Things have been looking dicey as far as employee engagement goes over the last five years. In 2018, Gallup worker survey data found that 34% of US employees were engaged — the highest in the survey’s history. And now? According to Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace report, just 31% of US employees are engaged. With global engagement figures plummeting to just 23%, the race is on for organizations to act before the quiet quitting rises to a roar. And that means what you do with your survey results really matters.
Having a post-survey plan in place to analyze your data, share results, and communicate action items will mean employees feel ownership and buy-in to shape a company culture that nurtures high performance and engagement.
6 Steps for Responding to Employee Survey Results
Taking prompt, decisive action on your employee engagement survey results is critical to solving your organization’s biggest engagement challenges.
Remember: If employees don’t see positive changes emerge due to their survey responses, they will be less motivated to give you feedback in future surveys. And if this keeps happening, employees won’t just stop responding — it might lead to disengagement, meaning lower retention, performance, and productivity.
Creating a post-survey action plan requires prioritizing communication, transparency, and effective goal-setting. This boils down to seven key steps.
1. Start by saying thanks and sharing next steps.
Your engagement survey can’t function without employees’ participation. And the truth is that employees don’t have to give you their feedback — but many will because they care about the company. Sending respondents a simple “thank you” means that you value the effort and time they took to share their feelings.
Once you’re done with the niceties, you’ll want to use this opportunity to communicate what’s going to happen next. Remember that your employees don’t have oversight over the end-to-end engagement survey process, so they might not fully understand how long it takes to wrangle the data and decide on next steps.
Being transparent about when results will be analyzed, how the data analysis part works, and when employees can expect to hear what you will do with their feedback will keep impatience or frustration at bay.
- Implement a timeline for analyzing the results: Create a project plan with clear follow-through, including a timeline for when results will be shared. Make sure this stays as consistent as possible in future surveys.
- Communicate the immediate next steps: Send an email, or schedule an all-hands meeting that outlines exactly how and when survey data will be analyzed. Ensure you clearly communicate how data will be used from a privacy and anonymity perspective.
- Give away a few teasers: Share initial key takeaways or quick metrics to keep employee buy-in high, including participation rates and overall engagement scores.
- Try adapting this email script for post-survey communications: “Thanks so much for filling out the engagement survey. We’re looking forward to digging into the results and preparing to move forward to review the results on [date]. Afterward, we’ll reach out to managers to discuss the results and host group/department meetings around the results. If you’d like to schedule a time to discuss the survey with People Ops, please contact us privately. Let us know if you have any questions at all.”
2. Analyze your survey results.
Engagement surveys help you get feedback on how you’re doing as a company — but data analysis gets you to how to improve that experience. Taking the time to analyze and benchmark engagement scores, dig into qualitative feedback, and understand your employee experience will help you build an effective employee engagement strategy that drives a highly-engaged workforce.
As you study your data, consider: What do specific answers say about your workplace culture? What are your key drivers of engagement and employee satisfaction? What are your current most important areas of focus?
In addition to viewing engagement scores across different departments, slice and dice your data by drivers of engagement to identify where you’re doing well and where your employee experience could improve.
- Segment your data: Analyze your data by factors like demographics, office location, level of seniority, and attrition rates to understand your employee experience in more detail. For example, your overall engagement score might be good, but segmenting this by department or tenure might reveal that some employee populations have a very different experience compared to others.
- Contextualize your data: Maybe your organization went through a round of layoffs, a department saw high management turnover, or bonuses got cut in one department. Contextualizing your engagement data will help you understand temporary factors that can influence and add nuance to employee satisfaction.
3. Share survey results across the organization.
Sharing survey results is the most critical part of the post-survey process. Celebrating your engagement wins, and where you’re doing well as an organization, will serve as a great reminder of why employees work at your company in the first place.
But it’s not just about the shiny happy results: Acknowledging areas of improvement and having an open dialogue on your key challenges will help foster greater trust among your workforce.
Deciding on exactly what you share — and how transparent you want to be — will depend on your organization. Giving everyone all the data at once could feel overwhelming, especially if managers aren’t equipped to make positive changes at a team level. As such, you’ll need to consider what level of information you share with all key stakeholders, including senior leadership, department or business unit heads, and managers or team leads.
- Communicate results with senior leaders: Your senior leaders should be among the first to find out your engagement survey results. Set up meetings with leadership to share the results and get buy-in for action items that involve the whole organization. Compare and contrast your survey results from last year to see where you’ve progressed and where you need to redouble your efforts.
- Share department-level insights: After segmenting your data, you’ll likely have more nuance on how different departments at your organization perform across key drivers for employee engagement. Share this data with department heads to identify strengths and opportunities. Encourage departments to share critical insights across their teams.
