6 Tips to Get Your Measurement Mojo Back

Re-engage in your employee listening strategy and make the most of your data

Has it been a while since your last employee survey? Are you ready to re-engage in your listening strategy but just don’t know where to start? Your organization may have put off checking in with your workforce in the recent past, and this is understandable. With all the events that have upended business as usual, who has had the time to listen?

Although the world might feel like a very different place since your last survey, the principles and best practices for running a successful listening initiative haven’t changed. 

As you chart your course for your next employee survey, keep in mind these six fundamentals for successfully re-engaging with your employees.

  1. Don’t let the tail wag the dog. Said another way, don’t survey just because you can without clarifying your overall measurement strategy. Your measurement strategy needs to provide usable insights for your engagement, culture, or performance strategy. Remember the context: What are your organization’s mission-critical imperatives? How are you trying to shape or sustain your culture? How does engagement fit with your other employee experience initiatives? How can a more engaged workforce deliver the results you need?
  2. “Shorter, faster, easier, more often” is the way to go. We have always encouraged organizations to step away from the 100-item survey that takes months to process and leads to analysis paralysis. Technology now makes it easier to conduct targeted pulse surveys more frequently and present the findings more quickly to leaders and managers online, enabling your organization to be more agile in responding to your employees’ needs.
  3. It’s not about the data, it’s about the dialogue. Employee feedback needs to inform conversations about improving engagement and performance. Those conversations must include all members of your workforce. If you start gathering information through a continuous listening strategy, make sure you have a way to close the feedback loop and involve employees. Our research suggests that asking for input without taking action can lead to lower response rates (people are not “survey weary”; they are “weary of nothing happening”) and disengagement.
  4. Find the cadence that works for you. Consider the following when determining your listening pace: What kind of change management is required to manage and reset expectations of leaders and employees? Historically, what was your organization’s track record for action so far? Will people have enough time to take action before you measure again? How will more frequent measurement overlap with your business or talent management cycles? There is no one-size-fits-all; make sure your measurement strategy resonates in the context of your organization.
  5. Provide findings down to the lowest level possible—managers and their teams. Although organization-wide initiatives have their place in your engagement strategy, in our experience change happens most quickly when managers and their teams take ownership of findings and determine what they can do within their control or influence. This means that continuous listening or pulsing strategies need to provide managers with relevant insights about their teams. Forget about random sampling. If you want every member of the workforce to own their part of your engagement or culture strategy (and yes, you do want that), you need to be able to give them their data—not a high-level sentiment sampling.
  6. Understand the limitations of people analytics. This is just one metric that can be combined with others you track in your organization. Kick up your opinion analysis by exploring how retention and performance metrics, exit interview, and promotion data relate to the employee survey. And don’t forget, it’s not just about the numbers. Looking at survey results through the prism of the day-to-day reality of your organization and recent events will deepen your analysis and help you determine actions that will lead to meaningful change for your employees.

Revisiting your listening strategy after a long pause can feel daunting, but sticking to the fundamentals will ensure a successful implementation and rollout of your survey. Just keep your eye on the reasons your organization cares about engagement in the first place, as well as what’s going to work best in your culture.

About the Authors

Mary Ann Masarech

Mary Ann Masarech spent the first third of her career writing, designing, and marketing skills training for top-notch consulting firms. She acquired a broad base of instructional design and client experience building learning experiences in sales, negotiations, account management, customer service, selection interviewing and leadership skills. The programs she designed were all about the “how.” (When “X” happens, do “A, B, C.”) When she joined GP Strategies’ BlessingWhite division in 2000, Mary Ann began to explore worlds beyond skills: The internal workings of individual learners – expressed as personal values and goals, the puzzling workings of organizational culture, and the often complicated dynamics of trust and relationships at work. She quickly realized there was no going back. As Lead Consultant for BlessingWhite’s Engagement Practice, Mary Ann creates practical tools and strategies that clients worldwide apply to create successful businesses and thriving workplaces. Think of her approach as "research meets real world." She is passionate about great days at work – where individuals experience the highest levels of personal satisfaction, apply their skills to what matters most, and deliver their best work to drive their employers’ strategies. As lead consultant, she also works with senior HR and business leaders on how to take meaningful action on engagement survey results to drive organizational performance. She is co-author of The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce (Wiley, Oct 2012), has written numerous research reports and articles, and is a well-regarded speaker on the leader’s role in engagement and building a culture of engagement. Mary Ann's commitment to meaningful lives and meaningful work extends beyond her day job. She is a founding member of the Norma Pfriem Urban Outreach Initiatives, a not-for-profit that addresses food insecurity (serving 10,000 meals a year) and education of underserved adults and children. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University. She enjoys her mostly-empty nest with her husband, 2 cats and a dog, cooking, reading and running (not simultaneously) in her spare time.

Colleen Casey

When I was about 8 years old, I made the obligatory pilgrimage of every born and bred New Jersey native to the Thomas Edison museum. The other children and I pummeled our patient tour guide with innumerable questions (mostly pertaining to whether or not Mr. Edison had died on the premises). Upon learning that Mr. Edison had not received much in the way of a formal education, I inquired “But how was he so smart if he never went to school?!” The simple and astute response of the guide – “He asked a lot of questions.” My career in public opinion and employee polling has led me to do just that – ask a lot of questions in order to better understand how others see the world and what shapes those perceptions. In my current role, I use the insights that I gain from engagement surveys to help our client organizations better understand how their employees view their work, their leaders and the organization’s culture in order to enable them to implement meaningful change based on employee feedback. I feel that my time spent studying sociology and living in France provided me with a unique opportunity to see the world through a different lens and understand how culture informs the way we view ourselves, the world around us, and the institutions that shape us. These academic and personal experiences have been highly valuable to me in my career, heightening my sensitivity and awareness of the necessity to bring a unique approach to client measurement strategies, an approach that aligns with and reflects their unique organizational culture.