Prior to joining DecisionWise, I worked as an HR business partner and a senior HR generalist.  In both of these roles, I spent a lot of time administering employee engagement surveys and interfacing with company leadership to prove survey validity and efficacy. Any HR practitioner knows that getting buy-in from executives for an engagement program can be challenging. To do so, we need to adhere to a set of engagement process standards.  Over the years, I created a list of employee engagement survey best practices that made the survey process valuable to both company leadership and the participating employees:

  1. Encourage employees to participate—A survey isn’t effective unless it has high participation rates – perhaps I’m stating the obvious, but I’ll take a moment to elaborate.  Without high participation, company leadership will perceive the investment as a sunk cost because we can’t truly know what the employees are thinking and feeling.  Some of the best ways to encourage participation are also the easiest: start a competition, provide small incentives/prizes, and talk about the survey’s confidentiality (more on that later).
  2. Focus on what you really want to measure—When working with clients, we make a point to discuss the difference between engagement and other feelings like happiness, satisfaction, and motivation.  Engagement surveys should include engagement questions.  Don’t clutter the survey with questions about benefits or other items that cannot be changed.  Use a small number of anchor questions to measure overall engagement, then use the other questions to determine what is driving engagement in your organization.
  3. Ensure and maintain confidentiality—If employees feel like they will be personally identified by their responses, you can bet they’re not going to give you candid (i.e., valuable) feedback. Promoting confidentiality will help employees speak up without fear of retribution, and will yield a significant ROI on the survey process.
  4. Report results back to employees—Since employees already made an investment of their time and energy by thoughtfully participating in the survey, they would of course be eager to see the overall survey results.  Transparency throughout the survey process (1) reinforces the principle of confidentiality, (2) shows the employees their opinions are valued, and (3) demonstrates that the organization intends to act on the results.
  5. Choose a few key items to improve, then act—Few things are more frustrating than taking the time to provide honest, candid feedback, without ever seeing any changes made.  Unless the organization turns employee feedback into results, employees will become bitter and distrustful about the survey, which will ruin any survey opportunity in the future.  As we work with clients, we help them focus on quick-wins: smaller issues highlighted in the survey results that can easily and immediately be fixed.  By focusing first on just a few quick wins, the organization shows employees that it is going to act on the survey results, which augments employee confidence in the survey process and the goals of company leadership.

Next time you start an employee engagement survey in your organization, follow these steps.  If you do, you’ll successfully lay the foundation for a culture of feedback in your organization.  Having a culture of feedback is one of the key elements that helped our friends at CHG Healthcare be ranked No. 3 on the 2013 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list.  Wouldn’t it be nice to see your company among those ranks?

Everything you need to know about Employee Engagement

For a comprehensive guide on employee engagement, check out our “Employee Engagement Explained” page.