How To Create an Effective Employee Engagement Action Plan

Just received your employee engagement survey results? Here's how to create an employee engagement action plan.

This is your first time conducting an employee engagement survey.

Everything went off without a hitch. Your survey had a high completion rate, and you’re excited about the insights that your survey has generated.

At least…you were excited. It’s been a week since the results came in, and you’re feeling a little uncertain about the next steps.

As Head of People and Culture, you know that employee engagement is critical to productivity and retention.

You also know from a cursory glance at the survey results that there are some big issues that need to be addressed.

At the same time, you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed.

How do you even begin to turn your survey results into something actionable?

There are endless responses to sort through.

And since you don’t have unlimited resources, you’ll need to prioritize items, and you’re unsure what to put first.

You need some way to determine which actions will have the most impact on the greatest number of employees.

Buckle up. We’re going to walk you through you to create an effective employee engagement action plan.

Review your employee survey results

Reviewing your employee engagement survey results is not something you can pawn off to a junior employee with limited guidance.

It’s also not something you should quickly do over your lunch break or while you’re on a call.

Reviewing your employee engagement survey results is something that’s going to take time which means you’re going to have to block off space in your calendar to look over it.

We recommend blocking off an entire day to look through the survey results and to include your team in the process.

There are several data points within your survey results that you need to carefully review and consider.

Your data might come to you in a number of ways depending on the platform you use to distribute your employee survey results. While some platforms may put your survey results into an easily digestible visual format, let’s assume you receive it in the most overwhelming format: spreadsheet format.

Here are steps you can follow to review your employee survey results:

Write down your pre-survey questions

Write down what your main questions were before the survey, so you can see whether your results confirmed or contradicted your assumptions. This will help you engage with the survey data rather than passively skimming through it.

Segment your results

Organize your results by different subgroups. Are there specific areas of the organization (e.g., a specific team or department) that you were most interested in learning about or that were experiencing challenges?

Use benchmarks

If you conducted an employee engagement survey last year, ask yourself how you did this year compared to last year. If this is your first year conducting an employee engagement survey, use industry benchmarks.

Interrogate your data

Critically analyze your data. Interrogate it. Ask questions such as, “What are the most common responses? Where are we seeing the most dissatisfaction or negativity? Where is engagement being impacted the most?” This can help you focus your efforts in the areas that matter instead of getting lost in a sea of data.

Organization your information

Organize your information into key insights and takeaways. How many employees are satisfied? How do satisfaction levels compare to last year’s satisfaction levels (or to industry benchmarks)? Where are employees experiencing the most dissatisfaction? What changes could lead to the most positive impact on employee engagement? These highlights form the backbone of your employee engagement report and eventual action plan.

Share your employee engagement results with managers

Your managers, especially team leads, are the ones who know your employees best. A great employee engagement action plan includes their input.

Once you’ve converted the raw data into an easily digestible report, share the results with managers.

This is better than simply forwarding a .csv file. They may not find the time to look through it, find the format overwhelming, or simply skim the results instead of taking them seriously.

Once you have the key takeaways from your employee engagement survey, share them with your managers.

You can also share the raw data if they wish to look through it.

Your managers can use the key insights you’ve drawn out or they can find their own focus areas within the data based on questions or assumptions they had when the survey was distributed.

Your goal is to identify focus areas that each time can work on.

Choose focus areas

Identify two or three focus areas for each team.

A focus area is a specific element of employee engagement that you want to improve or something impacting employee engagement that you want to dedicate more attention to.

A potential focus area might be professional development or micromanagement.

Your initial analysis and report created by you and your People & Culture team may come up with specific focus areas.

Your discussions with managers may come up with new focus areas as well.

The goal of this exercise is to help you collaboratively decide what factors or drivers have the biggest impact on employee engagement. The employee engagement survey platform you use can help you identify and rank the biggest drivers, something that Sparkbay’s platform simplifies.

During this time, you’ll also understand how much effort it will take to “move the needle” on these items. How much effort will you need to invest to make an impact?

Discuss focus areas with managers

Why is it important to include managers in discussions about focus areas?

Because employee engagement action plans often stall at the manager level because managers don’t view the action plan as a priority.

They weren’t involved in the process of identifying the focus areas and perhaps they view employee engagement exercises as a checkbox exercise or vanity project for nice employer marketing statistics.

As a result, they consider it low on their priority list.

Another reason it’s important to collaborate with managers is that some may be resistant to being coached on their people skills.

Discussing focus areas with managers turns it into a collaborative project instead of something that feels like a performance review.

Ultimately, you want your employee engagement action plan to be a catalyst for change. Successful change requires buy-in and collaboration.

A few ways you can engage your managers in change include:

Lay out a vision

What’s so exciting about this project? Is your goal to become the best place to work in the city? The state? The country? Lay out the vision and get your managers excited about it as well, so they think they’re part of an interesting initiative.

Once you’ve painted an aspirational picture, get down to the practical elements. What are the biggest challenges or roadblocks you face on the road to this mission? How will your employee engagement survey and employee engagement action plan help you smash through those obstacles?

Develop a strategy

When you loop your managers in, you don’t want them to be thinking, “Okay…so what exactly are we doing here? What do you need from us?”

Lay out the strategy. How are all of you going to get from Point A (survey results) to Point B (an employee engagement action plan)?

Make it clear what you’ll be doing together, when you’ll be meeting, and what you’ll be discussing.

