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You get some employee engagement survey results that highlight managerial deficiencies: Do you act, or do nothing?

October 1, 2010

Most clients will receive good news in their employee engagement survey report.

But every now and again we see data which reflect on certain managers. Depending on the circumstances, and the individuals concerned, this may not be a problem. Most managers are highly self aware and will know what's going on in their own parts of the business. They may be expecting mixed or negative feedback; perhaps there has been restructuring, or people have been made redundant, and negative reactions were to be expected.

In such cases the survey report can actually be directly helpful, by providing information which managers can respond actively. So the reactions to the survey are positive.

On the other hand, there are cases (very rare in our experience) where the survey has highlighted the proverbial elephant in the room: a senior executive (perhaps more than one) who lacks people skills and is not aware of the consequences of his or her style.

Earlier this year we were involved in one such case where the climate was so delicate that the whole issue was avoided by filing the survey results in the the 'too difficult' tray.

The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the organisation did not have a conventional management structure. The Board Members all had equal equity stakes and the Senior Director played more of a chairman role than that of a CEO. In principle he had no direct authority over his colleagues and as a result all decisions were taken by consensus. Conflict was always avoided. In the event he decided to park the survey report and no action was taken. There was not even any feedback to employees. Not a good outcome. Especially as the majority of the feedback was highly positive about the organisation.

More recently, a similarly tricky situation arose. In this case the response of the client HR Director and the CEO concerned was different. They decided to use the feedback as an opportunity to explore the issues with their colleagues. After reviewing the data in some detail (there was a considerable amount of good news) it was agreed that the HRD should have individual discussions with the directors concerned. The meetings took place and a series of action plans were agreed. These sessions were a form of 360 feedback using the survey data in place of individual raters completing questionnaires.

The outcomes were very positive. In each case the individuals welcomed the opportunity to have these discussions. Each was well aware that they had difficulties but had not known how to confront and seek to resolve them. The survey results were, in the event, helpful to all concerned.

Once these meetings had taken place, the formal presentation of the engagement survey report took place in a constructive atmosphere, with all issues being highlighted and discussed with the proposed actions being reported. The style of the CEO and HRD ensured that the directors concerned were able to take a proactive stance on their results.

Responding directly to survey findings works better that ignoring them.

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