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Many organisations across the UAE consider the start of the year to be the perfect opportunity to leverage employee feedback via an engagement survey. Those that surveyed their employees last year hope their efforts will see a rise in engagement levels. However, in our experience of conducting these surveys, we have witnessed a pattern emerge.
Organisations that take action based on survey results can expect their engagement score to rise year on year; yet, those who fail to take any action post survey will see engagement levels decline by an average of 6 per cent.
The very act of surveying employees raises their expectation that action will be taken and changes to improve the status quo will be introduced. When no action is taken, disappointment prevails and leadership is thrust into an unfavourable light.
So what keeps organisations from taking action on engagement?
Organisations invest a lot of effort in customising and rolling out surveys, making sure they are accessible to all employees, driving the response rate and so on. But once the results land on their desks, there is a formidable hill to climb to take the necessary action.
We have observed several issues that create barriers during the action planning stage, such as over analysing employee engagement results, which ultimately makes it harder to reach a final decision. There is also overcommitting — the act of selecting too many issues to tackle — and under-communicating — so that employees never hear the results.
And not being open to feedback — disregarding the results and assuming that the issues have already been addressed to the best ability.
Organisations definitely need to integrate engagement within their business strategy. Senior leaders are expected to be energetically involved in developing and implementing a long term approach to employee engagement. Additionally, actions should be targeted.
Investing in raising engagement should be based on a good understanding of the drivers and root causes. Finally, accountability for raising engagement levels should not just sit with HR — this should be shared among leaders and managers.
'Best Employers' — those organisations that exemplify high levels of employee engagement, a culture of high performance, effective leadership and a compelling employer brand — are not necessarily flush with money and resources. Instead, they understand the importance of leadership and the belief that a few well-targeted actions will have a disproportionately positive effect on engagement.
They would not kick off an engagement survey until they are ready to do something about the results, and they prepare themselves for a commitment that lasts longer than the few weeks it takes to administer the survey and get the results. They also have the courage to communicate the results, and take a commitment to action with their senior leaders, managers and employees.
So if your organisation is starting a new cycle of engagement measurement, consider the following:
Build senior leadership commitment first
Engagement survey results help create a baseline and the starting point to measure and improve employee engagement. However, before embarking on your next engagement survey, take some time to find out whether there is enough senior leadership commitment to follow through with an action plan.
Discuss the benefits and the risks of the survey process with key members of the leadership team and then decide whether to take the plunge into the engagement survey process.
Prepare for results and communicate next steps
When reviewing engagement survey results, be open to potential criticism and do not ignore issues that may seem too difficult to solve. On the other hand, do not overcommit; be realistic about what can be achieved. And most importantly, once a plan has been finalised, communicate it effectively so you are managing employee expectations.
Understand the trends affecting your talent strategy
In addition to the survey results, consider external factors and business objectives when formatting your action plan. It is absolutely critical for leaders to connect economic challenges and emerging business imperatives to the workforce profile required for future success.
Source: Dr. Markus Wiesner, Special to gulfnews.com
The writer is CEO at AON Hewitt's Middle East operations