Kate Maclean, Administration Officer
Traditionally, when the survey is completed, a dossier of results will be handed to the senior management team who casually flick through the document before promptly filing it away in a drawer bulging with reports from the last thirty-seven years. Very little actually comes out of these surveys except employees who feel ignored, and a company bank account balance that is a few thousand pounds lighter.
So why does this happen? We think the heart of the problem lies in the fact that information given to senior managers is often not relevant to them and/or they don’t understand how to grapple with the feedback given to them by their people.
Let me illustrate this issue with a story:
“Sharon is the Chief Executive of an organisation specialising in contract cleaning. Sharon is the only person to receive the results of the latest employee survey and is told that cleaners in the Slough office frequently complain that the products they have been given to degrease are not fit for purpose. Sharon has no idea about the cleaning products her company uses – so she is faced with two choices: she can ignore the complaints of her staff, or she can pass the issue to the head of services, John.
“As Sharon cares about her employees, she takes the latter option and informs John. Now, although John is head of services, he doesn’t know the ins and outs of heavy duty degreasers. If the company takes feedback seriously, John may pass the message on again and the feedback may eventually reach the people who can address the problem directly. However, the most likely result is that the views of the Slough office will be lost in organisational Chinese whispers.”
This is an extremely common problem, and there is a different way of doing things: instead of feedback starting at the top – you start the process at the bottom. Senior managers responsible for dealing with the results should be brave enough to discuss the feedback with each team and ask them what changes they are willing to take responsibility for. If a problem is close to the heart of a group of employees, then ask them what they are prepared to do about it. If they can’t be bothered to do anything, then the leadership team may rightfully ask if there really was a problem in the first place.
This continues upwards throughout the organisation, so at the end of the process, the senior management team is now responsible for a comparatively short and very relevant document with feedback and recommendations that only they can action. This process allows staff to enjoy a sense of ownership over both their successes and failures and ensures the leadership team deal with information that enables them to solve organisational problems.
Asking your staff how they would like to improve their workplace will not result in a military style coup d'état, with employees sporting bandanas and lobbing burning computers (or mops) out of the office windows. Nor will it make them bellow for higher wages and longer holidays. Employees are far more likely to suggest minor adjustments to their work role to increase productivity and efficiency, which will save your organisation time and money.
At the very least, this process will result in a more engaged workforce, and at the most - it may just revolutionise how you do business.