Happy new year! Is it too late to say that? Well, this is the time of the year that businesses start considering their objectives and goal setting for the coming 12 months, even if their year-end isn’t until April. It’s also a time of change, with January being the month of Blue Monday (officially the most depressing day of the year!) and when more employees resign than any other month of the year.

With all this change afoot, many businesses may be considering to take this opportunity to take stock and more often than not turn to running an employee survey to see how their people are feeling and set plans for the rest of the year.

For some, this could be seen as nothing more than a time for an annual gripe from their ungrateful employees – after all, they still have their jobs. For others, it’s seen as a chance for the company to show it cares and find out what their people really think.

But tread with caution; the age-old adage of ‘don’t believe everything you read’ is more true than ever when it comes to dealing with employee surveys and analyzing their results. Before you plough straight into action, take a moment to consider the following:

The right survey reasons

Firstly, if you’re running a survey because it’s something you’ve always done and you want to see the percentage of change over time, you’re running it for the wrong reasons.

Secondly, if you’re doing it because it sends a signal to your people that engagement matters, again you’re mistaken.

The only reason you should be running a survey is because you genuinely want to give your employees a voice so you hear what they have to say, and you have to be prepared to act as a result.

Don’t believe the glossy headlines

Many businesses receive their survey results and often see big statistics that, on face value, may make things seem that all is well. For example, 98% of people are ‘proud’ to work for your company might sound like great news (and it might be!) – but it may not be that black and white. Surveys have a way of disguising all manner of ‘bigger’ topics behind big shiny percentages and this doesn’t necessarily translate into a high performing team.

If, for example, you have a strong consumer or external brand, it may mean that people feel proud to work for you because the kudos this brings from other’s perception of what it is as a place to work (perhaps a great marketing tool for your EVP). This may be a great attraction for potential new employees – but think how they feel when they walk through the door and the reality doesn’t live up to the hype. It also may not necessarily mean that employees are engaged with the business objectives and understand their role and purpose in achieving them. If this is the case their emotion of feeling ‘proud’ is nothing but empty achievement.

Furthermore, it’s important to remember that people don’t always know what they want and it’s easy to get dragged into answering a question in a certain way because it’s an easy option. For example, I don’t know a single person who, when asked: ‘Are you paid enough?’ would agree (even if pay hadn’t been top of their priority list).

Ignoring the interesting extremes

Employee surveys, on the whole, are not a bad thing to do when considering finding out more about your engagement levels. They capture a lot of people at once and can provide a good snapshot overview. Unfortunately, here also lies the greatest problem. Capturing the mean when the difference is gained by understanding the extremes – why people love working for you and why people hate it. Considering these differences can really help get to the crux of what you should change that will make the biggest difference.

Gaining true employee engagement is about connecting people to your business in a deeper way, so they have an emotional connection. This, in turn, leads to tangible business results because you have more quality and excellence from your people.

Some tips to understand your employee engagement levels:

  • Gain quality insight to complement themes from a wider qualitative dip and delve deeper
  • Don’t pat yourself on the back too soon – ask yourself difficult questions. Be curious and look for the things to improve. Look for the subtle insights – these may seem small to you, but could have a huge impact on the team
  • Create an actionable plan – and follow up on it
  • Don’t communicate anything until you know what the real opportunities and issues are and what you plan to do about them
  • Review your survey provider to ensure it’s the best for your organisations. Like technology, something that was good five years ago may have been far exceeded by new and better solutions – new survey options test more than once a year
  • Involve your team to help work on key projects – but don’t delegate it out of the hands of the senior team, allowing them to shirk responsibility.

Remember, grand gestures don’t change employee engagement. It’s a hundred small ones that are specific and personal that make the difference. With survey costs sometimes costing tens of thousands of pounds, why not start a little more simply – ask a selection of people across your business for some quality insight. I can guarantee this will tell you way more than a large-scale survey will in terms of what to change.

Written by Imogen Pudduck & Carla Cringle, FizzPopBANG!

Imogen & Carla are brand employee engagement specialists who run consultancy FizzPopBANG.They advise companies across all industries who are passionate about developing their brand and passionate about their people and who want to join them together to maximise business performance.

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