How To Get More Value Out Of Your Employee Engagement Survey: Part 3

Insightful Reporting

A well-designed and cleverly analyzed survey is an essential foundation for any organization serious about using HR analytics to create actionable business intelligence.  [See our August newsletter and September newsletter for “how-to” check-lists.]

But the survey isn’t enough!  You also need to work to make it easy for busy leaders and managers to understand the results – especially the specific actions your survey indicates will drive both improved employee engagement and better business results.  Make sure leaders don’t have to sort through piles of data and graphics to figure it out (or worse yet, to guess).

We’ve identified 5 principles to help ensure the reporting of your survey results will serve as a positive catalyst for change in your organization.

1.  Focus on quality of insight, rather than quantity of data.  This is the “art” of analytics that makes the “science” understandable, compelling, and actionable.

2.  Avoid focusing too much attention on rankings of highest- and lowest-scoring survey items.  Instead, report findings from the statistical analysis that links employee survey questions to both business outcomes and employee engagement.

3.  Create highly visual, analytics-enhanced, mass-customized reports for managers pointing them to the most important actions they need to take, based on the specific results for their group.

4.  Put detailed data tabulations in a well-organized appendix (avoid indecipherable data dumps).

5.  Use a succinct, well-written narrative to “tell the story.”

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How To Get More Value Out Of Your Employee Engagement Survey: Part 2


Cleverly Analyzing Your Survey Data

Any employee engagement survey should help your organization drive better business results through more effective management of its employees.  When done properly, an engagement survey helps your organization operate in “the sweet spot” – the intersection of enlightened and sustainably profitable management of people.

Employee engagement surveys often fall far short of this potential because data from surveys is not properly analyzed, and the resultant report therefore has little impact.

There are three steps you must take to ensure that your employee engagement survey has maximum positive impact:

Part 1 – Ask the right questions (see our August newsletter)
Part 2 – Analyze the data cleverly (see the guiding principles outlined below)
Part 3 – Create insightful reports (coming up in next month’s newsletter)

The five principles that should guide your analysis of employee survey data are listed below.

1.  Design your analysis to identify statistically the most important drivers of your organization’s employee engagement and ability to achieve its business goals.  The analysis needs to go far beyond benchmarking and measuring high and low scores.

2.  Use correlation analysis as a primary tool for identifying the drivers of each of the outcomes questions separately.  (Click here for a discussion of diagnostic vs. outcome questions.)

3.  Systematically combine the findings from the correlation analyses with measures of organizational strength and weakness on each of your survey’s diagnostic questions to create a rank ordering of areas of opportunity.

4.  Simultaneously examine the rank ordering of areas of opportunity for each business outcome to create a “short list” of the most important areas of opportunity.

5.  Use that short list to create fact-based, directional recommendations.

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How To Get More Value Out Of Your Employee Engagement Survey: Part 1


Ask The Right Questions!

Employee engagement surveys are a potentially enormously valuable source of actionable insights about how to improve employee engagement and business results. This potential, however, too often goes unrealized, because many HR departments are stuck in out-of-date ways of thinking about what engagement surveys can and should do for their organization.

In the end, getting more value out of engagement surveys also requires clever analysis of your survey results and compelling reporting on the findings (topics we will cover in subsequent newsletters).

But first, you’ve got to start by asking the right questions!

There are four points to keep front and center in the design of your employee survey:

  1. Your survey “real estate” is a valuable commodity – so use it wisely. You’ll get more responses and more accurate answers when you keep your surveys fairly short.
  1. You should ask questions that fall into two different broad categories: outcomes and diagnostic items.
  1. The outcomes questions should be carefully chosen, small in number, and focused on your organization’s key business goals. These include, but should also go beyond, employee engagement.
  1. The vast majority of your survey real estate should be devoted to diagnostic questions, because that is where the actionable insights will be found. Diagnostic items are designed to get employees’ assessments on a wide range of workplace elements that might be helping to drive (or impede) key outcomes.

And how do you find out which diagnostic items are the ones driving the outcomes?  Stay tuned – that’s a topic for next month’s newsletter!

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An Analytics-Enhanced Employee Survey


Welcome back (at least to those of you in the northern hemisphere) to the new, even-more-frenzied, post-summer work reality!

For those of you beginning to be immersed in 2015 planning and budgeting, we’d like to offer some thoughts on how to get more bang for your buck from your next employee engagement survey.  In one sentence: you should use it as cornerstone for a strategic, analytics-enhanced HR measurement strategy.

When employee engagement data is properly designed and cleverly analyzed, it is an enormously powerful foundation for creating actionable, fact-based insights to drive better business results.  It is the single most important source of data enabling you to move beyond “descriptive” HR metrics to “predictive” human capital analytics.  By identifying the human drivers (and impediments) of business results, these analytics insights provide a strong evidence base both for guiding HR investments and documenting their impact.

Through linkage analysis – the mapping of employee engagement to important business outcomes­ – it is possible to develop insights into the HR strategies that will have the greatest positive impact on your organization’s greatest challenges, such as the following:

  • Revenues
  • Cost containment
  • Profitability
  • Customer service issues
  • Productivity
  • Safety
  • Managerial effectiveness
  • Training effectiveness
  • Employee engagement
  • Absenteeism
  • Regretted turnover

The bottom line – an analytics-enhanced employee survey is a far better investment than the traditional, HR check-the-box employee engagement survey!

