What I learned is that frequent employee feedback can be hard to manage and react to. Just as I felt we had addressed one question and the issues that were raised, another question was published and there were new issues to deal with.
How did I make sense of the sometimes ambiguous comments and suggestions? Was a complaint just a one-off, or did it represent the feelings of the whole group? How do you respond to callouts that are valid but might be structurally hard to address?
Here are some dos and don’ts that guided me when I first started using pulse surveys:
To maximize the feedback we were getting, I went back to my past dealings with annual engagement surveys and what made those surveys productive. Here are the six steps that you can put in place to maximize your employee feedback surveys:
While the overall score is important, the meat of information is in the comments. Look for issues that come up more than once or are repeated from recent surveys. Try and tie together similar ideas where people are saying the same thing, but using different words. (There are plenty of different words that describe “undervalued"!)
Don’t just look for negatives to fix; find positives to maximize. A peer-to-peer recognition feature like Cheers for Peers is a great place to start, but there are plenty of other ways to use the survey results to celebrate the cultural strengths of your organization. Use the word cloud to highlight positive words people use to describe the company, or publicize examples of Cheers that tie back to your company values, mission, or vision. Use all-hands meetings to call out exceptional examples of positive behavior.
Ask questions to clarify confusing or misleading answers. Pulse-type questions can be very general, so you may need to get clarity from your employees on why they responded the way they did. A private messaging feature is great for asking clarity or details on a response.
The joy of these kinds of surveys is that you get quick, relevant, timely feedback on what is on employees’ minds. That puts some pressure on you to respond quickly as well. While some of the concerns employees will call out are hard-to-change structural issues, there are also plenty of low-hanging fruit for you to fix as well.
For issues that are going to take time to address, it is critical that you let the employees know that management is working on resolving them. The worst thing possible is that the employees think you don’t care and are not going to address their concerns.
Again, the joy of these surveys is that they happen often, but that also puts responsibility on management to keep up with the surveys. Publish the surveys just after they close, and write up a brief recap for those that don’t have time to dive into the results.
As with any survey, the worst thing you can do is ask for feedback then never tell the employees what you changed or fixed in response to their concerns. You miss a huge opportunity to increase engagement by not letting your employees know the changes you made.
That does not mean you have to fix everything the employees call out. Sometimes there is a good reason why things are done a certain way. The key is still communicating back to the team why you chose not to make changes. They will respect that just as much.
In sharing the results of your survey, be as open as possible. If your employees feel that you are not sharing all the information or are trying to talk them into something they don’t feel is true, you will lose credibility and buy in, which leads directly to a loss of trust. Your employees need to feel that you are genuinely committed to improving the culture and the work environment. If they sense that you are just giving lip service to making necessary changes, it is almost worse than not asking them their opinion at all!
Improving employee engagement is something that needs constant care and feeding. If you follow these steps, you can effectively use pulse surveys to address things that need to be celebrated, things that need to be changed, and things that need to be fixed. You will be well on your way to improving the culture and retaining your best talent.