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Say What? 

Listen, Learn, and Act–Why Guess, When You Can Know Redux

By Jim Hartigan
August 2010

Welcome back for the conclusion of the survey saga.  That’s right, dear readers, for those of you who read last week’s article about creating actionable surveys - we’ve still got work to do!  Developing and deploying your surveys are merely the first two pieces of the survey puzzle.  Now you’ve got to figure out what to do with all of this precious feedback you’ve painstakingly gathered from your audience(s), be they employees, customers, etc.  That is, after all, why you delivered the survey in the first place—so you can learn and then act, right?  Right.  So, let’s take a deeper dive into the world of surveys as we explore some post-delivery suggestions.

Share the Results
Your survey respondents are likely curious how their responses match up with the rest of the herd.  They should be given the opportunity to review the survey results, and quickly too!  This doesn’t mean that everyone’s response to each question should be made public ... that would be a gross violation of privacy, of course.  However, once you have gathered your feedback data, make it available in some form or fashion for the audience’s review.  You will probably find it appropriate to grant different access privileges to different audiences.  For instance, in an employee satisfaction survey, the senior leadership team might be interested in the relationship between pay grade and overall job satisfaction; however, an entry level employee would not likely need access to such details.  In any case, make the basic results of the survey available to the respondents.  Quickly sharing the results with respondents is not only the “right” thing to do; it will also increase the likelihood they’ll participate the next time you ask.

Have a Chat
As noted above, sharing the survey results is essential, and often time it occurs in a meeting.  Feedback meeting time!  Here are a few tips for leading a feedback meeting (with special attention to employee survey-related feedback):

  • Stock up on gauze pads, ace bandages, ice packs, band-aids, medical tape, etc.  Tasers or other less-than-lethal crowd control devices may also be useful.
  • Ignore the first bullet point.  I’ll be serious from this point forward, I promise.
  • Allow plenty of time for your feedback sessions.  Consider scheduling multiple sessions if necessary, so you can be sure to cover everything.  Consider running different feedback sessions for different audiences.  Again, think senior management versus entry level employees.
  • Establish a comfortable, non-threatening environment for the meeting attendees.  There may be some potentially uncomfortable moments during the session, so do your best to ease the tension any way you can.
  • Mind your body language and that of the attendees.  If the tension starts to rise, step in and diffuse the situation.  Remind everyone the purpose of the meeting is to identify specific challenges and identify ways to make things better!  On the flipside, attendees might clam up.  Be prepared to jumpstart the conversation if necessary with your own ideas for improvement.  This also demonstrates to the team that you’re not being defensive.
  • Above all else, listen and ask questions in ways that get participants to share what they think and feel.  This meeting and the survey as a whole are about learning why.  Try the “five whys” approach, where you to ask “why” five times per issue as a means of uncovering its root cause.

Get to Work
Let’s take a step back and see where you are so far: you’ve delivered your survey, gotten your results, and you’ve talked about it with the team and everyone feels all gooey inside.  That’s nice, but nothing has really changed yet.  Three cheers for action plans!  And then, of course, action!

The way you approach your action plan is largely dependent upon your organizational culture.  Strict traditionalists will put this responsibility directly in the hands of management/leadership teams.  This plan of attack is certainly effective, as you will likely have different opportunities to address within different departments.  Another way to attack your action plans is to set up task forces that include members of various teams across various levels of seniority.  If you’re dealing with confidential/sensitive issues, this might not be a viable option.  If confidentiality is not a concern, task forces are great ways to encourage collaboration amongst the team and generate fresh ideas for the future.

As with the survey results, it’s important to share your action plans with the team.  This way, your team will know that, even though they may no longer be involved in the process, you’re still working towards positive change.

And last, but certainly not least, work your plan/implement change.  Be sure to reference your original action plan frequently to ensure you stay on track.  Also, let your team know how the progress is going.

And thus concludes our two-part discussion about surveys, including some tips on how to create them and what you should do with the results.  I hope that you’ve found some of these ideas useful and consider them when it comes time for you to create your own employee or customer surveys!

Until next time – take care of your customers, take care of each other, and take care of yourself!

About the Author:

Jim Hartigan, Chief Business Development Officer and Partner joined OrgWide Services, a Training/e-Learning, Communications, Surveys and Consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide.


Jim Hartigan
Chief Business Development Officer & Partner
OrgWide Services
165 N. Main Street, Suite 202
Collierville, TN 38017
office: 901.850.8190  Ext. 230
mobile: 901.628.6586

Recent Articles:

Why Guess When You Can Know - Maximizing the Effectiveness of Your Workplace Surveys / Jim Hartigan / August 2010
Team Member Segmentation in the Workplace…or “If everyone brought potato salad to the picnic – it wouldn’t be much of a picnic!” / Jim Hartigan / July 2010
The Power of Effective Communication in the Workplace (and our Founding Fathers’ unrivaled Tweeting abilities) / Jim Hartigan / July 2010


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