How to Get the Most Out of Your Employee Engagement Survey

If you’re savvy about today’s artificial intelligence capability, you may be wondering if employee engagement surveys still play a role in managing your people. Why go through the process of actually asking questions, when predictive analytics solutions promise to sort out who will quit and who is engaged? While we are seeing some terrific HR innovations, they are definitely not a substitute for person-to-person dialog. There are compelling, research-supported reasons for surveying your employees, and new software platforms should facilitate that dialog, rather than substitute for it. Let’s take a look at why your employee engagement strategy depends on an open survey-based conversation, and the actions you can take to successfully execute that strategy.

The Power of Asking Questions

Before I discuss the components of a great employee engagement survey, I want to mention a key piece of interesting behavioral research. Over the years, scientists have identified a “Question Behavior Effect,” which shows that people change their behavior in response to being asked questions. The act of being questioned about their future intentions causes people to subsequently engage in more positive behaviors. This is an important psychological response to keep in mind when thinking about the value of employee engagement surveys. Scott Judd, Facebook’s head of People Analytics, notes in Harvard Business Review that even though they could learn what they need simply by surveying a sample of employees, they like to include all employees in their survey because the opportunity to provide input is so essential to morale and engagement.

Ask the Right Questions

Since your survey should be short and straightforward, you have to make every question count. Your questions should be active and simple, expertly matched to your organization’s engagement goals. “Companies should focus their employee engagement surveys on specific drivers of performance,” says Iliyana Hadjistoyanova, Senior Research Principal at Gartner. She gives a list of nine specific questions, but each company will have its own priorities. Facebook’s Scott Judd writes that “Simply asking our people how long they intend to stay is more than twice as accurate at foretelling their future turnover than machine-learning forecasts by an industry leader in predictive analytics.” He even notes that it’s informative when employees don’t answer a survey, because those who don’t answer this question are “2.6 times more likely to leave in the next six months.”

Offer Employee Engagement Surveys Frequently

Productivity rises when employees have a chance to give feedback. This is really just common sense, when you think about it: If you’re asked to complete any task, you’ll do better if you have some input into how it should be accomplished. Salesforce research found that among workers who feel their voice is heard, 73 percent say that they are empowered to perform their best work. Despite this simple solution for building productivity, only 11 percent of employers survey their workers more often than once a year.

Keep an Open Channel

There’s a reason for the 11 percent figure I mentioned above: If your organization consists of more than a handful of people, you simply don’t have time to personally go to every employee, every day, to check in and see how they’re doing. They’re busy, you’re busy, tasks move at a swift pace. And yet, building a culture of trust requires that you welcome and invite employee feedback, any time. The solution to this conundrum is an always-on, intelligent channel between you and your staff, with a smart assistant to facilitate daily check-ins. Achievers’ chatbot Allie provides instant responsiveness to employee concerns, and maintains a friendly real-time conversation throughout your organization. Workers feel listened to, while you’ll be alerted when a response to your employee engagement survey requires attention.

Use Analytics

Once you initiate the opportunity for real-time feedback and frequent pulse surveys, you have to be able to extract meaning from the flood of raw information you’ll receive. You’ll need digital help in sorting out employee responses, so that you can establish benchmarks, visualize trends, and plan appropriate actions. Fortunately, the same employee feedback tool that maintains the listening connection will also guide you to clear, immediate steps you can take in response to your employee engagement survey.

MOST IMPORTANT: Take Action on What You Learn

Employee engagement surveys are only useful when you take action on what you learn, because your workers’ experiences are fluid and dynamic. Elizabeth Moberg, research principal at Seattle’s Mercer Insight, writes, “Regardless of how well a survey is designed, it will have no impact on engagement if employees do not see the connections between the survey and resulting actions.” As AON Hewitt notes, “Asking for feedback from employees implies a commitment to change.” Quick, personal responses mean that you can have an impact on employee engagement every day.

“Eighty percent of senior leaders believe good employee engagement is a critical part of achieving business objectives,” according to Gartner research. Employee engagement is simply a term for how psychologically invested a person is in their organization. Behavioral science spells out the process of building engagement, and it’s a straightforward matter of following the guidelines listed above. For a detailed dive into setting up the most effective employee listening program (and measuring its effectiveness), download our 2018 Employee Engagement Survey.

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Profile image of author: Tiffany Durinski
Tiffany Durinski was a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Achievers.

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