Employee surveys come in many shapes and sizes. While the feedback received in each may differ, there are some universal steps that apply across almost all employee surveys.
When employees provide feedback, they are seeking to be HEARD and UNDERSTOOD. Spend time reviewing and analyzing feedback data. Look for areas of strength and areas of opportunity. Look for populations with lower scores related to their employee experience.
Key Communication to Employees: “We hear you. Thank you for helping us understand and improve your employee experience.”
After receiving and understanding employee feedback, it is important to respond with meaningful action. Select one or two areas of opportunity for focused action. Build action plans that include steps that are FEASIBLE to complete, and MEANINGFUL to the employees.
Key Communication to Employees: “Based on your feedback, these are the steps we are taking to improve your employee experience.”
Each employee survey provides opportunities to build EXCITEMENT and expand OWNERSHIP of the employee experience (EX). Often we see ownership progress as follows:
HR is the sole owner of the employee experience
Senior leaders buy-in and actively build the EX
Managers begin to own their role in shaping the EX
All employees understand and contribute to the EX
Key Communication to Employees: “Each of us plays a role in shaping and improving our shared employee experience.”
We hope this infographic has been helpful in planning out what steps to follow after collecting an employee survey.
At the center of our efforts to build employee engagement and retain employees is the question of professional growth. Unfortunately, many organizations struggle with this part of the employee experience. Why is that?
Most organizations certainly value and benefit from their employees’ growth and professional development. Of course, employees also value and benefit from various growth experiences. Given that this is such a mutually beneficial activity, you might think organizations would be going out of their way to provide ample opportunities for growth and development, and that employees would have their pick of attractive opportunities. And yet our efforts still often fall short.
At DecisionWise, we find professional growth to be a key driver of employee engagement. To understand why, let’s reframe this discussion by referring to two basic questions:
What is Professional Growth?
Who owns Professional Growth?
Answering these two questions for your organization will provide clarity on how to improve this critical part of the employee experience.
What is Professional Growth?
Most people are comfortable with “professional growth” as a general concept. Rather than define it generally, however, I suggest we reframe the question into two separate questions.
What is professional growth to the organization?
What is professional growth to the employee?
Splitting the question is necessary because how an organization defines professional growth may be completely different than how an employee defines it. I learned this important lesson from my own career.
Early on as a manager, I paid close attention to the growth and development of my team. I tried to challenge them, and I monitored their progress. My goal was to help them to grow, so they could meet the challenges of their demanding jobs. Then, one day, my perspective on professional growth changed during a one-on-one I had with an employee. She told me that since she had been in her position, she felt challenged every day. She felt that she was experiencing a tremendous amount of growth, but she added, “I am growing in ways I don’t want to grow.” In other words, the growth that I needed from her to make my team and the organization better did not align with the direction she wanted to grow. She left the organization for a different opportunity a couple of months later.
Clearly not all professional growth carries equal value in employees’ minds. Organizations need employees to grow to better fulfill their current roles and responsibilities and to prepare them for future roles and responsibilities. Whether an employee finds this type of growth attractive is predicated on whether they find the growth to be an opportunityor an obligation. Thus, whether growth results in engagement depends upon how an employee perceives the growth challenge.
Look Through the Employee Lens
Accordingly, the first step is to look at each individual growth experience through the lens of the employee who is experiencing it. Will the employee look at the experience as attractive or unattractive? Will the experience help them improve in their current role or prepare them for some future role? If they can see no application for the challenge and painful stretching now or in the future, it will be viewed in a negative light.
Paint a Compelling and Connected Picture
Many professional growth plans fall short because they do not paint a compelling picture for the employee’s future. Often, development plans are a series of disjointed and unrelated goals for improvement. They do not connect to organizational initiatives and they do not build toward a realistic future vision of what the employee wants to become. When employees have a vision of what they can grow into, it becomes easier for them to mentally endure the day-to-day grind. It becomes easier for them to see how the challenge and stretching they are presently experiencing will make them better now and in the future. The challenges they are going through on a day-to-day basis may very clearly be making them better now and preparing them in the future, but if they do not make that connection, the challenges will just feel like stress.