Be a change champion

Make it clear that this is a high priority for you, and that you’re personally committed to the success of this employee engagement action plan. One way you can do this is by showing how you’ll also be using this exercise to evaluate your own performance as a manager. This isn’t something you’re just asking of others.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Keep your council of managers informed every step of the way. Whether it’s through meetings or emails, let them know how their work and input is being incorporated into your action plan.

Address problems head-on

If your managers have issues during the process, address them head-on and create the space for them to express themselves.

Do they feel like they need more resources to take on this task?

Do they feel like this entire exercise is an evaluation of their performance as a manager?

Have these discussions early on so they don’t disrupt the process.

Turning the employee engagement action plan into a group activity also helps you “sell” employee engagement to your managers as something that will make their jobs easier, rather than being a chore they have to add to their already loaded plates.

It allows you to demonstrate, using data, that taking action on employee engagement will limit the amount of time they spend recruiting because of high turnover, dealing with low productivity, or struggling to get new ideas out of their employees.

Draft an action plan

Once you’ve identified your focus areas, it’s time to turn insights into action.

Again, it’s important to include your managers in this process so that when it’s time to execute on the action plan, they are voluntary participants.

Your action plan can take several forms.

It could be an overarching document that lists a number of initiatives your organization will carry out, tied to employee engagement survey results.

Or, it could be a group of team-specific action plans that identify specific steps managers on different teams will take based on their team-level employee engagement survey results.

Let’s look at what this could mean in either case.

Organization-wide employee engagement action plan

Let’s take a look at an organization-wide employee engagement action plan.

This would address insights that apply to the organization as a whole.

For instance, your employee engagement survey results may show that employees are dissatisfied with their health and wellness plans.

Research shows that employees who are well and healthy in all areas of their lives – such as their physical and mental health as well as their social and community lives – thrive and are more productive.

At the moment, your organization may offer a basic health and dental plan.

But if your employees are reporting dissatisfaction with the current offering, it’s time to look into it.

Increased health and wellness reduces absenteeism and also plays an attractive part in an employer’s value proposition.

That said, once you identify this insight that employees want better health and wellness plans, it’s important not to assume what they mean by “better.”

Your action plan doesn’t have to be to immediately go to market to find better plans or to simply offer a free gym membership that no one asked for.

Instead, your plan could be to conduct a follow-up pulse survey that asks employees what specifically they want from a revamped health and wellness plan.

Perhaps they want more coverage for prescription drugs and are willing to give up perks like free massages or gym memberships.

Perhaps they want more coverage for mental health services like therapy.

Making a follow-up survey one of your action items can help you ensure that you give your employees what they actually want instead of spending money on things they never asked for.

The next step in your action plan might be to go to the market and find a vendor that offers the kind of package your employees are looking for.

Once you’ve found a health and wellness offering that meets your employees’ needs, your work isn’t done.

Even though employees may want the revamped program, you’ll still need to invest time into communicating and marketing it internally.

Even though 87% of employees have access to health and wellness benefits, according to one survey, only 23% of employees actually use them.

It’s important to develop an internal communications plan that:

  • Builds excitement around the revamped program
  • Ties the revamped program back to the results of the employee engagement survey to demonstrate to employees that your organization acts on their feedback
  • Delivers information about how to access these new benefits, what’s changed from the last program, and who they can reach out to if they have more questions

Finally, you want an action item in your action plan that focuses on gathering feedback.

Once your new program rolls out, ask your employees for feedback on how satisfied they are with it through pulse surveys.

Team-specific employee engagement action plan

In addition to organization-wide employee engagement action plans, there are also team-specific action plans.

These allow teams to focus on items that have a significant impact on their dynamic.

It may not make sense to have an organization-wide action plan for facetime with managers if only a handful of teams say this is an issue.

Let’s suppose you have a handful of teams who feel like they aren’t properly supported by their managers.

A team-level action plan might be to introduce weekly check-ins for employees with their managers that are set in the calendar and never rescheduled.

These check-ins would be designed not simply for project updates (although projects can certainly be discussed) but for employees to discuss all aspects of their role on the team such as their professional development goals, challenges they face during their growth, advice they’d like to receive from their boss, and more.

Over the course of the quarter or the year, you can use employee engagement pulse surveys to see how much of an impact these check-ins are having on employees.

Make your action plan clear

Whether you’re creating an organization-wide or team-specific action plan, make sure it is S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timebound.

You want to make it clear what exactly needs to be accomplished, how you’ll measure whether it’s been accomplished or if it’s on track towards being accomplished, who will get it done or support it getting done, and when it will get done.

One helpful way to keep up momentum is to use the 30-60-90 day methodology.

This methodology helps you define what you’ll be doing and what success looks like at the end of 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days.

What do you want to accomplish by Day 30? For your organization-wide action plan, it might be drafting and distributing a pulse survey that asks employees what they want to see changed about their health and wellness plans.

What do you want to accomplish by Day 60? This might be turning the results of the survey into a Request for Proposals from vendors.

What do you want to accomplish by Day 90? This might be reviewing proposals from vendors.

Your action plan should also specify how success will be measured. Employee pulse surveys can help you measure how effective your efforts are.

Follow up on the feedback from your engagement surveys

Each time you receive feedback from your engagement surveys, review and follow up.

If your feedback surveys from your health and wellness plan revamp says that people have a hard time finding what they’re entitled to, turn this feedback into action by putting together a communication plan that includes videos or tutorials.

If your feedback surveys from your team-level action plan say that employees want more career progression conversations during their one-on-one conversations with their manager, provide resources that managers can use.

If you’re looking for a simple way to create, distribute, and analyze employee engagement survey results, check out Sparkbay’s employee engagement survey platform to get started. Click here for a demo.