Employee Survey Feedback: 5 Ways to Turn Data Into Decisions

woman pointing at graph
by
Laurah Mwirichia

Conducting an employee survey is an important way of keeping tabs on the pulse of your team. It can reveal employee morale and engagement levels in a way conversations may not, while giving you great insight into what’s going well (or not so well) in your organization.

But an employee survey is bit like an iceberg: Most of the heavy lifting lies below the surface. Gathering survey data is the easy part, while putting it into action remains an intimidating task for the unprepared.

However, like most big jobs, it takes tackling it in small, digestible pieces to do the trick. This approach will allow you to apply the results in a considerate and impactful way that can increase morale and boost engagement.

Analyze Employee Feedback

Do: Reflect on the answers

Look at employee surveys as a chance for both staff and management to grow together. Be sure to set aside time to really analyze your answers because you’ll probably have a lot of information to sift through.

Take steps towards breaking the data into forms that are easy to analyze and reflect on. Don’t be afraid to take a step back from your work and take a break when needed. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the “analysis paralysis” trap, too overwhelmed by data to move forward.

Don’t: Skew the results

Breezing through the information will result in you missing some very important points, so you’ll want to avoid that. The time invested in going through your employee engagement survey carefully is worth it.

You’ll also want to do your best to avoid the confirmation bias pitfall. Embracing only the things that confirm your point of view, while dismissing the things that challenge your conceptions of what you already think shows a lack of consideration for your team’s point of view. Even worse, skewing results to match your perception because you’re embarrassed or scared of what you found is dishonest and misleading. Be open-minded and accept what people are saying, or they will perceive it as you not valuing their opinion.

Pick a Presentation Format That Suits Your Team

Do: Gather your team

Once you’ve reflected on the information you have, it’s time to present the conclusions to your team. One good way to do this is in a ‘town hall meeting’ or large group format. This way, everyone gets the exact same message from the same source, limiting the risk of speculation and gossip.

Another great option for presenting feedback is small group format, or Employee Focus Group (EFG). Placing colleagues in smaller groups allows for deeper conversation, and people are more likely to speak up and state their opinions in this more personal setting.

Note: If people don’t feel comfortable voicing their questions in front of a group, you can have them put their questions in a notecard that can be answered anonymously

Don’t: Squeeze it into your weekly meeting

While taking the time off to gather as a group might be hard to schedule, it’s important that you avoid using the time that you would usually use for a regular staff or weekly meeting. This strategy implies that the topic isn’t important enough to warrant its own separate discussion. Employee feedback is a sensitive topic and needs to be handled without all the pressing distractions of your regular day-to-day workflows.

Narrow it Down

Do: Find key areas to improve upon

Once you’ve had a chance look through the feedback and responses, it’s time to share results and do some action planning. There will likely be some areas that stood out as the most important things to focus on. Narrow it down to those key things that people are excited about and are willing to unite around. Employee involvement is key. Forcing goals on people will make them less engaged and less likely to buy into the goal. People want a voice in deciding their work environment.

Don’t: Say yes to every suggestion

While it’s important that everyone feels heard, it doesn’t mean that you have to say ‘yes’ to every single suggestion that is brought up. There is a fine line between being open-minded and being a pushover. When everything becomes important, then nothing is important, and you’ll get stuck with too much to do. Narrow down what you want to work on, and remember that it’s better to do a few things really well, than a lot of things very badly.

Assign Tasks

Do: Take action

After wrapping up and selecting areas that need improvement, it’s important to keep the momentum going by coming up with an action plan. Breaking up the tasks into smaller, bite-sized-pieces that are manageable, agile, and yield ‘quick wins’ will help keep motivation strong and progress consistent.

Assigning specific tasks to specific people, teams, or even a volunteer ‘task force’ is a great way to hold your everyone accountable. Giving people part of the project to own is key to successfully implementing the decided-on changes while empowering your team.

Don’t: Try to do everything all at once

Biting off more than you can chew is a surefire way to delay success. All of a sudden you can find yourself weeks or months into an initiative with nothing to show for your efforts. While it’s nice to be careful, taking months to design and implement a strategy with nothing to show in the meantime doesn’t work to motivate people or drive change. Instead, it will quickly drain the momentum gained from an employee survey causing a drop in morale and engagement.

Check in with your team

Do: Keep people informed

Have a plan to check in with your team periodically, from weekly to quarterly. When rolling out new plans, or running into unseen setbacks, it helps to have people who are on board and ready to solve the problem with you. Having your team know the plan helps you adjust along the way as needed, keeping surprises at bay and making sure you don’t feel too overwhelmed.

Don’t: Stop at the survey

Disengagement and low morale often stem from lack of communication. Even when the team seems to have it handled, don’t fall into the trap of backing off and hoping for the best. If you and your team are working on projects to implement proposed changes from the employee opinion survey, it’s important that you keep communicating with them. Circling back every now and again is not enough, and will lead to miscommunication and half-finished projects.

Lastly, as managers, it’s important to be transparent. If something needs to be on the back-burner for a bit, let your team know why and for how long. When people don’t know what’s happening or they’re not seeing changes, they start to wonder, “what happened with that survey I took a while ago?” and think nothing is being done. Checking in helps everyone stay on top of what’s happening so that employee feedback can turn into positive action.

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With these five steps, you can help your team go from raw data to meaningful change with minimal stress. Remaining objective and being humble enough to handle feedback, even if it isn’t what you were expecting is hard. But being open lets you pinpoint areas for improvement and develop an action plan with the leadership team, managers, and employees. An employee engagement survey can be a great way to get deep insights that foster a growth mindset, and leads to a better work environment and happier employees.

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