Building Better Buy-in from the Bottom Up

Three Post-Survey Action Planning Tactics

There’s no universal solution when it comes to post-survey action planning. Essentially tactics fall into three distinct categories. Many organizations have success mixing methods. Choosing the right approach depends on your organization’s corporate culture, leadership style, the abilities of your different managers and a compendium of other circumstances.

1.Strategic Breakthrough

Imagine yourself (read CEO) and your fellow gardeners (executive team) surveying the vegetable patch you’ve worked so hard to grow (the organization). You’ve been monitoring soil conditions, plant growth, where the sun falls and for how long from your different vantage points and decide it’s time for radical layout changes. The expectation is a better yield.  Question is, what do you pull, leave or move?

The strategic breakthrough approach to post-survey action planning lies expressly with your organization’s top leaders, usually when a significant organizational transformation is in the wings. A sophisticated analysis of employee survey data identifies critical strategies likely to yield the greatest employee engagement impact on performance. Strategic breakthrough action planning serves as the catalyst for change.

2.Top Down

This time imagine yourself (again read CEO) with a watering can in hand standing above a garden plant (your organization). As you tip the can water cascades across the top leaves and branches (executive/senior management and their divisions). Droplets continue to trickle…down the stem of the plant…to other branches… blending one into the next (lower level management/departments) eventually reaching the roots (your front line).

Essentially top-down post-survey action planning originates from the perspective of senior leadership but encompasses participation from your entire organization. Action plans align with high-level strategic goals. Each level of the organization thereafter responds to the dribble-down from preceding management ranks, fine-tuning their own work-group employee engagement action plans within the context of the broader organizational picture. Each decision and action trickles into the next, and so on.

3.Bottom Up

This time imagine placing a hose at the base of a tree. Water absorbs at the roots climbs up the trunk and onward to the tree top.

In the bottom-up approach, post-survey action planning originates from the front lines or grassroots of your organization – where employees interact with customers. Survey action plans are tailored to fit employee engagement touchpoints specific to each workgroup, department, and division, feeding across and up your organization.

Years of observation and research has convinced TalentMap the bottom up approach builds buy-in far greater than other approaches.  The key operative is for senior management to contribute in a visibly participatory, supportive manner. Here’s how to build better buy-in from the bottom up:

Here’s how to build better buy-in from the bottom up:

Ask your CEO to present complete organization-wide results as well as drilled down department or workgroup results to front-line, mid-management and senior leaders in a collective setting.

  • Pay attention to how information is delivered so that no one is slighted or put off
  • Don’t bring attention to any highlights or key actionable items, leave these observations and decisions to the bottom-up process
  • Set the stage for what deliverables are expected: What an action plan looks like, what it should include, i.e. a handful of quick wins (actions that require no resources, are easy to implement and generate immediate results), one or two long-term, high-impact actions, alignment with corporate/organization goals.

Outline training and support mechanisms to help workgroup leaders and managers

  • Establish communication methods and schedules to share results
  • Support weak managers (those flagged by survey results with lower scores)

A unique Jumpstart Engagement Workshop that uses a range of techniques to kick start bottom up action planning is available from TalentMap. During this one-day session, groups of 25 to 50 managers and employees investigate how to generate, prioritize and plan viable action plans.

As action plans are completed at workgroup levels and roll up the organization, collect and review plans with senior management to spot trends and identify resources.

  • Work with your leadership team to select one to three actionable items from this bottom-up process.

Communicate at every turn so employees know they’ve been heard, understand their input is driving change and see concrete evidence of that input leading to positive results.

  • Make it clear your leadership team is committing resources and personal effort to see actionable items through to fruition
  • Provide details about the selected actions, resources, and timelines
  • Issue updates and outcomes that link back to survey results; employees need to see this connection to become more engaged
  • Showcase success stories: invite workgroup managers or designates to share their employee engagement survey initiatives at department meetings, in employee newsletter articles, intranet posts, and other forums. This small bit of fanfare can have a big impact, “as a powerful way to recognize staff and build a culture of improvement.”¹

Consider issuing a pulse survey six months into action planning to gauge i) whether employees recognize these developments are connected to their employee survey feedback and ii) how they perceive developments. Are improvements occurring? Is engagement on the rise?

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