Defining professional growth is difficult, because the definition will be different for every employee in the organization. This means that individual employees play a critical role in determining how happy they are with their own growth, which leads us to the next basic question.
Be Clear on Who owns Professional Growth
Part of understanding professional growth is to define who is responsible for it. Is it owned by the organization? Is it owned by each individual employee? Is it owned by managers? If I asked most executive teams who owns professional growth, they would tell me that employees are responsible for their own growth. If I asked employees in most organizations, they would tell me that their professional growth is owned by the organization. Neither party takes ownership of professional growth, and many employees end up leaving the organization to find it. Obviously, the organization cannot completely own the professional growth of its employees, and employees are powerless to own their own growth without resources and opportunity. Managers are also reliant upon resources to be available and upon employees to take initiative.
The employee, the manager, and the organization all have roles to play in bolstering professional growth. Defining the role of each party can clarify where disconnects might be happening. For example, employees might be responsible for understanding and clarifying their long-term direction. They may also work to identify opportunities to pursue, goals to achieve, and the mentors to help them move toward their long-term direction. The role of the manager might be to facilitate regular discussions with employees about their long-term goals and how they are making progress toward them through daily challenges and stretch opportunities. The role of the organization might be to supply the resources and opportunities for managers and employees to leverage in building professional development plans.
Conclusion and Recommendations
By defining professional growth from the employee’s and organization’s perspective and by defining who owns professional growth in your organization, you can begin to develop a plan for how to improve it.
Consider taking the following six actions to help improve perceptions around growth in your organization:
Clearly define the roles of the organization, the employee, and the manager in the professional growth of employees.
Provide organizational resources to allow for people to own their individual growth (i.e., training budgets, mentors, professional development plans).
Ensure managers have a clear understanding of the short and long-term career and growth objectives of their direct reports.
Build professional development plans with the long-term vision of the employee in mind.
Help employees see how the challenges and stretching they are experiencing now will help them in their future careers.
Empower employees to seek tasks and assignments that fit their long-term growth objectives.
In most organizations, employee growth happens organically. Naturally, some employees are happy with the growth they are experiencing. Many others will struggle to find meaningful growth. Being intentional about understanding what professional growth means in your organization and who owns it can be the beginning of building a culture of growth that will benefit many more employees. When employees feel good about the opportunities in front of them, they are more likely to stay and engage in their organizations.
Presenters: Matthew Wride, President, DecisionWise; Dr. Tracy Maylett, CEO, DecisionWise
Cost: Complimentary, with free registration
From this webinar, you will learn key employee experience concepts to consider when bringing your workforce back to the office. In addition, you will learn how to use employee feedback to give front-line managers the data insights they need to manage a successful transition.
Most leaders intuitively understand the importance of building strong employee relations, whether that is to help retain current talent or to create an employee value proposition that attracts others to join your organization. But what exactly do we mean by the term “employee relations”? Does our definition and strategies change depending upon the context we are analyzing?
Defining Employee Relations
In one sense, the concept of employee relations describes the general attitudes employees have towards their employer. In this context, we are talking about employee perceptions, attitudes and beliefs surrounding basic concepts such as general working conditions, employee benefits, worker pay, or their organization’s social impact. Indeed, employee relations is a key component of a recent movement known as ESG investing (environmental, social, corporate governance). This entails focusing on making investments in organizations that behave ethically towards their employees, society at large, and the environment.
At a granular level, we can think of employee relations as the discrete relationships an individual employee has with their employer at various touchpoints. For example, how strong is the relationship an employee has with their supervisor, or how does an employee feel when interacting with HR? The employee experience is, therefore, the sum of these various, distinct relationships. Thus, employee relations can be both individual and collective.
