What can I learn from this page?
A manager's guide to taking action on Engagement survey results
Who is this guide for?
So your organization just went through an engagement survey - hooray! You’ve been given access to the results and you might be thinking to yourself, now what? This handy guide is here to help you understand your results, feel confident leading a discussion with your team, and taking action. We recommend using the simple Understand, Act, Repeat model to take action on feedback, and assess the impact of those actions for continuous improvement.
Before we get started, let’s take a moment to think about where this feedback came from and some things to keep in mind while digesting the feedback. Engagement surveys are an opportunity for employees to have their voices be heard, with the intent of ultimately improving the organization. There will likely be a mix of positive and constructive feedback, some expected and some unexpected. This is great because we can’t take action on things we don’t know about! Feedback is a chance to peer into our blindspots. As a manager, you have an opportunity to role model how to receive this feedback. Being open and empathetic (accepting it as someone’s reality even if it’s not yours) will help your team members feel comfortable providing honest and candid feedback in the future. We’ve written more about how to approach receiving feedback, from a leadership perspective that you may find helpful.
Step 1. Spend time fully understanding your feedback
Walk Through Results in the Platform
Some people love data and will want to spend weeks dissecting and digesting every possible number and comparison available. However, this probably isn't the most useful approach to improving your culture (we've written about this here). There is actually a lot you can do by taking a very simple approach to your results and saving more time for discussion and generating ideas for action. Thus, here we present the flow you can go through while understanding your results.
Question: Do the results represent the views of most people?
The first thing to understand is participation. If we use the analogy of voting, participation let’s you know how many people within your team took the time to cast their vote. We start off here because this gives us some context with which to view the rest of the results. On the left side of your reports, you should see participation information like the one below.
In this example, this manager leads a group with 9 employees and they have achieved an 89% response rate. This is a good response rate and exceeds our global average of around 80%. For most purposes you can relax once you hit around 75%. For a more detailed guide take a look at our post what makes a good response rate. It's good not to get too fixated on response rates - you still have people that want their voices to be heard - and you can always tell people you can only act on the feedback you receive. Once people see you acting on the feedback you'll often find your response rates going up over time. Remember, you have 100% of the people who took the time to respond so the most important thing is to consider, discuss and act on their feedback.
If you want to dig a little further into participation, you can click on the participation tab in the top left. From this view, you can see participation based on demographics. What demographics you can see depend on how your report was configured. This page allows you to determine if the majority of responses are coming from a single demographic. For example, if your team is split across two (or more) locations and only one location participated in a meaningful way (approaching that desirable 75%), this is something to keep in mind while reviewing the results.
Engagement Score (or other Key Factor)
Question: What is the outcome we’re driving towards and how are we doing?
We often use the average score from a few key questions to create a combined outcome factor such as Engagement, as shown above. This factor represents the key outcome your organization wants to improve. Typically, this is Engagement, and we invite you to read more about here. The scores themselves are percent favorable scores - they represent the percentage of people who rated the questions using either of the top two rating options (typically Agree and Strongly Agree). You can read more about our response formats and how we calculate favorability here.
Question: How are we tracking compared to others?
You’ll notice in the example above to the right of the Engagement factor is a green line with +12. This visual shows that the 75% Engagement factor score is higher than the comparison by 12 percentage points, therefore the comparison Engagement score is 63%. To check what the results are being compared to, look to the “Compared To” toggle in the top right.
Currently the results are being compared to the Company Overall. You might also have other comparison options, including historical surveys, or a benchmark score to compare results against. If you’ve gone through the survey process before, then comparing to previous results will be most enlightening to see if your/organizational actions have made an impact on previous focus areas. If this is your first time, comparing to the Company Overall will help you understand where your team is having a different experience (positive or negative) than others in the organization.
Question: What are the key themes emerging in the results?
The Other Factors are usually combinations of questions (just like the Key Factor above) that represent aspects of the workplace that may influence or impact your Key Factor score. For example, we'd expect things such as Leadership and Management to have an impact on Engagement levels amongst employees. You can see how favorable (green), neutral (light grey) or unfavorable (red) your team feels about these work experiences by hovering on each factor. As with the Key Factor, the green and red bars on the right show how this factor compares.
Clicking the heading will sort any of the columns and clicking on any factor will take you through to see the individual items that contribute to the factor.
