The HR Consulting group within my current organization has a range of expertise including carrying out online engagement surveys for all of the National Companies. When we report the results it is often to the CEO of the company and their top leadership teams.

This year in my short introduction to these feedback sessions, I have been reminding them about the business importance of employee engagement. I have used two examples, Gallup and Shell.

Gallup has been carrying out engagement surveys since the 1990’s for thousands of companies in many different countries and estimate they’ve polled more than 30 million people. I’ve used them in a company for which I worked. They have proven and re-proven that companies with a higher engagement have lower staff turnover, lower quality defects, less safety incidents, higher customer ratings, higher employee productivity and higher profitability.

Shell, where I worked for many years, has over 20 years of engagement survey experience worldwide and analysed the results a couple of years ago. Companies in Shell wherever they were in the world with a higher engagement, apparently had the highest profitability.

I also explain that international best practice is that management shares the results with their employees and that follow-up is important. Together an action plan is set up to improve aspects of engagement.

There is always great interest in the results, especially as until recently the CEO bonus was partly dependent on them. But the aspect of really sharing the results with the people who filled it in, and the need for an action plan, other than firing the head of whatever part of the organisation has the worst results, has been a challenge. And even if they really want to set up an action plan they have trouble with knowing how to do it.

Here then is a quick best practice 6 steps action planning for line managers, that I recently shared with the Consulting group.

  1. Introduction & purpose

You provide a summary for your team of why engagement is important. Engagement drives performance. The research shows that a highly engaged team is more productive (and all the other things I mention above when talking about the Gallup research). Building your team’s engagement will lead to improvements in your team’s performance and delivery.

  1. Understanding your results

All team members should get a copy of the team’s results. After all, these are the people whom you asked to fill in the survey. They need to understand the format of the results so that they can interpret the results themselves and discuss what the results mean to them. When taking your team through the results you should not interpret the results for them. Just explain the format and the key definitions.

  1. Discussing the results

The aim is a team discussion. Employees will probably interpret the results in different ways or find different things important. Understanding the different interpretations should enable your team to develop a more effective action plan. Making assumptions about how or why your employees have filled in the survey will probably lead to an ineffective plan! So go through the results and encourage a discussion, collecting the team’s thoughts and ideas.

  1. Selecting an area for action

You should really only select and agree one, or no more than two, items to action. By focusing in this way it means the action plan is both manageable and achievable and concentrates on the most important things to your team.

  1. Building the action plan

By facilitating a brainstorming session with the team, generate as many ideas as possible, which should increase the likelihood of developing a meaningful action plan. Actions should obviously be specific and measurable, but should also be within the team’s control. Identify who will be responsible for each action. Write up the plan and action parties so that everyone has a copy.

  1. Follow-up

Implement the action plan and regularly review progress with the team throughout the year. Only by implementing the agreed actions will improvements be made in engagement. Indeed agreeing an action plan and then not implementing the actions will often lead to a decrease in engagement. When reviewing the actions remind the team why engagement is important and why you all agreed to do this. Update the action plan on a regular basis. Link actions taken as often as possible to the previous year’s engagement plan, so that your team know that they have been listened to and changes have been made as a result.

And hopefully the engagement results should be even better next year. But more importantly the performance of the team will be even better.

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