Don’t Ask, Don’t Get: Activating the Employee Voice to Get Real Results

July 11, 2019 | Waggl | HCI
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Managers repeatedly send the outdated, same old surveys to their teams, but don’t receive the actionable data they need to fix problems and create positive change. The surveys don’t allow problems among their workers to be identified, much less give leader the ability to fix them. Leaders are too often left questioning what steps should be taken because with surveys, emphasis is put on the past instead of the future.

“With 78% of companies failing to get good results on their engagement surveys, it makes sense to try something different,” Forbes contributor Mark Murphy said. “And prioritizing your employee engagement efforts just as you would any other operational initiative is a great place to start.”

On Murphy’s note of ‘trying something different,’ what if leaders tried reaching employees in a different way -- one that really gets them talking? This new way could be the end of employee engagement surveys and the beginning of Employee Voice.

It goes without saying that newness comes with risks, peaks and valleys, but in the end, leaders could witness the unfolding of a better-run business because of high-performing people that openly communicate with management.

Many HR leaders say they’ve used engagement surveys for well over a decade, generating reports of information on the biggest players for benchmarking and insightful analytics. While positive survey results continued, leaders failed struggled to get the most critical outcomes from the repeated, traditional surveys. At the end of the day, they just weren’t moving the needle as much as they wanted.

The HR department of mortgage loan company Freddie Mac recently took a chance on an Employee Voice model for 90 days, and it allowed HR leaders to get their hands on actionable data. Compared to engagement surveys, which didn’t generate the quick-to-comprehend info they wanted; the model reached information that the traditional survey failed to address.

Giving employees a place to freely provide information, Freddie Mac found, was the best way to get direct, reliable information about what’s wrong in the eyes of their people, and quickly determine a way to fix problems. The model uncovered specific problems in the workplace, and so leaders were able to act on their employees’ concrete questions and concerns.

The employee engagement transformation to date has been extremely promising. Freddie Mac’s HR leaders realized that traditional surveys allowed a business to struggle because they weren’t identifying real problems or solutions. They recognized that the surveys had given scores to general topics and past issues, rather than inspiring employees to disclose particular problems and corresponding solutions that were tangible.

The Employee Voice approach to engagement opened more than just communication. Leaders said they learned the value of transparency when seeking information from their employees and that they no longer worried what people would say. The raw feedback and new level of transparency worked wonders in revealing the specific changes needed to improve employees’ concerns -- the problems standing in the way of their best performance.

Think about it: What’s more powerful, having the employees of a $16 billion company answer pre-determined questions about their motivation and ability to highly perform – or – having managers give employees a platform for open discussions about what’s working and what’s not?

The new way of gathering engagement data proved successful as it unleashed clarity, encouraged employees to speak up (and be heard), and connected managers with their people on a whole new level. The revamped communication took the focus from what wasn’t working: time and effort spent on assessing and measuring engagement reports.

Changing the way leaders reached employees enabled growth and big things for the business. The new employee engagement process sped up the launch of initiatives, improved reporting and drove  employees to take action that would improve the future of the business.

Those 90 days of a new road travelled proved to be worth it, and the real story lies in the “how” behind the change. Learn from Freddie Mac’s VP of Talent Management, Dru Fearing about how he and his team paved the way for employee engagement change by watching the webcast, “Re-wiring Your Organization for Speed and Agility with Employee Voice.”