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A Simple Guide to Employee Survey Action Planning

Posted by Insightlink on 10/07/14

Workplace Action Is Critical

One of the most important components of any employee survey project is create an effective action plan (or plans) that will address the top opportunities for improvement and/or ensure that you maintain the strengths that you have. This is especially true when you lead an organization-wide survey of all employees.

Not taking action on your survey findings will communicate to your employees that you really don’t care about their attitudes and opinions. Any suggestion like this cannot but hurt employee morale and, at the very least, will likely reduce your participation rate in any future surveys,

Four Key Steps

This simple four-step process of Understanding, Interpreting, Planning and Taking Action will help you get the most value from your employee survey results.

Step 1 – Understanding

Review your findings carefully to get an overall understanding of the survey results and their meaning. The goal of this step is to get a balanced and complete view of what your employees are telling you. This is the “Just the facts” stage of the process.

Tips for gaining a good understanding of your results include:

Read through the report with an open mind. Try to avoid over-reacting to the results – whether they are positive or negative – or leaping immediately to solutions. Key things to look for/pay attention to as you review the findings are:

  • “Big picture” measurements that give you sense of how “healthy” your workplace environment is.
  • The individual scale questions, where you should look at the overall distribution of responses, the top 2 scores and how your organization compares to your industry benchmarks. These scaled questions provide the specific diagnostic details that help to explain your “big picture” scores.
  • Importance-performance gaps – knowing what is important to your employees and how well your organization is doing on these items is often the starting place for improvements.

Read the open-end (write-in) comments. Try to get a sense of the themes and issues that employees mention and see how these comments relate to the numerical results. Be careful, though, that you don’t obsess over any comments that are hyper-critical, factually inaccurate, mean-spirited or unfair.

Step 2 – Interpreting

Once you have a solid general understanding of your results, you need to identify the themes, patterns and issues that will guide your action planning. This is the “What does it mean?” stage of the process. Tips for interpreting your findings include:

Categorize the findings. A useful way to organize the findings is to identify:

  • Strengths – your organization’s top scores and top comparative scores
  • Areas for improvement – your organization’s lowest scores and lowest comparative scores
  • Gaps – importance-performance gaps of 20 percentage points or more

Find recurring themes. Look for patterns in the strengths, areas for improvement, importance-performance gaps and open-ended comments. If there are high scores/praise surrounding a topic, it is probably a key strength and a foundation on which the organization can build. In contrast, if an issue/problem comes up again and again in a negative light, it is almost always an issue that needs to be addressed.

Step 3 – Planning

Once you have identified your organization’s strengths and areas for improvement, you need to decide how your organization is going to respond to this information. This is the “What are we going to do about it?” stage of the process. Tips for successful planning include:

Prioritize which of the areas for improvement you plan to target. It is generally best to choose a few key things to fix (3-4 items) rather than trying to tackle too many at once.

Decide on the process. Will the items on the improvement list be handled from the executive level, within HR or via task forces/committees or some combination thereof? Match the approach to the culture of your organization and type of change that needs to be made.

Set goals for each change that you intend to make. Setting appropriate goals maximizes the chance of success and enables the organization to determine if progress is being made. A good general goal-setting framework is the SMART acronym, in which each goal is:

  • S= Specific
  • M= Measurable
  • A= Attainable
  • R= Relevant
  • T= Time Bound

Step 4 – Taking Action

Once priorities have been set and plans for improvement are in place, you are ready to take action. This is the “Getting results” stage of the process. Tips for successfully carrying out your change initiatives include:

Communicate with the organization to let people know what is going on. This may include sharing the results of the employee survey, alerting employees to planned changes and soliciting input/feedback when needed.

Move the change initiatives forward. This usually means that the individuals and committees who are responsible for making changes set meetings and deadlines to help things from bogging down and allow any needed course corrections as the changes are implemented.

Monitor your progress. The “M” and “T” parts of the SMART goals are critical here. Be sure you have decided how you are going to measure progress toward each goal, when the measurements will occur and when you expect the overall goal (and any sub-goals along the way) to be achieved.

Celebrate successes. Both when sharing the initial survey results and when reporting on change initiatives, do not focus solely on problems and challenges. Also highlight strengths, progress and improvements, even if there is still further work to be done.

Here at Insightlink, we offer a number of tools to help our clients translate their survey findings into meaningful action. Call us at 1-866-802-80951-866-802-8095 ext. 705 to learn more.

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