Two Biggest Barriers to Employee Engagement Initiatives

Many organizations conduct employee engagement surveys.  Your organization is likely one of them.  However, a large number of organizations simply conduct the survey, pass the results along to HR and the Executive Team, and shelf the project for the next 364 days—until the time comes to repeat the process.  Unfortunately, few of these organizations experience the potential of this powerful process.  Few actually create change toward being a more effective (and profitable) organization because of what they find.

Over the last few months, a team of five students from Brigham Young University conducted an interesting research project for DecisionWise.  The team took on the task of understanding why some organizations are able to successfully turn employee feedback into change, while others are not.  They interviewed a number of organizations that conducted an employee engagement survey in the past 12 months in order to determine the success of their action-planning process.  Their research indicated that two barriers to employee engagement survey initiatives: creating buy-in and following-up.

Creating Buy-in

Based on the research, the areas of opportunity for creating buy-in fell into three organizational levels: senior management, managers, and employees.

  • Senior Management—Financial constraint is perhaps the most inhibiting factor for this population.  Executives from one firm reported that though they would have liked to be more thorough in their efforts to follow-up on change initiatives, being financially limited prevented them from achieving all of the firm’s goals.  These financial limitations thereby forced the organization to abandon some goals in favor of others—the firm decided that following-up on survey results would not be as profitable as other goals.
  • Managers—The biggest reported concern for managers is that they don’t understand the vision or importance of implementing changes based on the employee survey.  One firm reported that only 65 percent of managers completed action planning steps and achieved results.  Some of the excuses for poor action-planning included insufficient time and overscheduled employees, though these problems likely represent just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Employees—The major challenge preventing employees from buying into the survey process was a lack of vision.  Employees reported that the company did not provide them with “space (resources, time, impetus, etc.) where an action plan could be created,” effectively inhibiting them from catching the vision.

Following up

According to several firms, a lack of voice, along with a lack of training in the human resources department are primary barriers to following up.  These firms feel that following up effectively cannot take place if the HR department continues as-is. In many cases, human-resources personnel were not prepared to do what was needed to follow up effectively; their efforts weren’t as effective as they could have been because HR lacked necessary skills.

Based on these two issues, how effective is your organization at rolling out employee engagement survey results?  Are these the two biggest areas of challenge for your firm, or have you experienced other challenges?  Share your stories with us.

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