Gaining Actionable Insights From Your Employee Engagement Survey

Many HR teams dutifully conduct employee engagement surveys throughout the year and package the data points into fascinating charts and statistics to share with their internal teams. This data provides a realistic snapshot of how your organization is trending over time, and which areas need the most focus. However, is your HR team truly gathering the type of info needed to make informed decisions? The Society For Human Resource Management Foundation (SHRMF) compiled an executive brief on developing an employee engagement strategy, and research cited in the brief found, “Although organizations are often highly proficient in collecting data, many fail to interpret the information correctly and to create actionable recommendations for improving engagement.” Here are a few tips to make sure your HR team gathers the most valuable information from these surveys.

Plan Ahead Before Choosing Survey Questions

The key to gaining relevant insights from engagement surveys is to first identify the driving forces that influence employee engagement, then select survey questions that will help your HR team analyze trends and make recommendations. The brief indicated, “According to Gallup, employee engagement is based on four factors: (a) the clarity of expectations for employees, (b) a feeling of contribution to the organization, (c) a sense of belonging to something beyond the self, and (d) a feeling that they have opportunities to discuss career progress and grow.” By understanding which metrics influence employee engagement, your HR team will select questions that yield the type of information you need.

Keep The Questions On Target

While it’s tempting to use the employee engagement survey to gather info about everything under the sun, it’s best to keep the survey questions aimed at initiatives that align with your company’s goals and culture. This is considered a best practice for two reasons. First, your HR team’s resources are limited and it’s unlikely that they will be able to address every element of engagement. The survey results can validate your team’s decision between 2–3 alternatives, but if the data is spread too widely it won’t provide as much value. Second, simply asking the question can lead employees to believe the issue will be addressed. For example, it would be unwise to ask employees if they’re satisfied with the current vacation policy if management has no intention of adjusting it. It’s best to limit the survey questions to focus on the most applicable data.

Use A Combination Of Fixed And Open-Ended Questions

Another challenge of designing an employee engagement survey is determining the best mix of question formats. There are pros and cons of using open-ended questions in a survey. On one hand, your HR team gets a detailed response that provides insights only an insider would know. On the other hand, it’s more time-consuming to compile these responses, and there’s more legwork involved in identifying key themes and measuring the relative magnitude of challenges. It’s best to use a combination of fixed and open-ended questions in the survey. This provides a baseline of comparable data while also providing a detailed back story if your HR team needs to dive deeper into an issue.

Focus On Opportunities, Not Challenges

Finally, it’s best to design your employee engagement survey based around opportunities for improvement. This is not to say that your HR team should cherry pick questions to artificially inflate the survey results. Accurate data helps your HR team understand the true state of the organization, and this guides which initiatives would be most impactful. Building the survey questions in a positive way will gain more insight into potential solutions instead of becoming a dumping ground of complaints. Be sure to structure survey questions around realistic ways to make your employee’s job better, such as increasing the availability of training and development for their role.

Employee engagement continues to be a trending topic in the HR world because of the measurable benefits to both the employee and the firm. SHRMF’s brief found that “not only are engaged employees better performers.., high levels of engagement are related to important business outcomes, including customer satisfaction, employee productivity, company profit, and employee turnover.” By planning ahead, choosing the correct types of questions, and focusing on viable solutions, your HR team will design an employee engagement survey that provides the best data to make key decisions. If you’re not sure where to get started, The Society For Human Resource Management Foundation (SHRMF) collaborated with Survey Monkey to provide a survey template based on the research presented in this article.

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