Don’t Just Do a Survey, Commit to an Action Plan


As green shoots of growth poke their heads out from under the Great Recession, there are signs that hibernating employees are beginning to stir as well. To survive the downturn, organizations cut and slashed budgets, headcounts, plants and salaries. The victims of this slash and burn management approach has been the employees. Now that things are starting to look up, so are your employees.

A symptom of the downturn has been engagement -- or lack of it. According to the 2010 Corporate Executive Board's Employee Engagement Study, "21% of employees today identify themselves as highly disengaged, a three-fold increase since 2007." To make matters worse, it's your best employees that are thinking about leaving because "25% of employer-identified, high-potential employees plan to leave their current companies within the year."

Knowing this is the lay of the land, as an employer, you want to get your head around what employees are really feeling. So, like many of your competitors, you conduct a survey on engagement to find out the real answers. Once you've put employees through the paces of an assessment, you've actually only made matters worse because, based on past experience, they don't believe anything is going to be done with the results. Now you've got disgruntled employees that have been waiting for the chance to jump ship and by conducting a well-intentioned survey, you actually helped push them out the door faster.

According to the 2011 BlessingWhite Employee Engagement Report "engagement surveys without visible follow-up actions may actually decrease engagement levels, suggesting that organizations should think twice before flipping the switch on measurement without 100% commitment for action planning based on the results."

So, it isn't just conducting a survey that's the answer, it is what's going to be done with the results that matters. When you've conducted surveys in the past you probably heard gripes like "oh great, another survey that they won't use," or maybe, "why don't they stop surveying us and start helping us." 

Facilitated Work Groups
Before jumping directly into an action plan and dictating to employees what is going to be done with the survey data, it is important to establish work groups that include the employees that will be responsible for implementing whatever is decided. These work groups can be facilitated by trained management or by outside consultants familiar with conflict situations that may arise when discussing the results.

A facilitated feedback process will help the organization learn what the results mean. Employees that are doing their jobs will be able to provide better insight than just trying to interpret the data alone. Listening to this feedback and having employees be part of a work group will go a long way to creating a more effective action plan.

Action Planning
After the feedback process has taken place within a workgroup, a true action planning process doesn't stop there. It is designed to create a customized solution for each participant. An action plan should also contain concrete steps that need to be taken for improvement and ways to track them to make sure they have been completed.

After the action plan is done, a follow-up survey, we call ours the Work Effects Check-Up 360TM, is conducted that focuses on just those issues that were addressed in the action plan. The results of this second survey are now compared to the first one to see where progress has been made.

As the job market begins to loosen up and employees start looking around for new opportunities, organizations will need to understand how to keep their best and brightest engaged and it isn't going to be about giving them a raise. According to a 2009 Harvard Business School survey, "accomplishment" was #1 on the list of engagement factors, while "compensation" lagged far behind. So a pile of cash isn't the long-term answer.

A Towers Perrin study in 2008 found that organizations that concentrate on employee engagement find they "showed a 19% increase in operating income over a 12-month period compared to a 33% decrease in companies with disengaged employees." Even more significant is the findings of a Center for Creative Leadership World Leadership Survey in 2009, " -- 80% of employees with a high degree of trust in management are committed to the organization compared with 25% of employees with a low degree of trust." Basically, if you want engaged employees they have to trust you.

Through an action planning process, employees will feel that their voices are being heard; their organization cares about them, and is willing to invest in their success. Employees that are truly engaged will be more committed to the organization's vision, will trust management to do the things they say they will do, and will be more likely to pass on that new job offer or pile of shiny gold ducats that your competitor just dangled in front of them.

The article also appeared on Yahoo's Contributor Network. Visit link HERE.

About Work Effects
Work Effects offers over 20 years of research and practice in developing trust throughout an organization, its leadership and its workforce. Work Effects builds programs that are as unique as your organization. Modular solutions, centered on the  4-R Model of Transformational Leadership, includes talent and experience assessments, Revolution 360TM, Conflict LensTM dilemma based leadership training, individual and group coaching, and follow-up Check-Up 360TM assessments. Contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 612-333-4272 x22 for more information.

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