Most organisations support their employee engagement programmes with an annual employee survey - using the resulting engagement scores to measure success. While this provides the ability to track engagement over time, and potentially benchmark against competitors, there’s now a drive to gather faster, more specific and actionable feedback that delivers more value.
With generic, standardised engagement surveys, you don’t to get feedback around your specific business issues, such as:
- How well is the workforce coping with the impact of a re-organisation?
- Are staff comfortable with the impact of a recent merger or entering new markets?
- And as business move so quickly today, getting survey results once a year fails to identify problems as they are happening
A more holistic always-on approach to employee feedback
The alternative is to build on the one-off annual study with a more rounded always-on approach, using ad hoc feedback collected in real-time across the year - as well as insights driven by events such as promotions, training, office moves and pay changes.
This lets staff give feedback at important points in the employee journey - on how they’re doing, what’s working, and what isn’t - as well as allowing them to give ad hoc insights about their own employee experience.
To make it really easy and convenient for staff, feedback collection can be automated across online and mobile channels - and potentially via online portals and communities created specifically for the purpose.
It’s important integrate these separate feedback channels so that data can be cross-referenced and combined to create a holistic view.
Richer, more accurate real-time insights to drive better decisions
Unlike the annual survey, the always-on model does not force employees to recall details about events or experiences that might have happened months previously. They can provide feedback and commentary in the moment - to generate insights that are richer, more accurate and genuine.
The results are likely to help managers make better decisions to further enhance engagement.
Managers must be given easy to use tools to help them create, launch and analyse their own surveys, ideally using a centralised company platform on which information is easily shared across departments. This maintains quality standards, avoids duplicated effort and survey fatigue.
Rather than relying on a static annual report focusing on limited number of engagement metrics, managers can tap into an up to the minute snapshot of key data at any time.
They can assess progress on particular issues on a regular basis through pulse surveys - either covering the whole workforce or targeting discrete teams and departments. And they can gather qualitative insights around specific business objectives.
Change company culture to embrace always-on feedback
Moving away from a sole focus on an annual survey requires a cultural shift. It needs to be led from the top and all employees made aware that both providing and receiving feedback is integral to the company achieving its wider goals.
Managers will require training about how employee feedback might be helpful and how to analyse and interpret it so it can be used to support better decision making.
They can be aided by easy to use real-time dashboards that present data and insights so that they are clear and understandable, outlining actions to be taken.
One tactic is to incorporate an online community for team leaders and managers to share best practice with peers about how to use and act on employee data and insights.
At the same time it has to be said that the new generation of employees – especially millennials – are very comfortable being vocal and value the opportunity to voice their opinions. For them, this chance to provide more regular feedback – as long as it is being listened to - is in itself something that can drive greater engagement.
Five essential considerations for adopting an always-on approach to feedback collection
For any organisations considering transitioning from solely running an annual survey to a more holistic approach to collecting feedback and supporting engagement there are five essential considerations that need to be addressed.
1) Ensure employees understand ‘What’s in it for me?’
In order to provide valuable feedback that can drive positive change, employees need to understand the corporate strategy, values and purpose and the part they play in achieving an organisation’s goals.
If there are no perceived benefits of success, e.g. rewards, benefits, recognition, culture etc, it will be hard to sustain ongoing feedback initiatives.
2) Make giving feedback simple for everyone
To encourage employees to participate you must make it simple, easy and quick for staff to give their feedback, taking account of the preferences (mobile, PC, pen and paper) of the whole workforce.
3) Be ready to embrace qualitative feedback
For any organisation that is only used to dealing with engagement metrics, the increase in the volume of qualitative data coming in continuously will be a challenge.
Managers will need to allocate greater time and resources to analysing and understanding this data if they want to be able to use it effectively.
4) Join it all up
If you are collating event-driven employee feedback, always-on insights from staff and pulse surveys, alongside your annual survey, you need to be able to join it all up and get an integrated view of what this is all saying about engagement. You also need to combine it with insights from appraisals and reviews. A joined-up approach can give a real picture of engagement.
5) Be able to respond quickly and effectively
Similarly, the continuous flow of data makes it is essential to have the resources in place to respond and take action quickly on concerns.
Otherwise you miss out on much of the benefit of real-time insights. And employees will give up providing feedback if they don’t see any change resulting from it.
While analysing annual engagement scores has its value, it also has its limitations. Moving forward, HR departments need to progress to opening up a richer, multi-faceted ongoing dialogue with employees and help to create a culture able to support a more continuous and transparent approach. That way feedback will drive real business change, support better decision making and contribute to the company bottom line.
About Alex Wilke
Alex has over 17 years’ experience in Voice of the Employee and Voice of the Customer programmes – mainly with large international organisations in the communication and financial sectors.
Since the mid 1990s Alex has worked in online research managing hundreds of employee surveys. Over this time he has developed a keen understanding of the challenges facing organisations not only around data collection but about making action planning sustainable and effective and how to move annual engagement programs to the next level.
Alex has contributed to many white papers and thought leadership content as well as influencing and shaping Questback’s roadmap to ensure that the platform provides cutting edge solutions and maximum value for our customers.