The Questions tab allows you to get more granular by looking at the results for each item, rather than broad factors. Again, clicking the heading will sort any of the columns. For a quick run through of the question-level results:
Question: What are we doing well?
Select Favorable Score to see the highest scoring items. These would be considered strengths. However, there are some items that naturally score higher (or lower) than others, bringing in the Comparison gives you a bit more context.
Question: What are our high scores compared to others?
Select Comparison to see items that scored above your comparison (the company overall, historical survey. or industry benchmark). This gives an indication of your team’s unique strengths. Celebrate these!
Question: What are our low scores compared to others?
Select Comparison again to see items that scored below (the company overall, historical survey, or industry benchmark). This gives an indication of your team’s unique opportunities. Keep these in mind.
Take note of results that matched your expectations, and results that surprised you.
Question: Any polarizing questions (with a large favorable and unfavorable population)?
These are prime discussion topics, which we’ll talk more about further.
Where's the biggest impact?
Question: What is most important to our people when it comes to our Key Factor?
Understanding where our relative strengths and opportunities lie is important but before we move on to discussing the results, there is one crucial bit of context we’re missing: Impact. We generally use a Key Factor, such as Engagement, as our primary indicator in our ongoing quest to improve our culture (or whatever else we want to improve). However, Key Factors such as Engagement tend to measure things that are the outcomes of many inputs and are hard to directly impact - it is difficult to make people want to stay at your company, for example. This is where measuring impact comes into play - to see which non-outcome questions had the biggest impact on Engagement scores across all of the individuals in your organization. The report uses driver analysis to identify which items will have the largest impact on the Key Factor. For example, you might have an item that is very low scoring but is not a high driver of Engagement at your organization.
Question: So what do we focus on?
As a manager, you may be asked to find a specific focus that your team would like to take action on. This area can be determined in collaboration with your team, however, that team discussion will run smoother if you understand how to select a focus area. A good candidate for focus has ample room for improvement (low favorability or below comparison) and has a high (or medium) impact on the key factor. We’ve developed the Focus Agent to crunch all the available data within your report to highlight the areas we’d recommend you focus on first, taking into account all the data points we highlighted above.
And What About the Comments?
Question: How can we get context and richness on our focus area?
As a manager you may or may not have access to comments. Access to comments is sometimes restricted because they can often be identifiable and in many cases it is best to view them after you have absorbed your quantitative results. Check with your HR administrator as to what you have been given access to. Comments can provide some interesting color and some further insight into specific issues that may be raised by your survey. However, comments should be viewed as secondary to the quantitative results for a number of reasons:
Comments are often from a smaller number of respondents so they may not be representative of everyone. The whole point of a survey is to allow each employee an equal say or vote so focusing on comments from a few individuals can defeat this purpose.
Some people may write most of the comments across multiple questions. Again, the noisiest cog is getting the most attention.
People are by nature sensitive to negative feedback. Given that, it can be tempting to focus mostly on negative comments at the expense of ignoring larger survey results and other more positive comments.
Here's an example most of us can probably relate to:
The best thing to do with comments is leave them until you've absorbed your results and then to use them as a way to understand additional details. If you have a low score on something check the comments for those that might help you understand that score, and then do the same for areas where you have higher scores. Comments can form part of your results conversations where you ask employees about their thoughts but remember they are more individual representations, so it is best to paraphrase a few that are constructive and in line with the overall results. This can emphasize that it is the overall results that will shape the ongoing conversation and action and that constructive comments are going to get the most voice.
Step 2. Discuss the results with your team
Prepare to Share the Results
Remember, a survey is just a tool to help guide your focus, your discussions with employees, and to track your progress. Once you’ve absorbed the results, it’s time to start discussing!
Set up a time for your team to discuss the survey results. Where possible, do this in person and in a room where people will feel comfortable being candid. In most cases, we recommend you review the results as a group in the Culture Amp platform, but using pdf exports is also an option. Additionally, it may be helpful to set the stage with some ground rules...
Thank your team for providing valuable feedback on how the organization can improve.
Remind folks that you will be discussing perceptions. While other’s perceptions may not always be the same as ours, everyone’s perceptions are valid.
