’ comments?
Context: Distinct from your survey results, what recent events in your organization might be impacting employee attitudes, whether positively or negatively? You need to take account of these in your action planning.
Quick Wins: What obvious changes or improvements could you implement that could have an immediate impact on employee satisfaction or morale?
With this framework in place, you should be ready to start the planning process. Keep in mind that the most important objective of action planning is to make improvements in your current work environment so that you can close the gap between where you are today and where you want to be in the next 2 to 3 years. Improving overall job satisfaction and addressing the key opportunities for improvement are critical to the success of this goal.