Employee engagement surveys remain an invaluable source of insight and information for businesses. But it’s important we remember that they are just that: the source, the start, the catalyst for change. Improving employee engagement hinges entirely on taking effective action based on what your employees are telling you. It seems glaringly obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often this is overlooked as companies become fixated on response rates and scores.
As you might expect, line managers have a huge impact on employee engagement and they are, arguably, the key stakeholder group when it comes to taking action. Theirs is an integral role, supporting their teams in understanding the survey data and selecting the right local survey actions. So how can you support and equip your managers so they can be effective as possible with post-survey action plans?
1. Understand (and communicate) the value of engagement
There’s no doubt that improving employee engagement can have a hugely beneficial impact on key business performance outputs. We’ve carried out in-depth analysis for a number of our clients, including Marks & Spencer and ITV, as summarised in this infographic, helping them to quantify just what kind of an impact engagement has on things like customer satisfaction, employee retention, performance and absence rates.
So, if you’re to empower line managers to drive survey actions and buy in at a local level, it is vital you first make them understand the value of engagement themselves. They’ll then better able to translate this into the tangible impact and value that this can have on the business and their team.
2. Explore and understand data at a local level
You’ll need to give your managers access to the local level data. This is vital in shifting the ownership of action-plans to the front line. But you have to make this process easy and intuitive for managers and consider the format of how you present survey data to them as some will be more comfortable with data and interpretation than others.
We suggest using manager insight reports that make it easy for managers to interpret and act on their local survey data. Such a report helps managers interpret their team’s survey data and identify areas for action. Typically this might include:
- Response rates for the manager’s direct team
- Engagement index scores
- Survey section scores
- Priority questions for action, based on an assessment of several key criteria
- Questions most above/below the benchmark
- Questions most improved/declined since the last survey
- A comparison to the company overall, or other business area
- An action-planning template.
What you can also do is guide managers on what questions to look at. Our natural inclination is to hone in on the lowest-scoring questions but it’s unlikely these will have the biggest impact on engagement. So, to ensure that managers can action plan strategically, we help managers by pulling out priority questions/areas for them (based on our analysis including looking at historic scores and an external benchmark).
3. Be aware of the overall business data and focus areas
Don’t allow managers to become too narrow in their thinking; it’s important they’re aware of any overall business-level focus areas, to inform local level action planning.
One large leisure organisation we partner with communicates executive level action areas throughout the business. At a local level, managers are then encouraged to action plan based on the local priority questions in their area, but they are also asked to align these to the executive actions, where possible.
By encouraging greater alignment of action plans, you can ensure that people are working towards shared business goals. This may help you to enact larger change and have a more significant impact on improving perceptions of the biggest drivers of engagement for your business.
4. Take an inclusive, team-led approach
Managers should be encouraged to involve their teams in the action planning process as much as possible. Where individuals are involved in determining which actions are achievable and identifying the steps they want to take, they are likely to be far more ‘bought in’ and committed to carrying these out.
One retailer we work with does this well, encouraging managers to facilitate team discussions, enabling their teams to work through the data and collaboratively agree the actions they want to take. Once the team actions have been agreed by everyone, a poster is created which is then signed by each team member as a show of their commitment to the agreed actions and displayed prominently in a shared area.
5. Make use of internal resources
One of the common challenges that managers and teams face once they have identified their key focus areas, is deciding what actions to take.
You could choose to create an ‘action toolkit’ which details how action can be taken against any question in your survey. The toolkit is a valuable resource for managers, designed to provide them with a library of useful resources and information to help them understand how they can drive local actions and improve engagement in their area of the business.
By mapping out content such as useful tips, existing internal training and other resources against each survey question, managers and their teams can really hit the ground running.
6. Record and track agreed actions
Once focus areas and actions are identified, it is important for managers and their teams to track actions and measure their on-going progress against these. Your managers can achieve this through the use of action planning templates (issued by the business) or even using a dedicated action planning tool or portal.
This step can be invaluable in creating transparency of action plans and encouraging shared ownership among the team.
7. Keep up momentum
Once action areas have been decided, to support momentum and progress against action plans going forward, encourage managers to:
- Agree ownership of actions and make different team members accountable
- Make actions visible to the whole team
- Monitor progress and identify milestones
- Celebrate and communicate successes as a team!
And finally… Best practice tips for action planning
Below we’ve included a simple model of key principles and stages of action planning. You could provide this to your managers as a framework to refer to.