Diving Deeper: Following-Up on Your Employee Survey Results

April 17, 2018 in
By Jessica Dzieweczynski, Will Haller

This month we’re focusing on resiliency and engagement, two characteristics that are critical to organizational and individual well-being and performance and which share interesting connections. Over the last three posts we explored the concept of resiliency, provided tips for communicating your engagement survey, and discussed steps to identify key themes in your survey data. This week, we’ll go on a deeper dive and share tips on how to work withemployees to define meaningful solutions to challenges, and develop an action plan to enhance engagement. Finally, we’ll come back to resiliency, and how growing a more resilient workforce can impact your organization’s engagement.

In our last article we discussed steps for extracting key findings from your survey data. But now what? What constitutes a deep dive? In scuba diving, most divers descend to between 60-130 feet below sea level. Today, we will take you to new depths in understanding your survey data and, most importantly, determining what kind of changes will help improve your organization. Taking the time to fully explore your survey results shows employees you care and take their feedback seriously, and gives them a voice in shaping the organization’s future. In fact, we’ve worked with several organizations that have noticed increases in their employee engagement scores simply after conducting focus groups. While implementing changes surfaced in those focus group is critical to improving and maintaining engagement scores, just the act of following up on survey results and allowing employees to voice their thoughts can have an initial impact and shows your commitment to the process.

Deeper dives can be accomplished using a variety of approaches. Qualitative methods, such as employee focus groups or interviews, allow you to gather rich and detailed information from employees. These methods can be particularly useful when you want to gain a better understanding of root causes of challenges, or brainstorm the most meaningful ways to address those challenges. Quantitative methods, such as a short pulse survey, allow the organization to gather data from a large swath of employees in an efficient manner. These methods are particularly insightful if you want a quantitative gauge of employee perceptions and/or to track changes over time. Each method has pros and cons, and below we provide a few considerations for each as you ponder what deep dive is right for your organization.

Pulse Surveys

  1. Consider the frequency of your survey.While historically organizations have tended towards an annual employee survey, many organizations are moving to shorter, more frequent surveys. For example, pulse surveysare much shorter than an annual survey, are administered more frequently (e.g., monthly, quarterly), and may focus on gauging perceptions of specific actions or programs. Even more frequent, some organizations have moved to a continuous listening survey method, which involves asking just a few questions but rolling out questions on a nearly continuous basis – in some cases even daily. For example, Amazon surveys their employees daily on topics such as job satisfaction, leadership, and training opportunities in order to improve employees’ experience at work. Shorter, more frequent surveys offer several benefits, including the ability to meet manager’s demands for real-time data, while also allowing employees’ a constant mechanisms to share their voice. However, more frequent surveying doesn’t come without its challenges – employees can quickly become burdened by survey fatigue which will impact your response rates and ultimately the generalizability of your results. Plus, as with all surveys, you should only use them if you plan on doing something with the resulting data. If you can’t commit to reporting out and following-up on more frequent surveys, it may be best to stick with less frequent methods.
  2. Be thoughtful in writing your survey items.Regardless of the frequency of your survey, it is critical to craft meaningful survey items. Our number one rule for designing thoughtful survey items is to focus on things you can and would be willing to change. For example, if you know that pay raises are not possible for your workforce, asking about how satisfied employees are with pay will not lead to insights that are actionable (though it may still provide interesting insights for other reasons). Our second rule for crafting meaningful survey items is to be sure to write items that are specific, concise and clear. One of the most common mistakes we see in surveys is the double barreled item – for example, I was satisfied with the timeliness and quality of service provided. (Yikes – we cringed just reading that one.)When interpreting responses to an item such as this, it is impossible to disentangle perceptions about service quality versus service timeliness. Be sure each survey item focuses on only one concept so that you can interpret what the results mean.
  3. Determine key drivers.Utilize analyses such as correlation and regression to determine which aspects of your culture have the biggest impact on engagement. For example, relative weights analysis is a type of regression analysis that allows you to look at the unique influence of each of your survey dimensions on an outcome of interest (e.g., engagement, turnover). Once those areas are identified you’ll have a good idea of the areas that will have the biggest bang for your buck as you move onto action planning and implementation.

Focus Groups

Surveys are a great method to gain input from a large volume of employees in a cost-efficient manner, and they produce quantitative metrics to gauge and track how your culture is perceived over time. However, if you are seeking a rich understanding of the problem at hand you will probably want to leverage qualitative methods such as interviews and focus groups.

  1. Prepare for and structure your sessions. Just as you need to be thoughtful when writing your survey items, equal care and attention should be paid to crafting targeted, meaningful questions that will be asked as part of an interview, meeting, or focus group. If information will be gathered over the course of multiple sessions, develop a semi-structured protocol to ensure consistency across groups. The protocol should include standard questions that are asked of all groups, as well as probing questions that can be used to further elicit responses from your participants. If the nature of the topic is sensitive, be sure to consider the composition of the group and whether participants will feel comfortable speaking candidly in front of one another.
  2. Leverage existing forums.You probably already have a number of forums where you interact with your employees, such as staff meetings or supervisor-employee check-ins. Why not use one of those meetings to follow-up on your employee survey results? Using a staff meeting allows you to reach nearly all of your staff, and leverages time that has already been set aside to discuss important organizational topics (reinforcing the idea that your employees’ input is indeed an important topic!). At a more personal level, a standing supervisor-employee check-in can be used to explore options for addressing challenge areas that were surfaced in the survey.
  3. Have some fun with it! There are a range of innovative methods to gather input from employees in a fun and interactive way. For example, in one of our recent staff meetings we utilized a progressive “dot voting” activity. First, we broke up into groups to brainstorm ideas around a few key questions (How can we improve our work? How can we improve our culture?). All ideas – no matter how small or outlandish – were captured on a flip chart. Next, all employees were given dot stickers to place next to the ideas they liked the most. Employees then rotated around to different stations where different questions were discussed, and employees voted for their favorite options in those areas. Through this activity, we developed a list of ideas and the management team got instant feedback from staff on which ideas we found to be the most significant.

We hope you have identified some ways to dive deeper into your survey results that fit with the culture of your organization. Stay tuned for the next post in this blog series, which will discuss strategies for translating the insights you’ve gained into an impactful action plan.

To learn more about FMP’s employee engagement capabilities, visit our website or email BD@fmpconsulting.com.

About the Author: With a background in I/O psychology, Will enjoys projects involving competency modeling, employee engagement, and survey analytics. While his favorite season is Fall, his second favorite is FEVS-season! The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey is an employee engagement survey administered to over 800,000 federal employees every year between May and June that measures topic areas including personal work experiences and work/life opportunities. When he’s not visiting clients or playing on FMP’s softball team, you can find Will on a hike with his new puppy in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.

Photo of author and FMP employee Will Haler

About the Author: At work, Jess enjoys geeking out over topics like survey design and analysis, employee engagement, and program evaluation. Outside of work she loves traveling, trying new food and restaurants, hiking, biking, and going on road trips with her husband and three pups – especially to the beach!

Photo of author and FMP employee Jess Dzieweczynski