How To Get More Value Out Of Your Employee Engagement Survey


By Laurie Bassi - CEO, McBassi & Co.

Co-chair of the People Analytics Forum 2017, London - meet me there.

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Employee engagement surveys are a potentially enormously valuable source of actionable insights about how to improve employee engagement and business results. This potential, however, too often goes unrealized, because many HR departments are stuck in out-of-date ways of thinking about what engagement surveys can and should do for their organization.


1. Ask The Right Questions!

In the end, getting more value out of engagement surveys requires clever analysis of your survey results, compelling reporting on the findings, and making it easy for busy managers and leaders to act on the findings.


But first, you've got to start by asking the right questions!


There are four points to keep front and center in the design of your employee survey:


  1.  Your survey "real estate" is a valuable commodity – so use it wisely. You'll get more responses and more accurate answers when you keep your surveys fairly short.


  1.  You should ask questions that fall into two different broad categories: outcomes and diagnostic items.


  1.  The outcomes questions should be carefully chosen, small in number, and focused on your organization's key business goals. These include, but should also go beyond, employee engagement.


  1.  The vast majority of your survey real estate should be devoted to diagnostic questions, because that is where the actionable insights will be found. Diagnostic items are designed to get employees' assessments on a wide range of workplace elements that might be helping to drive (or impede) key outcomes.


And how do you find out which diagnostic items are the ones driving the outcomes?


2. Cleverly Analyze Your Survey Data

Any employee engagement survey should help your organization drive better business results through more effective management of its employees. When done properly, an engagement survey helps your organization operate in "the sweet spot" – the intersection of enlightened and sustainably profitable management of people.


Employee engagement surveys often fall far short of this potential because data from surveys is not properly analyzed, and the resultant report therefore has little impact.


The five principles that should guide your analysis of employee survey data are listed below.


  1.  Design your analysis to identify statistically the most important drivers of your organization's employee engagement and ability to achieve its business goals. The analysis needs to go beyond both benchmarking and measuring high and low scores.


  1.  Use correlation analysis as a primary tool for identifying the drivers of each of the outcomes questions separately. (See above for a discussion of diagnostic vs. outcome questions.)


  1.  Systematically combine the findings from the correlation analyses with measures of organizational strength and weakness on each of your survey's diagnostic questions to create a rank ordering of areas of opportunity.


  1.  Simultaneously examine the rank ordering of areas of opportunity for each business outcome to create a "short list" of the most important areas of opportunity.


  1.  Use that short list to create fact-based, directional recommendations.


3.  Create Insightful Reports

A well-designed and cleverly analyzed survey is an essential foundation for any organization serious about using employee surveys to create actionable business intelligence.


But the survey isn't enough! You also need to work to make it easy for busy leaders and managers to understand the results – especially the specific actions your survey indicates will drive both improved employee engagement and better business results. Make sure leaders don't have to sort through piles of data and graphics to figure it out (or worse yet, to guess).


We've identified five principles to help ensure the reporting of your survey results will serve as a positive catalyst for change in your organization.


  1.  Focus on quality of insight, rather than quantity of data. This is the "art" of analytics that makes the "science" understandable, compelling, and actionable.


  1. Avoid focusing too much attention on rankings of highest- and lowest-scoring survey items. Instead, report findings from the statistical analysis that links employee survey questions to both business outcomes and employee engagement.


  1.  Create highly visual, analytics-enhanced, mass-customized reports for managers pointing them to the most important actions they need to take, based on the specific results for their group.


  1.  Put detailed data tabulations in a well-organized appendix (avoid indecipherable data dumps).


  1.  Use a succinct, well-written narrative to "tell the story."


4. Make it Easy to take the Right Actions

Finally, you’ve got to make it easy for busy managers and leaders to act on the findings and recommendations that you have so brilliantly provided them.  Advances in technology are quickly transforming this from a pipe dream to reality.  Get yourself a user-friendly, personalized, customized, and cost-effective employee engagement portal. The most impressive one that I have seen is Beyond360.


Summing Up

By asking the best questions, intelligently analyzing the data, creating compelling reports, and making it easy for managers and leaders to act on your findings, you’ll get far more value out of your employee engagement survey than before.


Want to Know More? has a wide array of free resources and tools.  See especially:


  1. How to Create More Value from Your Employee Surveys (published in Talent Management)


  1. Maximizing Your Return on People, (published in Harvard Business Review)


  1. If you’d like to receive a free, electronic copy of our HR Analytics Handbook, please send an email to me