How to Engage Employees after a Survey

The tendency after an employee engagement survey is to overpromise and underdeliver. If you succumb to this temptation, you run the risk of creating a skeptical work culture. (“They told us they would do [fill in the blank], but we've seen nothing!”) To avoid this problem, implement a rigorous priority review process that uses an idea priority matrix.

Provide the necessary funds to pay for what the company commits to.

Engagement is not free. A well thought-out engagement action plan requires an organizational investment.

Often, the same leaders who were reluctant to endorse a survey at the outset become seduced by the results and push to change the culture overnight. But organizational change is like a dimmer switch, not an on/off switch.

An engagement plan takes time to implement, and it competes with other organizational priorities, such as acquiring other organizations, launching a quality-control system, increasing business development, or upgrading your IT infrastructure. Organizational follow-up and follow-through are key in a successful implementation — and in how your employees will judge the success of your survey efforts.

Develop a feedback mechanism. How will you solicit ongoing input from employees? Your employee engagement survey task team, working in partnership with your HR or organizational development (OD) staff, will be invaluable for monitoring feedback while following up and following through on an effective action plan.

Managers should include a “survey action plan” agenda item during their regular department meetings for a minimum of six months after an engagement survey.

Set the stage for the sequel: a follow-up survey. This means communicating specific actions, successes, and progress since the last survey. Summarizing your successes should be a key part of your overall survey communication plan and be led by your best internal communicators. Of course, if you've developed a vibrant and effective communication plan, you most likely are doing this already!

Don't commit to another survey for 18 to 24 months. Why? You need at least that much time to corral and review survey results, distribute them internally, and act upon them — let alone to see the results of your hard work.

If you conduct a follow-up survey too quickly, your organization likely won't have enough time to digest the changes from the previous survey. You may even be setting yourself up for negative results on your follow-up survey. (“I've seen no change yet!”)

If you absolutely must conduct a survey earlier — for example, after 12 months — then consider a pulse survey to quickly and inexpensively gauge trends.

A pulse survey is a short questionnaire, usually 10 to 15 questions, that includes key questions from your larger survey — your “greatest hits,” so to speak. Pulse surveys, which usually occur 12 months after a full survey, are primarily for those firms that want to track their progress (or lack thereof) since the initial survey.

Avoid introducing new questions in a pulse survey. Otherwise, you risk losing valuable comparisons with your first survey, which are necessary to gauge your progress.

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