As Justin Timberlake didn’t sing (but might have if he had joined the conversation.network) “I’m bring humanity back”… to conversations in the workplace. As we all know, a traditional way in which many organisations look to create a dialogue with their people is via an employee survey. But this is hardly a conversation and it lacks the humanity of a real conversation. Surveys generally happen infrequently, are typically one way and often don’t enable a free-flowing exchange of ideas. Given that surveys are often used though, can there be a way of bringing some humanity and conversation back into the survey process? We’ve put our heads together at Conversation Works and have had a few thoughts about the process stages of the survey, where we could all inject some humanity and what that might do.
- Setting an employee engagement strategy
Have the conversation: Create an open dialogue with all key stakeholders, from the CEO to people on the ground to truly understand the best way of connecting and conversing with people. Use technology or get people together in real time – it will all help set you up for success.
What it will do: Develops a strategy that doesn’t focus on ‘making people more engaged’ but enables organisation-wide connections and conversation before any survey kicks off. Given that a major finding of many surveys is that collaboration and communication between departments is poor, this will start you off as you mean to go on.
- Designing the survey questions
Have the conversation: It’s time to rip up your old survey questions and start to focus on what really matters to you. Forget using antiquated questions and formats that you are tied to because they benchmark you to other organisations. You are your own best benchmark. Get to understand what really drives people by asking them face to face. Look at great practice before you even start your survey and use the survey to understand if others are doing the same things.
What it will do: This will help you build a model of maturity to show you how different parts of the business are succeeding in driving towards the things that matter to you as an organisation.
- Conducting the survey
Have the conversation: This is a real opportunity to start talking! Make the survey feel different from a traditional approach. Make it feel fun, personalised, give some instant feedback and keep people connected to the process. It shouldn’t feel like ‘something work sent us’.
What it will do: Using a survey in the right way really sets the tone for all further conversations. If people feel it’s speaking to them and the intentions behind it are solid and helpful they will want to continue the dialogue.
- Feeding back the results
Have the conversation: This is the stage of the process where things can fall down but is also a big opportunity to really get things right. Mangers can sometimes struggle to have constructive results feedback sessions with their teams, particularly when the feedback can be about their own leadership abilities. There is a simple solution to this, which is to enable managers by asking them to follow a simple process for feedback.
What it will do: Having a process depersonalises the feedback while at the same time gives a manager the psychological permission to take more of an independent assessment of a situation. Developing these key processes for everyone to use is something we’re excited about and are working on right now at Conversation Works.
- Doing something about the results
Have the conversation: At this stage of the process, it’s more about doing things together while continuing the conversation. Organisations often struggle to make significant and lasting change from grand sweeping top-level action plans. There just often isn’t the energy to keep them going in order for them to become meaningful at a local level. Far better for local managers to continue to follow that all important conversation process to continue to talk with people.
What it will do: This will help involve managers and their teams in local improvements and start a ground-swell of change from the bottom up.
So, there are some ideas for how quality conversations could improve culture by directly impacting the employee survey process. More importantly, what do you think, how could bring a bit of humanity (and possibly Justin Timberlake) back to your survey process?