Redesign your people processes using people data
Rather than simply providing HR with insights into engagement, the process itself should work to create a sense of trust and equality between employer and employee. Your employees should not just be working for the company, they should be able to have a say in how it's run.
In an article in Harvard Business Review, Laszlo Bock, former Head of People Operations, stated that there are four steps companies should take to move from intuition to people analytics based decisions:
- Ask yourself what your most pressing people issues are. Retention? Innovation? Efficiency? Or better yet, ask your people what those issues are.
- Survey your people about how they think they are doing on those most pressing issues, and what they would do to improve.
- Tell your people what you learned. If it’s about the company, they’ll have ideas to improve it. If it’s about themselves – like our gDNA work – they’ll be grateful.
- Run experiments based on what your people tell you. Take two groups with the same problem, and try to fix it for just one. Most companies roll out change after change, and never really know why something worked, or if it did at all. By comparing between the groups, you’ll be able to learn what works and what doesn’t.
For example, beginning a new policy with a survey gives employees ownership of the process and ensures you’ll get the information you need to make it successful. One area that this can be most effective is in reshaping your performance review process. More and more companies are now ditching the annual performance review in favor of more agile growth based processes. However, the mistake that many are making is forgetting to include the key stakeholder in the design process: employees.
Start by asking the right questions
Rather than simply asking “What do you think about the way we do performance reviews?” Ask questions with a specific goal in mind. To do this think about the most important components that make up the process for your company and make a list:
- Employees should receive sufficient information about what their strengths are and areas for improvement.
- Top performers should receive recognition for their contributions.
- All employees, even top performers, should be encouraged to continue improving and receive support in creating development goals for the next quarter.
- Those who are struggling should be provided with extra coaching by managers or peer mentors.
- Most importantly, employees should also be given the opportunity to provide upward feedback to managers.
Include factors that can be verified
The perception and reality of workplace engagement can sometimes be very different. To ensure the validity of your survey results, research psychologist Palmer Morrel-Samuels suggests adding some elements which can be independently verified. When surveying a group of employees on their skill level, his team found that 76% believed their skills to be above average. As only 50% can be above average, the survey revealed a clear gap in actual and perceived skill level. When assessing managers’ ability to establish strong relationships, his team compared the responses they received with factors such as turnover rate to ensure validity.
Using the example of a survey about the performance review process, you may want to ask, “Do you feel the review process is easy and efficient?” However, the terms “easy” and “efficient” are subjective. You should also include data on how many hours and resources are spent on performance reviews each year. If your results indicated that most people believe your current process is difficult and inefficient and then you compare their answers with factors that can be validated: time and money spent, you’ll have objective reasons why and a starting point for how to fix it.
Ask the right questions
Now think about how these objectives can be broken down into solid questions including both qualitative questions and those that can be independently verified. For example:
- How long does it take on average to complete the performance review process?
- Do you have enough time and space to provide helpful feedback to each person you review?
- Do the results provide you with enough information and insights to improve your performance?
- Does your manager consistently schedule 1-on-1s with you after a review to discuss your results?
- Are you able to easily translate the information you receive into goals?
- Do you receive sufficient assistance and coaching to help you meet these goals?
Put your results into action
The most important rule of conducting an employee survey is to never ask a question about an aspect of the workplace that you don’t intend to change. For each question you ask you should already anticipate possible fixes. If your employees don’t feel they get enough follow-up, encourage your managers to implement weekly or bi-weekly 1-on-1s with each team member and provide extra management training. If employees feel the results are not always accurate consider introducing 360-degree reviews to get a more diverse range of perspectives.
If you find many employees get demotivated by what tends to be a long and arduous process, consider adopting a tool that can simplify your review period and offer real-time feedback for more frequent opportunities for improvement. Purpose built platforms can often also help you quickly and easily introduce regular employee surveys. This can be useful to go deeper into certain questions or get a general idea of the feeling towards a new policy. The data collected during performance reviews, surveys or informal feedback interactions is instantly generated into aggregated data reports cutting down the time and resources needed.
The most important part of conducting a successful employee survey is the human side. Measuring engagement using performance data isn’t enough. The human side is essential to truly understand the underlying dynamics in the workplace. This is where employee surveys can help. However, keep in mind that people don’t want to spend time on a process that won’t show results. If you clearly explain the objective and make a commitment to introducing change, you’ll see higher participation rates and more insightful results. Start by asking what you want to improve in the workplace.
If you want to learn more ways to improve your company culture, grab a free copy of How to Evolve Your Company Culture, below.