Finally, the term employee relations sometimes has a different connotation when used in the context of worker movements. An example of this might be the desire on the part of employees to organize and collectively bargain. In this setting, employee relations pertains to the balance of power between an organization’s management and its workers. Additionally, employee relations describes the efforts between unions/associations and employers to maintain strong working relationships while respecting each other’s inherent differences of opinions, purposes, and perspectives.
Employee Experience: Listening Strategies
The leaders that will succeed in the next decade are those who will commit to understanding their employee relations and then take action to improve conditions when possible. Employee relations, however, is a multi-faceted concept. Understanding the complexity requires more than an employee survey administered by HR every 18 months (although this is vital, too). Comprehensive EX listening programs use a variety of strategies to understand perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs both longitudinally throughout the year as well as hierarchically throughout the organization.
We recommend the following 7 strategies. These strategies can collectively be designed into an EX listening program to help leaders navigate their employee relations.
1. Use a formal, continuous 360 degree feedback program
A formal, continuous 360-degree feedback program will help managers understand the experience their direct reports and other coworkers are having with that manager. Continuous 360-degree programs are different than an occasional 360-degree assessment used for development purposes. In this setting, 360-degree assessments are regularly administered (somewhere between 12 – 24 months) and managed by the organization’s’ talent development team to ensure leaders have the feedback they need. These programs have the added benefit of producing aggregated data analytics to show larger trends where the organization (or pockets within the organization) are succeeding or struggling.
Managers can receive feedback on how they are doing across various themes, metrics, and categories from quarterly, predefined pulse check-ins. These check-ins are updated quarterly but are short in nature, so they do not impose a burden on employees.
3. Look for ways to integrate performance data
Employee relations is a 50/50 proposition. Yes, we need to understand how employees feel about their experience, but leaders need to know how well employees are doing in moving the organization forward. They need to know which employees are contributing and those that need to improve their performance.
4. Use a mix of confidential and nonconfidential research as part of your EX program
An annual survey is vital because results are aggregated and confidential. This allows employees to voice their concerns without fear of reprisal. Yet, in other ways, we need to know how a specific individual feels. Consider adopting open-text questions sent directly to individuals based on a sampling algorithm. A simple question could be, “Please describe the experience you are having right now at [organization’s name].” These answers can then be processed through robust text analytics models to help uncover themes or concerns.
5. Treat your employees as internal customers
Use customer experience (CX) style check-ins to understand how employees feel about their interactions with HR, IT, etc. A listening program can be structured to trigger feedback requests when a service event takes place. For example, if an employee interacts with the organization’s benefits portal, a pop-up can be inserted that requests feedback, such as “Tell us how we are doing,” followed by a feedback scale.
6. Mine your data exhaust
Data exhaust refers to the vast amount of data that exists in current information systems that can be exported and analyzed for trends, etc. For example, Zoom can tell you how much time your teams are spending on video calls, both internally and externally. For organizations with even more sophisticated data analytics operations, mining data exhaust can be an excellent way to understand the experience employees are having. For example, consider conducting a study on whether calendared meetings (data extracted from IT systems) are too long, too burdensome, or just right.
7. Talk with a DecisionWise Consultant
For those that work with unions or have employees considering their options in this regard, talk with a DecisionWise consultant on how to use EX insights to help manage union relationships. We have successfully helped many clients, in conjunction with labor counsel, to understand and navigate the murky waters that exist when dealing with unions. A strong EX listening program is vital in knowing best how to work with unions and worker movements.
As Peter Drucker once observed, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” The key to improving employee relations is taking the time to understand the experience your employees are having. This means more than an occasional survey administered by HR. It is about implementing an always-on EX listening program that consistently provides leaders with insights that matter.
In this episode, Matthew Wride and Christian Nielson discuss the unique culture that current CEO, Mary Barra, brings to General Motors by empowering her employees with trust and autonomy.
Mary is noted for her ability to enhance the employee experience by helping her employees to connect with her vision; that as employees of General Motors they are working for something larger than themselves. These meaningful experiences have led to higher engagement and better outcomes for the organization.
“Do every job you’re in like you’re going to do it for the rest of your life and demonstrate that ownership of it.” – Mary Barra