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Jul 8, 201301:36 PMForward HR

with Diane Hamilton and Nilesh Patel

You’ve conducted an employee survey … now what?

(page 1 of 2)

It’s a common practice to collect feedback from employees to gauge how things are going. Whether it is an employee opinion survey, an assessment of employee engagement, or a focus group/interview study, many organizations periodically ask employees for their thoughts and/or input. The hard part isn’t asking the questions or collecting the data. It’s deciding what to do once you have the information.

Reviewing the data

When reviewing the responses of any assessment process, recognize that even in the best of situations, there is always a portion of the employee population that is disengaged or dissatisfied with one element of their employment or with their entire department or organization. This reflects both the variations expected in any group of individuals and the reality of the challenges of organizational life. We’ve all seen the research data — a large percentage of employees are disengaged and staying on the job!

Remember, a survey provides an opportunity for employees to vent. Assessment results will often be characterized by criticism — constructive or otherwise. Therefore, the overall ratings provide an important context for the rest of the data. If they are positive, this suggests a constructive tone to the data. If they are negative, then the organization may be facing more serious issues and/or employee relations difficulties.

Another fairly common finding is when a large percentage of results falls in the middle (neither positive nor negative). This suggests a large number of people who are “on the fence” with regard to some specific areas. What leadership chooses to do with the survey results is critical. A proactive response will have a positive impact. Using survey results and implementing positive change efforts will help shift the vote of those in the middle category to the high category.

Next steps

Survey feedback often suggests that employees think “management won’t do anything with the results.” To avoid this from happening, the senior leadership team should take the following steps after any assessment effort:

1. Review the survey results and analyze for key themes.

The senior leadership team should review the survey findings (individually and collectively) to identify key themes. When reviewing the data, think about why employees might be responding in that manner. Don’t assign blame, but rather look for information to learn from for benchmarking purposes. What did you do as an organization to accomplish those results? How could you continue to improve? Are there things you could replicate in other areas of the organization? Avoid rationalizing or defending responses, but ask “why” to better understand the findings.

2. Communicate results to managers.

Managers are the key to successful change and improvement efforts. They work directly with frontline supervisors and in some cases frontline staff (depending on organizational size). One should communicate with managers regularly and hold them accountable for improvement efforts. The senior leadership team should share information and then hold their respective managers accountable for the same process.

To accomplish that, overall and company-specific results should be shared with managers in a timely manner. Senior team members should meet with their respective managers to review the survey findings and set expectations about action plan development and implementation.

3. Communicate results to all employees.

Sharing results with employees is an important step in any employee survey process. Invite employees to ask questions about the data, raise issues or concerns, and share their thoughts and feelings regarding the survey process.

4. Prioritize issues; develop recommendations and response strategy.

Not only should the organization’s managers include an expectation regarding communication, the senior leadership team should also set clear expectations for the management team about reviewing the results, prioritizing the key issues, and developing a response strategy. The senior team should meet to discuss and prioritize company-wide issues and initiatives. They should meet individually with their respective management staff members to prioritize company-specific issues.

While prioritizing issues, remember to continue to build on your strengths and make sure they become woven into the fabric of your organization. Prioritize the most important issues, but don’t get overwhelmed and take on more than you can possibly do. If you get overwhelmed by the data or take on more internal changes than you can handle given your workload demands, nothing will happen.

Require your managers to develop action plans for the major issues that emerge from the data, including timelines and performance metrics. Provide one-on-one coaching and follow-up to ensure success.


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About This Blog

 Diane Hamilton, PCC, SPHR, is the owner and founder of Calibra, a coaching and consulting firm focused on maximizing leadership potential. Nilesh Patel is the principal attorney of the Mahadev Law Group, LLC, which focuses on human resources and employment law issues for organizations. He can be reached at Both bloggers are members of Wisconsin SHRM, which is dedicated to being the state leader in HR management and the premier source for HR expertise and resources. More information can be found at You can follow the WI SHRM blog at



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