One of the most popular ways to engage with your team, especially in the age of hybrid work, is the employee survey. Using an online program, you can get immediate feedback about how strong your company’s culture is, how efficient certain procedures have been, what extracurricular activities sound the most fun, and anything else you can think of.

Sending out an employee engagement survey is easy. Where many people-leaders get stuck, however, is what to do when they receive their results. What if the feedback is awful? What if some workers seem completely satisfied, while others are clearly disgruntled? The first step, as always, is not to panic. 

No matter how positive or negative your results are, you have to remember that you didn’t create the survey out of curiosity – you did it to take action. Here’s how to make the most out of your employee engagement survey:

Look at the questions and answers categorically

As we discussed in our E-book on the subject, there are five main types of employee survey question: engagement, performance, well-being, onboarding/training, and weekly pulse for your day-to-day check ins. If you haven’t yet made your survey, it’s a great idea to separate a larger survey into categories so the results come across clearly.

If you’ve already gotten your results back, though, chances are you didn’t sort it that way. Now you’ve got to put your mind to it.

Determine what the 4 or 5 lowest-scored or worst-responded questions are and see what they have in common. It could be that they’re all questions that concern engagement, revealing that your team doesn’t necessarily hate the environment, but that they don’t feel connected to it. It could also be more productivity related, and that they think certain operations could be run more smoothly.

If your survey shows that your team isn’t satisfied, their lowest rated questions don’t show that they dislike random aspects of the job – they likely show that employee dissatisfaction stems from an entire element of the workplace. Figure out which one deserves prioritization.

Compare the results with your standards

Any HR leader or manager that sends out an employee survey wants them to come back lit up with 5/5 answers and hearts. That’s rarely the case, of course, which is why we find ourselves here. As we just discussed, success on a survey isn’t black and white, it can largely reflect certain trends or aspects of a company that fall short. Now you have to compare them with your standards as an organization and your goals as a leader.

What’s your company’s mission statement? Does it pride itself on the culture it creates among its employees, and does it compare the team to a family? Now check out your culture-oriented questions from the survey… they might not align with what the company strives to be.

Maybe one of the bright spots of your organization is the benefits it offers and the fun work outings they sponsor. Something vital to keep in mind for businesses small and large is that it’s not the number of benefits and events employees get, it’s the value they get from them. They may still not be satisfied with what looks like a king’s ransom of amenities.

All this is to say that you probably sent out your employee survey expecting the best results to come from the subjects your workplace tries to pride itself on. That’s not always the case – figure out where the disconnect lies.

(Perhaps) Communicate with your team about how they’re feeling

Now that you’ve figured out your work environment’s weak points and strong points, it *may* be time to talk with your team and listen to them personally. We say “may” because it largely depends on the issues they have.

If they told you through the survey that their benefits are thin or their vacation time isn’t adequate, there’s nothing wrong with a follow-up meeting about how it can be amended – they’re probably hoping for one. If they’re struggling to connect with their positions at the company on a personal level, though, that’s not as easy to have a quick chat about.

When employee dissatisfaction runs deeper than expected, a people leader can do one of two things. They can first attempt to reach out to any team members in particular that they feel can explain those unseen issues with culture, whether these team members are veterans of the company or simply the least satisfied per their survey results.

The other thing a people leader can do?

Take action

The only way to fix dissatisfaction in your workplace is to take action and make changes. You’ve figured out what areas need improvement, you’ve spoken with your staff and learned more, and now you’re set to execute.

Some fixes are easier than others; adding vacation days or extracurricular activities is ultimately a one-step process. The steps to boosting engagement, productivity and well-being, however, are just as concrete and attainable.

If productivity is faltering due to a lack of support or a changing industry, implementing an LMS can both give your team extra help with their own positions and remind them that you care about their success down the road. If your team believes their work-life balance is suffering, try targeting ways to help with employee burnout, which the World Health Organization recently declared an occupational phenomenon.

If engagement and culture overall is a weak point in your survey, there are a number of different ways to attack the issue and boost engagement in your workplace. Check out some of them here – we like to say we’re employee engagement experts.

Evaluate changes

After 1-3 months, depending on the fixes you made, you’ll want to know how successful your action plan was. The simple way to do this is to send out the exact same survey you were working from to compare the changes and see if those who noted issues feel better about the same subjects.

To be a bit more incognito about the effort, though, you could also ask about the changes and new initiatives in meetings to see if your team members have noticed or appreciated the differences. If you spoke to a few specific employees the first time around, reach back out to them and ask if they feel a shift in office productivity or attitude. Hopefully you’ve mended your culture’s sore spots – and if not, see step 4!

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