Employee feedback: What kind of organisation is yours?

Employee survey tools

Employee feedback: What kind of organisation is yours?

Gathering employee feedback has never been easier. And yet, despite employee engagement surveys or pulse checks being commonplace, it’s hugely frustrating many aren’t having the desired impact. So, why is that?

As a subject very close to our heart, this is something we’ve explored over a long period of time. What we’ve found is some familiar failings and four distinct ‘types’ of organisations, as characterised by their approach to employee engagement and gathering feedback.

Which type of organisation is yours?

We think organisations typically fit into one of four boxes when it comes to employee feedback surveys:

1. Measure lots but don’t take (enough) action. These organisations love to set a target or KPI, which is great. However, the problem may come from placing too much emphasis on measuring at the expense of taking any (or enough) action afterwards, to address areas of challenge and make priority improvements.

2. Don’t measure enough or take action. Inertia is a big problem for these organisations; they are not doing enough of anything and the result is that nothing changes (or things left unchecked get worse).

3. Take action without robust measurement. This group is eager to affect change, and to do so as quickly as possible. However, often they do so too fast and without either proper consideration or the evidence to back up their action, meaning they go at the wrong things.

4. Measure often and committed to action. These ‘top performers’ have their ducks in a row. They know that, to affect change, they need to measure at the right frequency before analysing data and taking action on the priority areas.

employee survey action-grid

How can you do it better?

You might be thinking that much of this is pretty basic stuff… and you’d be right. But you’d be surprised at how many organisations aren’t doing this, or at least aren’t doing it consistently well enough and, as a result, sit in boxes one-to three of the grid above.

In our experience of listening to organisations, and observing at close quarters ourselves, there are a three closely related areas you can look at, to ensure you really get the most out of your employee feedback programmes…

A) Make sure you are asking the right questions

There are no right answers to the wrong questions! Moreover, a generic or fixed set of questions will provide limited value – for your business and your people. Context truly is key. In order for your survey to yield insights that will really influence your business fortunes, it is imperative that the questions are aligned – with your direction (strategy, vision etc), your culture/values and with your enablers (processes, tools, environment etc).

We always suggest that this context is accounted for and ‘baked in’ to the questionnaire design by first sitting down with your key stakeholders – with the CEO, with HR teams and with people managers.

B) Find the key signal in your data

With many organisations surveying more frequently, organisations are awash with data and information. But what they really need is knowledge and, with surveys, this comes from proper interpretation and analysis. Organisations must understand the story behind their data. And, as surveys can yield tonnes of data, your focus should be on finding the ‘signal’ – the insight or insights that holds the key to delivering your business strategy or improving the people experience. That’s not to say that other insights and feedback aren’t useful, but rather that a laser focus is needed in order to affect the greatest change where it is most needed.

There isn’t a single right way to approach this. But, despite the sophistication of today’s survey tools and all their AI and algorithms, this task is one that benefits from human brain power! They can bring a holistic view that’s grounded in a thorough understanding of your unique context and take account of nuances when making the final analysis and recommendations.

C) Support managers to act

This issue is certainly nothing new. But, time again, surveys fall down because managers aren’t given the time, training or tools to take local action within their teams. We know this group are already stretched and this is where surveying too often can exacerbate the problem! So, what is the answer?

The survey process and any tools used can help, of course – manager dashboards mean this group are now far better equipped. But the smart tech could be both a blessing and a curse and there is a danger of asking too much of them, without providing enough guidance… It is easy for managers to be drawn in by the lowest scores and disappear down (the wrong) rabbit holes.

Could HR or other internal comms experts provide more support and training, to ensure that managers can confidently identify the key issues for them to address locally? Not forgetting the need to allow realistic timeframes for managers to playback survey results and collaborate on any actions to be taken.

My last word (on surveys)

There are no silver bullets, I’m afraid! But, if we are to move more organisations into that top ‘box 4’, nailing the basics outlined in this article will be fundamental. And in doing so, you will lay the foundations for an employee listening programme that can drive real and lasting change in your business.

This article was published originally on LinkedIn, here.

Sarah Deadman

Sarah is a hugely experienced consultant and executive coach, who heads up our business psychology team. She specialises in leadership development, talent selection and assessment. Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn