Seeing Employee Surveys Through a Clear Lens

strategic employee planning

Imagine visiting the Grand Canyon on a blue-sky kind of day, taking in the sweeping vistas of mountainous formations millions of years in the making. Talk about a high-level view.  Sometimes your organization’s leadership can have a high-level view from their own tower offices. But things aren’t always as they seem – especially from a distance. The Grand Canyon may appear mountainous when it fact it’s an enormous hole in the ground. Employee surveys may look like another HR project, an administrative chore to add to the “to-do” list, when in fact, they’re an indispensable tool for strategic planning.

What’s wrong with this picture?

It’s all a matter of how your organization views employee surveys. A distant, high-level view can easily reduce perceptions of this valuable tool to little more than a handful of misguided notions, commonly:

  • an administrative burden in terms of time and effort
  • the opening of floodgates for employees to vent and complain
  • the potential undermining of established cultural norms
  • feedback largely irrelevant to the broader good of the organization
  • nominal if any actionable outcomes, resulting in…
  • no real purpose other than to frustrate and discourage employees.

Organizations fogged in by a mistaken sense of surveys miss out on powerful (and profitable) employee engagement possibilities.

It doesn’t take standing on a mountain top wearing Woody specs to see the clear advantages of employee surveys. It takes the kind of thinking that sees employee input as a fundamental strategic move. The kind of thinking that involves commitment and active participation from the leadership team, and the wider employee population thereafter. It takes the kind of thinking that:

  • looks at the whole organization
  • puts people first
  • demonstrates how individual contributions impact the greater good
  • recognizes the cause and effect relationship between people and performance
  • solicits input, generates data, analyzes, and reports
  • shares information with transparency to all
  • facilitates strategic decision-making and action planning from the bottom up, not just top down
  • gives employees a say in how their organization is run and how goals are achieved.

9 Best Practices for Strategic Success

TalentMap’s 2017 Wiley publication: Employee Engagement and Action Planning for Dummies, addresses erroneous perceptions, asserting, “When done correctly, surveys tell you exactly where engagement in your organization stands. Surveys can also pinpoint what areas you need to work on, and then allow you to see how far you’ve come after making improvements.”

Chapter three also offers up 9 best practices (a deliberate strategic approach) to clarify and drive employee survey and engagement success.

  1. Start with strategy – design survey topics that measure progress against strategy and goals
  2. Construct a model that makes explicit the links between employees-members-customers-clients and business objectives/profits
  3. Develop a balanced approach and tie rewards and recognition to positive change
  4. Learn how to understand, interpret and work with data from survey results
  5. Focus improvement initiatives on the biggest strategic value rather than the lowest satisfaction scores
  6. Reward and recognize managers when they use survey results to guide improvement initiatives
  7. Provide team or unit leaders with their group’s survey results (a minimum of five respondents is a must – to protect anonymity)
  8. Train managers to interpret, work with and communicate survey results to their staff
  9. Conduct manager and facilitator team discussions to brainstorm and prioritize action plans and send recommendations to senior management for final endorsement. 

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