Ask and you shall receive, or so the adage says. But when it comes to feedback, the story does not and cannot stop there. Receive and you shall act – or risk seriously undermining your engagement program.

An engagement program isn’t just a feedback questionnaire. It’s about asking the right questions using a robust diagnostic tool and then translating the responses into meaningful and measurable actions that improve an organisation’s performance.

As Bettina Sammut, Director of People, Culture and Safety at Taronga Zoo noted in a recent HXM discussion with our partners at SAP, if you are asking questions, you have to be ready for action. The survey is only the start of the process: what happens next is even more important.

The perils of ticking the box

Time and again, we see that failing to act on employee feedback can backfire. And the impact comes in two waves: not only are existing engagement challenges not addressed, but the failure to act in itself creates a further drain on engagement.

Failure to act on employee engagement data creates a further drain on engagement. Click To Tweet

The result is an environment depleted of trust, where employees become skeptical of surveys and start to see them as just a tick box in someone’s agenda. Unsurprisingly, employees become unwilling to invest their time in the process. The result is either a lack of data, or empty data that fails to capture the candid and honest employee feedback that organisations need to hear in order to change and improve.

Four ways to drive action

The foundation for action planning starts right back at the survey design stage, where thoughtful and targeted questioning and carefully planned cadence are essential. But once the data is in, we’ve identified four key ways to channel that data into action planning to create real change.

1. Identify key pain points and priorities

Survey data shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. To generate real impact, data needs to be linked directly to key business metrics – such as turnover, customer loyalty, profit, and revenue growth – to identify areas that need greater focus. These focus areas become the touchpoints for designing and prioritising specific actions.

These areas of focus can then be further contextualised by marrying them to market data. For example, an organisation with a focus on innovation may not accept a score on risk-taking that’s below the industry benchmark, but rather one at or above those of high-performing companies.

By starting with the organisation’s strategy and working back to the survey, actions can be targeted to the areas that will really make a difference to the organisation’s success. It also creates opportunities to incorporate action plans into existing business initiatives tied to the organisation’s strategic goals – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

2. Keep action planning alive

Action planning isn’t a set and forget exercise. To be successful, progress on actions needs to be monitored and communicated throughout the year. Schedule regular action planning activities combined with creative communications to engage employees on progress and seek their input to leverage organisation-wide experience. Revisit and adjust the action plan to reflect feedback and lessons learned along the way.

Action planning isn’t a set and forget exercise. To be successful, progress on actions needs to be monitored and communicated throughout the year. Click To Tweet

3. Know who’s responsible for action planning

Spoiler alert: action planning is not just a job for HR. Employees at all levels of the company should be accountable, but roles differ for different groups and these different responsibilities need to be clearly understood.

  • Senior managers: set the tone from the top through setting expectations and then holding managers to account.
  • Managers at all levels: create and implement action plans for their area of responsibility, involve their immediate teams in the process and keep them informed.
  • HR: coach and support managers, including through sharing leading practices and deeper data analysis.

Employees: provide input into the action planning process and take responsibility for actions.

4. Optimise through technology

Technology can optimise action planning through enhancing the quality of action plans, driving consistency and allowing for easy dissemination of resources to help leaders and managers implement initiatives.

Critically, technology enables easy tracking and reporting to ensure leaders are accountable and progress can be accurately monitored and then communicated.
What employee experiences should your action planning optimise? Read: HXM Driving Change

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About the contributor

Nadhisha Piyasena is a Senior Client Director for Korn Ferry Advisory, Australia. He works with clients to solve people challenges that get in the way of business performance. He focuses on thinking broadly, commercially, and critically to provide evidence-based and practical solutions that add noticeable value to organisations in the areas of leadership development, employee engagement and talent management.

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