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Article | EX Insights

Survey best practice: Sharing results with leaders

Talent|Employee Engagement

By Adam Zuckerman | June 17, 2019

How to share survey results so leaders will listen.

Your survey has closed, all of your reports are ready and your leaders are asking to see the results. It may feel a little daunting but you are in a great position to speak on behalf of employees and encourage leaders to implement positive changes. So, how do you go about it?

Know your leaders

Are your leaders data nerds or would they prefer a high-level summary? Are they open to feedback or will they likely get defensive? Are they genuinely interested in the results or are they just going through the motions to fulfill a requirement? You'll need to tailor your approach depending on the personality of each leader. Some will expect a detailed question-by-question review, others will prefer a narrative summary. Some will focus on data validity and accuracy, others will focus on using the findings to drive change. The more you can anticipate the interests and motivations of each leader, the more impactful the session will be.

Tell them a story

Even for those leaders who like to dig in to the details of the data, you still need to organize the information in a way that is clear, impactful, and provokes action. The secret to doing that well is to avoid a "data dump," and instead use a story structure. Start with the headlines, or main messages from the data. Then explain how the results support those headlines, and where they might deviate. Connect the dots across questions, demographic groups, open-ended comments, benchmark comparisons and historical trends to provide a clear picture of the current employee experience.

Don't be afraid to go beyond the numbers

Consider the survey results as a starting point for a great discussion about the employee experience and how it can be enhanced. Alongside the survey findings, provide additional insight based on your own experience, as well as industry literature and case studies. You are the expert and your leaders will welcome your views. Their goal is not merely to learn what the survey says, but to understand the findings in context as well as the implications for action and improvement. Address this broader need and you will bring real value to the company.

Balance analysis with action

Leaders focusing on the survey findings is a great start, but spending too much time analyzing the results can prevent or delay leaders from taking action. Be wary of requests for additional data cuts, benchmarks and follow-up surveys. More often than not, none of it is necessary; as directional themes are obvious from initial findings, and further analysis fails to provide additional insights. Pushing back here is difficult, but critical. Sometimes a simple comment such as "How will this information help us decide what to do?" will do the trick.

A second common pitfall is trying to solve too many issues at once. This can be difficult because you never want to discourage a leader from responding to employee views, but it's important to be realistic on how much you can tackle simultaneously. An effective technique can be to remind leaders that they can't fix everything, and trying to do so is a certain way to fail to fix anything. Prioritization is what's needed.

Encourage continued dialogue

An employee survey process is a conversation: Leaders ask questions through the survey and employees answer by participating. Leaders must then continue the dialogue by letting employees know they've been heard and explaining which of the issues raised will be addressed - and how. Most leaders know this, but forget to do it in practice. This "forgetfulness" can be demonstrated in different ways. For example, they may ask HR to communicate with employees instead of doing it themselves, which is far less preferable. They may also delay communication at all, because they feel they need all the answers first. This is a big mistake. An early, sincere communication directly from the leader acknowledging opportunities, identifying priorities, and providing a timeline for updates can be highly effective and, perhaps most importantly, buy additional time for action and change.

Employee feedback is a powerful way to show leaders where change is needed. By sharing the results thoughtfully and putting together a plan of action, you can help your organization move in the right direction.

Sign in to your Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software account today or contact us for a demo.


Product Leader
Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software

Adam is responsible for the overall development and direction of Willis Towers Watson Employee Engagement Software. His goal is to create the world’s greatest software for delivering insight and enabling actions that enhance employee experience, company culture, and business performance. Outside of work, Adam enjoys off-roading in his Jeep and spending time with his family. Follow Adam on Twitter.

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