Be sure to allow time for each individual team member to comment as you work through the feedback. But remember that this is an opportunity to explore the results as a group. To enable open sharing, assure team members that this is a safe and confidential forum to express themselves and expand on their experiences.
Call out that while it is tempting to want to find out “who said what”, ask everyone to set this desire aside and instead focus their attention on high-level themes with a goal of action and next steps.
Encourage team members to speak for themselves when discussing feedback by using “I” statements over “you” and “we” statements.
Dismiss any of the feedback or the comments as “wrong” or “misguided”. It’s a good practice to instead pay attention to negative judgement that may come up so that you can focus on what could be improved or consider what an alternative approach might look like.
Have a Discussion
Discussing results requires the courage to be vulnerable. Walk through the results with your team in a similar flow to the above (Participation, Key Factor, Other Factors, Questions). Highlighting where the results aligned with your expectations and where they surprised you may make others feel open to sharing their own thoughts. Then ask about perceived strengths and areas to explore further.
Are the results aligned with what you expected? Any surprises?
What do you see as our team strengths? What stands out as opportunities?
It's also important to discuss how these results apply to your everyday interactions. For highest scoring items, what does your team do differently that led to a positive result? For lowest scoring items, what are the behaviors/processes that can be developed?
Select a Focus
Once the results have been shared and discussed, your team is ready to select 1-2 focus areas to get started on straight away. We recommend sticking to a small number so you can make meaningful change.
You might consider the recommended focus areas highlighted in the platform by the Focus Agent. When selecting a focus, think about:
The survey questions with the lowest favorability. Where does your score differ from internal and external comparisons?
Outside of the data, is there any item or behavior that keeps coming up in team meetings or discussions? Anything that aligns best with current organizational strategy?
Ask each team member to select which item/s they would like to consider as a team focus.
Decide what item/s would have the largest impact on your team’s experience within the organization. No need to overthink it, a simple vote works!
Brainstorm Ideas for Action
Once you’ve selected your focus area, it can be difficult to know what to do next. In particular, what are the specific actions the team can take to improve? Many successful strategies can come from:
Your team. They’re the ones that understand the unique context and what will work. Consider going through an ideation process to see what fantastic ideas your team can come up with! Members may have experienced similar challenges at past companies that implemented innovative solutions that would work in your team, too.
Your peers. The strengths in your team might be the very opportunities for another team. Talk to your peers around what they do differently in regards to the focus area within their team.
Your HR Team. Reach out to your HR team for guidance on how to improve in your selected focus area, or to be matched with a team lead in the organization that excels in this area.
Your own research. There are resources available online, in books, and at industry events that you may be able to learn from. Research!
Inspirations! If you have access to the Action Framework, you will be able to select a focus area in the platform. Once you do, this will populate the Take Action tab. You can now tap into the collective intelligence of our customers (and possibly others in your company) by seeing actions that others have taken for a particular focus area.
When choosing an action, always consider your unique context. What works at one organization might not jive with the values in yours. Even within an organization, one team experiences different constraints than another. Always gut check with your team to see if the action makes sense to them. When warranted, edit these actions so they align better within your team structure, context and culture.
Set Next Steps and Ownership
Now that you know where you want to go, think about the next steps you need to get there. To ensure that changes are made and not just talked about, give each step an owner (even if it's the whole team) and a timeframe for implementation. These don't need to be set in stone but will set the stage for accountability and proper implementation. Make sure to continue to check in with the team to see how things are going. For example, asking your team: “From our Engagement Survey last quarter, we committed to using a trello board to have greater visibility of responsibility across the team - how has this been going? Any suggestions for how to improve?”
Once you had your action running for over a month, think about checking in with your team. Click on Complete Action button and then Get team feedback button to send a short survey to your team and measure effectiveness of the action.
Now that you closed the loop on your action and got feedback, you have entered Repeat stage. We've found it helpful to answer these questions with your team while you're still in action mode:
What changes in results do we want to see? Write down your focus area and what changes you would like to see. This will give you a goal to shoot for and helps connect your actions back to the results.
When will we survey again? Ask your HR team or HRBP when the organization plans to survey again so you can have this timeframe in mind. If your organization is not planning to survey again soon but you’ve checked with your team and feel you’ve made meaningful change, go through the process again! Select a new focus area and action.
What's up next?