What do I do with my employee feedback data?

I got this question from a client who manages a group of about 60 people in a large organization that collects data annually on employee satisfaction.

“What can I do with my employee feedback data? It looks like most people are happy and there’s an unhappy group; not much in the middle. There are so many questions. The survey asks them three different ways…”

This is a great question for two main reasons. The first reason is that the manager is interested in doing something with the data. It’s really important for my clients to have an interest in using their data if I am going to be helpful in any way. The second reason is that the manager understands that the data are complex. Interpreting them for actionable solutions will require understanding the root of the complexities. Here are my tips:

1. Get the raw data if you can. Many companies send the survey data to a third party to summarize. This protects employee confidentiality and gives them confidence to answer honestly. Unfortunately there is direct tradeoff between respondent privacy and data usability. One way to work around this issue is to have the third party do more detailed analysis like decision tree or correlation analyses. Another way is to have the identifiers, including demographics, stripped from the raw data so that the management team can analyze multiple factors together. You might think that demographics are important for determining solutions, but I don’t think that is true for work policies. The best solutions are applied with complete fairness. People who need them the most will use them the most. Now there are situations, like needs for pregnant or breastfeeding women that are gender-specific. I still think the best fixes for them are gender-neutral and can benefit new or expectant fathers as well as new or expectant mothers.

2. In the case that raw data are not available, look for connections in the aggregated responses. Since the survey measures multiple dimensions of an attribute (asks the same question three different ways) employers can piece together the major themes from identifying the most positive and negative areas. This is a time for us to get curious about what we are seeing. For example, a group that reports high autonomy and fulfillment but low incentive to perform at a high level is expressing a disconnection between empowerment and engagement. The reason for this problem, and the area for action, might be found in the leadership area where they report low trust. Perhaps some of the practices that diminish trust are working counter to the policies that encourage empowerment. If the group expresses a lack of useful training, perhaps they are not prepared for the level of autonomy they are given, and therefore, require more coaching.

3. Turn the results into statements. Tables and graphs are nice to look at if you want to see numbers, but statements express problems that can be solved. In order to really interpret the data, we need to tell the story of those numbers. I find that when I talk to my clients about what “the employees reported” rather than what “the percentage of employees said”, the clients explain why the employees might feel the way they report they do. I keep these conversations strictly confidential and conduct them without judgement of either the manager or the employee. Each side is valid. It’s my job to see the cause of the problem and to offer solutions that will eliminate it and lead to higher performance.

4. Know the context of the market. Right now we are living in a time when many people are dissatisfied with their jobs. Knowing what people are saying in other surveys will give the managers some context and comfort. This is not an excuse to dismiss their own employees feelings, however. It is a way to acknowledge that some problems are systematic and out of the managers’ control. As we brainstorm for solutions we are mindful of that important prayer for serenity, courage, and wisdom.

If you found this post helpful and want to talk more about interpreting your employee feedback data, email me at Monique@MBWStatConsulting.com.

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Posted in: What do I do with data?