The No-Blunder Guide to Reporting Out on an Employee Satisfaction Survey

So, you’ve been a good employer and initiated a survey to explore employee satisfaction. That’s great and deserves its own “Bravo!” But now, as you review the responses, you’re wondering how to best communicate the results back to your team.

First, you’re on the right track. Nothing says “lack of transparency” more than asking employees to complete a job satisfaction survey and then not reporting on the results. Respect your employees by communicating back their collective responses and the actions you will take to make improvements. Also remember it isn’t necessary to rush your communication. Develop an intelligent and insightful response, and then deliver it within 1 month or so of when the survey was administered.

Whether you communicate results in writing or group presentations depends on the size of your company and the delivery channels that work best. The best bet is often a combination of vehicles, including town hall meetings, letters, and an accompanying fact sheet that summarizes findings. Some companies also prefer to inform managers first, so that they can assist in communicating the results and action plan to staff. All of these considerations should be built into your postsurvey communication playbook.

When delivering results, consider the messenger. Although the human resources or chief executive probably wants to present this information, it may be better heard from a neutral party, such as an outside expert who is introduced by the CEO or HR chief. This may be especially important if employee trust appears to be low.

Begin on neutral ground by thanking everyone who participated, and express appreciation for their honesty and thoughtfulness. Start with basics, such as the response rate. Was it high, and did you meet a specific participation goal? What were the general demographics of the respondents—more staff than managers? More east coast than west coast? Give employees a general idea of where the bulk of responses came from.

Getting into the content of the survey, go for a 30,000-foot overview first, explaining where employee satisfaction seems to be moving. Don’t review every single data point, as this could be perceived as hiding in masses of data. Answer the top-line questions, such as “Where were the big areas of improvement?” “What do employees seem to be happy about?” “What still needs to be addressed?” Don’t scuttle negative feedback, but don’t dwell on it completely. Even small wins are important.

Provide context for the results. Did you add staff? Did you discontinue a program? Was there a benefit takeaway? Or, did a problem happen outside your control? Here is your opportunity to develop the narrative that will guide your next step: the action plan.

Next, communicate your action plan. This step is a clear indication that you plan to do something meaningful with the survey data. For this section, it is important that a key executive deliver the plan, as it is the commitment for moving forward. Be thoughtful about this step, and avoid over-promising or under-acting. Include both short- and long-term efforts. Let employees know specifics about what you plan to do, even if it is to gather more information. For example, if you’re going to follow a quantitative survey with employee focus groups, let them know when and where the sessions will be held. Be aware, though, that focus groups are just one step. Employees will want to know something about long-lasting efforts.

After communicating the action plan, keep your commitments top-of-mind within the organization. Provide ongoing communication about what is happening in response to survey recommendations, and express if any improvements have been completed. Update employees regularly, including when there are any changes in plans. If something isn’t working as you’d hoped, communicate the adjustments to be made.

Over time, communicating employee survey results will become easier. But be aware that the process doesn’t begin and end with a survey. Employees need to know that the survey is just one of many avenues to have their voices heard as you endeavor to make their workplace better.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss how to ensure that employees participate in employee surveys in the first place!