What to Do with Employee Engagement Survey Results and Action Plans

Just received your employee engagement survey results? Here's what to do with your data and findings.

You've just received your company-wide, employee engagement survey.

Right as you’re about to look at the data, three emails come in with differing levels of urgency.

You decide to put the employee survey results on the back burner until later that day. But when the end of the day comes and you draw up your to-do list for tomorrow, there isn’t enough time to review those results.

This process repeats itself, over and over again, until two weeks have passed and those survey results remain unread.

Eager to get them out of the way, you quickly skim through the data, pull out the first interesting stats you find, and base your year’s projects on them.

This isn’t a great idea.

Each data point brings several promising action items – if you’re willing to think about them.

Interpret & analyze the survey results

We don't recommend simply forwarding employee survey results to senior leadership and managers.

Instead, you should book off an hour to take the following engagement survey analysis steps.

Write down what your main questions were before the survey

As a leader, you likely have assumptions or working theories about your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges from a people perspective.

Your survey data will either confirm or deny them.

Use these research questions to frame your survey results analysis. This will help you engage with the survey results as opposed to passively reading them.

Filter results by subgroups of interest

Depending on how your engagement survey platform delivers the data, you may receive the data in something as overwhelming as a spreadsheet to something as user-friendly as a visual representation.

Is there a specific subgroup of the company where you’re experiencing the most challenges?

Sparkbay will let you easily filter this data to focus on these groups first.

This helps you compare and contrast different areas of the organization, and understand why some functions perform better than others.

Plus, it allows you to prioritize your time if you’re on a crunch. (Although, you should try to avoid this by blocking off time in your calendar for survey results analysis!)

Benchmark your engagement survey data

One exceptionally useful method of understanding survey results is benchmarking.

Benchmarking is the process of comparing survey data to another set of data measuring a similar phenomenon.

Translation: It means asking questions like,

  • “How did we do last year compared to this year?”
  • “How are other companies doing when it comes to employee engagement and satisfaction?”

Benchmarking is also important, because it prevents you from labeling a failure as a success.

For instance, an 80% employee satisfaction rate may look like a good thing...until someone at your meeting points out that the engagement rate last year was 95%.

Similarly, you may think a turnover rate of only 15% is successful...only to find out the average turnover rate in your industry is 7%.

Benchmarking ensures your survey data is contextualized and rooted in reality.

So how do you go about getting the data you need to conduct a benchmarking exercise?

Your first port of call is your previous year’s engagement data. If this is your first year conducting an employee engagement survey, then this isn’t applicable.

A tool like Sparkbay automatically provides a side-by-side comparison of your previous years’ survey results (or month, quarter as you see fit) to your current survey results.

Sparkbay also tells you how you compare to companies in the same industry as yours.

Once you’ve analyzed your survey data, considered your key research questions, and benchmarked your data, it’s time to organize this data.

By the end of this process, you may have identified a list of 8 to 10 problems or potential problems within your organization. Now, it’s time to take a solutions-oriented approach to analyzing it.

Choose where to focus

It can hard to tell which data you should focus on.

After a while, it can feel like you’re basically replicating your spreadsheet in a word document!

So when you’re looking through your survey data, interrogate it.

This is why Sparkbay automatically highlights improvement opportunities based on the question's score, impact on engagement, and comparison with previous results.

You can also establish priorities yourself by asking overarching questions like,

  • “What are the most common responses to these questions?”
  • “Which responses are impacting engagement the most?”
  • “Which group of employees is most impacted by this prevailing issue?”

Communicate results to the leadership team

You’ve done it. You’ve taken your employee engagement survey results turned them into key takeaways.

Now it's time to share results with senior leadership.

Try to start the conversation by presenting opportunities, not obstacles.

Instead of saying, “What’s so bad about our managers that employees are leaving at record speeds?” ask “What is preventing our managers from delivering the environment, support, and resources employees need to thrive?”

This builds trust while also making it clear that it’s been recognized at the leadership level and that there are plans to develop solutions.

Share results with team managers

This is where the disconnect often happens between employee engagement surveys and employee engagement improvements.

A company will go through the time and expense to carry out a survey only to wind up disregarded by the people in the best position to turn employee feedback into practice.

