Guest Post: What Your Employee Engagement Survey Says about Your Leadership Team and Approach

image showing implementaiton of a planRecognize This! – How leaders respond to engagement survey results can say as much (or more) about company culture and employee engagement as the survey itself.

(Editor’s note: I rarely post guest blogs, but occasionally I receive information from readers that I know will be of value to others. Dr. Hubley kindly sent along the thoughts and information below in response to my post on Google’s 100 year employee engagement survey. As an I/O Psychologist, Dr. Hubley brings an important perspective on survey analysis and results implementation. – Derek)

After reading the 100 year engagement survey story, I’m thrilled that any CEO has that foresight and sees the ROI. Below I offer below additional thoughts about questions or points made in the article in the hope that I am helpful to you.

The reason companies wait for survey results before making changes are either or both of the following:

  1. The leaders don’t believe there are real problems. Sometimes even an overwhelming number of responses do not sway them. I once saw a CEO angrily deny a problem that every direct report stated on the survey. They are numbers people. They need data.
  2. Everyone needs priorities. Analyzing the data shows which problems are the biggest, most costly in terms of bottom line and cost of the solution, and which have long vs short term solutions. Using that information, leaders can prioritize actions and weigh the ROI for each.

The best HR people work with leaders to create action plans that:

  • Balance short and long term actions, thus eliminating the employee experience of “nothing gets done” following the survey.
  • Include solutions as quickly and cost effectively as possible on issues that have the greatest negative impact on the bottom line.
  • Pinpoint the pain. Often an issue is seated in a particular function or under only certain managers and it can be solved more quickly when that is known. I once saw what looked like a company-wide problem turn out to be a big problem for only one level of employees when the data was closely analyzed. That company would have wasted enormous time and energy on addressing the problem across the organization, but by zeroing in on the issue, the solution was faster, easier, and more effective.
  • Make sure problems are heard not only from squeaky wheels. Many times the biggest or most costly issues smolder because employees fear for their jobs. Those problems would never be heard without a survey.

I’m not saying that the survey data is the answer 100% of the time, but I’ve seen far more happen more quickly with it than without it.

Lastly, if a company is waiting more than a week following the close of the survey for high level results they need a new vendor or internal person managing the survey. I’ve gotten high level results within 48 hours of survey close. If they are waiting more than two weeks to convey at least high level results and a very basic plan of three actions, one of which can be done very quickly, that is more evidence that something is not functioning well. The data probably backs up this conclusion with information like: leaders inability to make decisions, heavy bureaucracy, poor communications, etc.

What does your engagement survey (and actions taken from it) say about your leaders and organizational structure?

Jill Hubley, Ph.D., has over 15 years of global experience as an Industrial Organizational Psychologist working in Fortune 500, mid-size, and non-profit organizations in High Tech, Telecommunications, and Financial Services. She has deep expertise in Organizational Development including Talent Management, Engagement, Executive Coaching and Leadership Development. She earned a Ph.D. in Industrial Organizational Psychology from the City University of New York. She can be contacted via LinkedIn. 


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