Associate Director ORC International
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Five communication tips to give engagement surveys a happy end

30th Jan 2017
Associate Director ORC International
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Man winning race
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Storytelling can be the difference between taking people with you and having your message fizzle out – and with so much investment in employee engagement surveys and the benefits to be had from the insights, that’s the last thing you want. Here’s what to do to get the best chance of having your employees engage with your survey program. 

1. Know your audience 

Receiving messages about the latest engagement survey from head office if you work in a local store, a call centre, or even in a team based in a different country can be a bit like using the broadsheets to get information about what is happening in your hometown.

The national press is great for giving you the big picture on stories affecting the whole country, but when it comes to finding out about local bin collections or why the high street is being dug up yet again, your local press is a more relevant source.

So when you’re communicating about why employees should participate in the survey, get local champions on board so they can drop local anecdotes into their story to make it resonate – e.g. they can remind teams that by participating something might get done about the microwave in the kitchen that’s been broken for months, or leaders might realise that the team needs more frequent updates on how the office move is progressing.

2. Use the right channel 

Stories don’t have the same impact if they are told in the wrong way. Radio is great for the Archers but it wouldn’t work for a show like Dragon’s Den where facial expressions and visuals are critical.

So ensure the channel is right. Although email communications are fine, formal emails don’t make for good stories, so the tone of voice needs careful attention.

It also needs to be supported by other forms of communication to reinforce the message and help people engage with it. Stories work best delivered face to face, or at least verbally where expressions and emphasis can be used to draw people in.

Stories don’t have the same impact if they are told in the wrong way.

So, when it comes to survey communications, factor in some sessions where managers, leaders, champions and HR representatives can talk directly to employees.

3. Give it brand power

Famed for their Christmas adverts, John Lewis is a master at storytelling.

Using all the classic tricks of the trade – emotive content, suspense, happy ending, they successfully tell a story that engages a nation and is instantly recognisable as theirs.

Transferring this concept to the engagement survey, we recommend creating a brand that connects different parts of the survey – the awareness campaign; information about how, and why, to take part; the communication of results; and the commitment to take action.

The brand name you choose is important as it sets the tone, creates familiarity and brings people together behind a shared purpose.

Seek examples of when feedback from the survey has led to visible change.

It should resonate with people, be memorable and stand out – essentially it should tell a story that there is a true desire to improve things on an ongoing basis. 

4. Encourage belief in action 

People use their experience of what has happened in the past to base their expectations for the future, whether that experience was good or bad.

“Last time I bought something from Amazon it arrived broken, I am not going to order from them again!” or “Last time I praised my team for good customer service, their performance rocketed, I’m going to keep doing that!”

If we want people to have confidence that the latest engagement survey is going to lead to action we need to give them examples of when this has happened before.

So get your storytelling hat on. Seek examples of when feedback from the survey has led to visible change.

Drawing on the company’s purpose, vision and values to explain the reasons for the engagement survey’s importance gives the story context.

Did the 200 comments about lack of bike parking space lead to new bike rack being installed in 2015? Did employees’ confusion about their benefits package stimulate a benefits overhaul last year?

Find the story and tell it in a way that makes people believe their voice counts, that completing the survey will make change happen.

After all, why should they give you their insights if you’re not going to do anything with them? 

5. Get behind it

Having senior leaders stand up and say this is our survey, we believe in it and are going to use it to shape the employee experience for our people, is a powerful message.

It becomes even more powerful if the message is embedded within a story about why.

Drawing on the company’s purpose, vision and values to explain the reasons for the engagement survey’s importance gives the story context. It also helps bring employees together behind a joint goal. 

When your internal communications incorporate stories they become magical and take on properties that transform their ability to engage readers, spread messages and embed meaning. How effective your employee engagement survey and the insight that comes out of it then becomes is down to you.

How is your storytelling?

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