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Four Ways to Get More Value from Your Employee Engagement Survey


Ask any room of HR practitioners how many of them do an employee engagement survey at their firm.  Almost every hand in the room will go up.  Then ask how many are satisfied with the actionable insights they get from their survey.  North of 95 percent of the hands will go down.  (We’re not making this up – we’ve done this experiment on any number of occasions.)

Why is this?  What’s wrong with traditional employee engagement surveys, and how can they be improved?

Over the past decade of working to remedy this situation, we’ve learned there are four steps that transform your employee engagement survey from an HR-check-the-box activity to a sought-after source of actionable insights for driving better business results:

1. Optimize your allocation of survey “real estate” 

  • Focus on questions that are both diagnostic in nature (and therefore, actionable) and known drivers of business outcomes (i.e., include but go beyond typical employee engagement questions).
  • Reduce the amount of space devoted to summative questions, which are typically not actionable.  For example, use no more than 4 questions to directly measure employee engagement.
  • Eliminate questions you do not intend to act on (e.g., “are you satisfied with your pay?”).

2. Link your employee survey data to business outcomes

This requires doing your statistical homework.  It’s not enough to know that your firm benchmarks at the 75th percentile on question #17 if you don’t know whether or not that question is in some way related to your company’s business results (e.g., turnover, sales, customer retention).  Benchmarking can’t tell you what’s important – that’s what linkage analysis is for.

3. Develop fact-based, prioritized, customized recommendations for improving business outcomes

Once you’ve done the linkage analysis, use the results to provide specific, actionable, customized guidance (at an enterprise, business unit, location, and/or manager levels) about how to target specific important (and weak) areas to improve business results (including, but not limited to, employee engagement).

4. Be compelling and easy-to-understand when presenting your results

Don’t confuse a data dump with insight.  While this step is as much art as it is science, it is a critical one for getting more value out of your survey.

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Webinar on employee surveys and big data


I’ll be joining forces with KnowledgeAdvisors for a terrific new webinar, “Employee Surveys and Big Data: Gaining Crucial Business Insights from Your Workforce,” on Thursday, April 11, 2013, at 11:00 am.

I’ll share what I’ve learned about using employee surveys and predictive analytics to understand employee culture and drive better business results.

Join us and come away with insight into getting started, best practices and pitfalls to avoid!

Register here:

3 steps to help your company navigate the new economic era


In my latest guest blog post for ASTD, I summarize what I see as the most important elements of the rapidly-changing economic environment and explore practical implications for companies, including 3 concrete steps every company can take right now.

Company culture matters


Two-thirds of employees believe that company culture is very important to the success of their organizations, according to a recent Work Watch survey by Randstad of over 1,000 employed adults.

Over one-third of employees believe culture has its greatest impact on employee morale, followed by 22 percent who said its greatest effect is on employee productivity.

The five most critical components of culture? 

  1. Employee attitudes (selected by 69% of respondents)
  2. Effective management (64%)
  3. Strong trust relationships (57%)
  4. Customer focus (55%)
  5. High accountability standards (50%)

Organizations that are serious about improving results – including employee productivity – also need to be serious about measuring culture (especially in light of the fact that three-fifths of respondents said their company culture had been negatively affected by recent economic events).

Traditional employee engagement surveys are insufficient for this purpose, as too often they don’t include important elements of culture such as accountability, customer focus, and trust.  A more comprehensive human capital survey is needed to more broadly capture the elements that make up culture.

What makes a “best boss”?


Lots of interesting surveys about “bosses” recently.  (See, for example, this post and link from last month.)  In honor of “National Boss Day” on October 16, Adecco surveyed 1,000 employees (and bosses) in the United States on what employees want in their bosses and what styles their bosses generally use.

They found that many employees are seeking “visionary” bosses, while it’s more common to actually have bosses with a “commanding” style.

The survey found a number of changes relative to 3 years ago, with bosses more focued on work, closer to their teams, working more hours – and also more stressed.  (Higher stress was reported by people who manage larger numbers of employees, and by “white collar” bosses versus “blue collar” ones.)

And finally?  Seventy percent of employees don’t aspire to have the job of their boss.

Biggest challenges with the boss


A recent poll asked almost 4,500 full-time employees about their relationships with their boss.  While the headlines focused on how many people said their boss was like Michael Scott from “The Office” (and other TV show bosses), the poll also included some more interesting nuggets about specific positive and negative qualities of respondents’ bosses.

For example, on the negative side, 61 percent of employees believe that their boss does a poor job in the area of their career development – grooming them to move up in the organization. 

On the other hand, the vast majority of respondents felt their supervisors were good at offering flexible work arrangements (72 percent of respondents responded positively), taking time to listen (69 percent), and providing the resources necessary to work effectively (68 percent).

One of McBassi’s credos is that there is trememdous wisdom in the workforce, just waiting to be tapped.  This poll provides just a glimpse of the sorts of deeper insights companies themselves could harness from their employees. 

But to do so, they need to devote the resources necessary to deploy – and then analyze and act upon – the results of a thoughtful, actionable, employee survey.