How do you overcome this hurdle?

Incorporate managers into the survey data review process

Once you’ve done your own review of the data, invite managers to review the data as well.

This review should be a scheduled meeting with a clear agenda and mandatory attendance.

At this meeting, make it clear that the focus is on finding solutions, not assigning blame, and emphasize that while you have come up with potential plans of action, you want managers’ insight because they have the best understanding of their teams.

You should also arrive prepared with research, case studies, and make the business case of employee engagement.

Ideally, you want to walk out of a meeting with a preliminary understanding of how managers fit into your larger employee engagement strategy. Will you need to:

  • Simply incorporate their feedback into your existing strategy, or
  • Invest time into educating managers on the importance and profitability of employee engagement

Educate managers on the importance of employee engagement

If you need to invest time in education, don’t be discouraged.

Instead, align the benefits of engagement to your company values so you can demonstrate its importance.

For instance, a sales-driven culture may be more focused on performance and closing the deal.

So your pitch will need to include research and case studies on how employee engagement increases revenue.

If you have a product-focused culture, demonstrate how employee engagement increases innovation and collaboration.

And regardless of function, you can appeal to the shared manager pain of hiring after losing a team member on short notice.

Tie employee engagement metrics to managers’ performance metrics

What gets measured, gets managed.

Introduce engagement metrics, such as employee satisfaction or retention, into managers’ performance reviews.

When managers are evaluated on their ability to close deals or deploy products, they take steps to improve their skills whether it’s by booking more client meetings or upskilling their team.

The same logic applies to engagement. When managers know engagement metrics impact their promotions, raises, and bonuses, they’ll be more inclined to understand what day-to-day activities boost overall engagement and focus on activities like:

  • Improving communications with employees
  • Scheduling one-on-one weekly check-ins
  • Creating professional development plans with employees

Encourage managers to have a conversation with their team

It’s easy to assume that all managers know how to “manage”.

What do we mean by this?

Well, in many organizations “manager” is simply the role that a great individual contributor moves into next.

But an excellent software engineer or an excellent business development representative doesn’t automatically have the skills required to successfully manage people.

This is why we recommend that managers hold a meeting with their teams to review results and have a discussion on the following topics:

  • What should we start to improve?
  • What should we do to continue to improve?
  • What should we stop doing to improve?
  • What’s the one thing we should immediately focus on improving over the next couple of months?

Managers and their direct reports can set S.M.A.R.T. goals on what they want to work on to improve engagement over the next several months.

This helps managers act on feedback in a meaningful way, while keeping their day-to-day activities and operations running.

Support your managers in implementing action plans

First, it’s worth noting: HR’s job is not to manage a manager’s team for them.

Instead, HR’s job is to help managers be the best managers they can be by providing guidance and support.

What does this look like in practice?

It means that instead of working with individual employees, HR teams can focus on developing resources and tools that help managers become self-sufficient. These resources may be:

  • Templates or guides for setting professional development goals and objectives with team members
  • Suggestions on the frequency and content of one-on-one meetings with direct reports
  • Portals or guides that summarize the professional development resources available to employees

Once these resources are available, HR teams can focus their energy on meeting individually with the managers who are struggling the most.

Automating the process of coaching your managers

You can use Sparkbay to deliver automated coaching to your managers.

Sparkbay ensures that each manager is focused on the right issues for their team, allowing managers to build and execute action-ready plans through an intuitive, guided framework.

Leveraging Sparkbay’s deep analytics and predictive capabilities, the platform analyzes data gathered from employee pulses to identify current and potential engagement issues. It then recommends specific focus areas and concrete actions that managers can take to improve.

Ensure managers are held accountable for acting on employee feedback

Ask your managers to create an action plan that focuses on one or two areas of improvement within their teams with S.M.A.R.T. goals to boot.

Schedule meetings to follow up. This ensures managers stay accountable and that employee engagement isn’t put on the backburner.

Transform employee engagement survey data into powerful insights

Employee engagement surveys gather rich data about how your employees are feeling, how well they’re working within their team, and whether they plan to stick with your organization over the long term.

Make the most of this data by turning it into actionable intelligence, converting it into a strategy, and empowering your managers to work these insights into their day-to-day operations.