The employee survey (i.e., employee satisfaction surveys) should form the backbone of any employee engagement initiative. In my book,Employee Engagement 2.0, I explain how the first step to improving anything is to measure it, and employee satisfaction and employee engagement are no different. But too often, despite a considerable investment in time and money, employee surveys fail to move the needle of engagement. For your survey to actually drive business results, you have to follow what I call the “three A’s of employee surveys.”
1) Annual—your employee survey should be conducted at least annually, and ideally, twice a year. Too many companies think of the survey process as a “one and done” event to get snapshot of employee engagement. Instead, it should be viewed as an ongoing metric that constantly changes, like the speedometer on your car’s dashboard, or just like your P&L statement. Conducting surveys less than once a year means the results are more likely to be skewed by unusual events (e.g., layoffs, mergers, product initiatives).
2) Accountable—you must share the survey results with all managers, and hold them accountable for the results. Over half the companies I’ve contacted admit that the results of their surveys are shared only with senior executives, who—together with HR—discuss what should be done to improve results. Most of the emotion of employee engagement comes from one’s relationship with their manager; not informing each manager of their own individual results (and how it compares again company overall results) takes away the important tool of self-awareness. Without an individual score, engagement becomes some abstract “company initiative” (or worse, an “HR issue”) instead of an everyday metric for improvement.
3) Action—individual managers should share the survey results with their team members in action planning meetings. They key is to make them—the individual employees—responsible for coming up with ideas so they have ownership in the process. Rather than trying to improve all dimensions at once, I encourage companies to focus only on one or two critical items with each survey cycle (another reason to ideally conduct them once or twice a year). Each manager should facilitate the action planning meeting and ensure action is taken on suggestions (e.g., “Our lowest score was on communication. Why do you think that is? Who has an idea of what we could do to improve in this area?”).
The first step towards improving employee satisfaction and engagement is a well-designed survey. But survey administration is just the beginning. To get results, make sure you conduct the survey at least annually, hold front-line managers accountable for improvements to their scores, and insist that everyone be included in action planning.