- Communicate results with your workforce: Schedule a whole-team meeting, or create an email digest that outlines some high-level results that help employees understand where you are now, past levels of engagement, and any key areas highlighted by your survey.
4. Brainstorm action items with post-survey meetings and focus groups.
Building a work environment where everyone can perform at their best means you can — and should — ask your employees for input on where they see the biggest potential for positive change.
Crowdfunding these ideas will not only mean your employees feel more engaged and valued, but it will maximize the impact of your engagement survey data.
These meetings should be as structured as possible so that your employees can have an open dialogue on what might work when tackling areas of improvement. The HR team can take the lead here by providing frameworks and question templates to guide follow-up discussions on feedback around key topics of employee feedback. Meanwhile, department heads and managers can step in to collate responses and communicate upward.
- Create a repeatable meeting framework: People teams need to provide structure around discussions — but give teams autonomy on how they carry these out. Providing access to team data and a templated set of discussion questions to guide conversation will help this become more scalable.
- Let teams lead on ideation: Your employees’ perception of what makes a good solution to an engagement issue at a team level might not match how you see things at an organizational one. Empower teams to develop solutions to team-specific issues based on their needs and context moving forward. Chair discussions and ask for thoughts, but make sure you don’t try to sway the discussion.
- Provide a safe space to discuss individual feedback: Individual employees will likely have their own feedback that won’t be addressed at an organizational level. Creating a safe space for them to discuss these using upward reviews and feedback will allow them to share more detailed feedback in confidence. In Lattice, you can configure the settings as to how this feedback is shared with their manager.
5. Create public goals based on engagement survey results.
One of the worst things that can happen after an engagement survey is that your results gather dust. Setting measurable and actionable goals across your organization creates momentum and will build trust among your employees. That is, as long as you make an effort to accomplish them.
But remember that your engagement survey results might give you a lot to work with in terms of areas of improvement. And that’s totally fine — because what matters most is that you’re working on it. Avoid getting overwhelmed by starting small and picking a few areas to focus on. Be specific about what you’re trying to accomplish and break down large goals into smaller, more manageable steps.
- Facilitate goal-setting at a department or business unit level: Work with department leads and the leadership team to set up an action plan informed by the post-survey meetings. Facilitate discussions and create goals that work directly towards strategic objectives and clearly define owners.
- Work with managers to set team goals: Integrate the responses from employee discussions and team-level results to help managers set meaningful goals at a team level. Make sure these goals roll up into department level and company goals.
6. Close the feedback loop and schedule check-ins.
So you’ve run the survey, delivered results, and set goals. Time to wipe the sweat from your brow and wait for the next one, right?
Nope. Employee engagement is a continuous process — what you do as the curtains close on your current survey round will set you up for the next one. First and foremost, communicate that your survey round is over, and outline the key actions your organization will take to address current needs.
Then, you’ll need to ensure goals and action items you set during the survey process don’t fall out of sight or mind once you’ve finished collecting data on your employee experience. Part of this process will involve making time for regular check-ins, communicating how you’re doing in all-hands meetings, and instilling department and team-level ownership over goal progress.
- Communicate survey closure: Much like how you started the survey process, telling people what’s going on is key. Communicate the closure of your survey process, as well as any key actions you plan to take and their expected timelines. Let departments or team members explain high-level goals to create alignment across the company.
- Keep goals ticking along: For organization-level goals, ensure you give regular updates in all-hands that show your progress and timeline for goal completion. At a team level, giving departments and managers access to engagement dashboards will help them keep goals top-of-mind day to day.
- Integrate team goals into regular processes: For team-level goals, integrate goal-focused discussions in one-on-ones or team retrospectives to keep managers and direct reports focused on goal accomplishment.
- Celebrate the wins: Momentum and progress keep engagement high. When you close out a goal, make sure the company knows! Celebrate wins across the company and let employees know how their responses influenced cultural change.
Scaling Your Engagement Survey Process With Lattice
Running an effective end-to-end survey process isn’t just about hitting ‘send’ on the survey email — what you do after you get the data matters. But when you’re strategic about using your survey insights, you can maximize and magnify their impact across your organization.
Maintaining trust and transparency at every step is key — from communicating your initial results to sharing how you will follow through. But a critical part of the process is creating greater ownership across the whole organization in terms of data analysis, suggestions for next steps, and setting goals. Because ultimately, when everyone can participate in the process, they all have buy-in to creating a high-performing company culture.
Find out more about putting your engagement survey insights to work more effectively with our ebook, How to Turn Engagement Survey Insights Into Action.