By Louis Efron, M.S. The Voice of Purpose

An engagement survey is just the beginning of motivating employees. In fact, if you just do a survey and nothing more, employee engagement will likely decrease and turnover will increase.

If you ask an employee for feedback about their workplace or engagement, then do nothing about it, resentment quickly rises. Not only did you waste your workforce’s time, but you also proved that you don’t care about your people.

If you just do a survey and nothing more, employee engagement will likely decrease and turnover will increase. [Side note from John Schaefer – I was part of an early Productivity Circle back in the 80’s and lack of manager participation and followup on the vulnerable work our team did had the same effect]

Nothing builds positive momentum for an engagement initiative more than asking for feedback, doing something about it, and then sharing and celebrating positive results.

In fact, survey participation could be seen as a good indicator of an engaged workforce that believes they are listened to and cared for. If employees can see how giving feedback to organizational leaders results in positive changes to their workplace and lives, everyone will win.

Despite the importance of responding to and acting on employee feedback, only 8% of employees strongly agree that their organization takes action on surveys.

To truly support employee engagement and see improved organizational outcomes as a result, you need to do three things along with a survey:

  1. build grassroots accountability
  2. have effective action planning sessions
  3. assign action item leaders

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Grassroots AccountabilityAfter collecting data through a survey or other means, managers must lead action planning sessions at all team levels. However, a team action planning session should be more than just a way to create manager to-do lists.

In fact, these sessions should be quite the opposite. Managers should use them to foster employee engagement at a grassroots level where every person in the organization takes accountability for making their workplace great.

Reward and recognition systems must support the personal and corporate values and behaviors that you desire and expect from your employees to encourage an engaged workplace.

Effectively creating a grassroots engagement culture means that every person in your organization is part of your business’ success. When there is personal and organizational alignment on a common goal, it accelerates job meaning and engagement.

As engagement correlates with every meaningful business metric, your organization truly becomes like a high-precision grandfather clock where all internal workings come together to fulfill its purpose. Like the gears and mechanisms of this clock, organizations cannot do what they intend to do if employees, processes and procedures are misaligned, moving in different directions or out of sync.

Action Planning

The environment a manager creates for action planning is vital. Such sessions must establish a safe place and provide ample time (one hour seems to be a best practice) for employees to discuss and share their true thoughts and opinions about what will make their workplace better, more productive and successful.

Survey results aside, the action planning meeting should always include the question, “What can we do individually and as a team to make things better for our organization and ourselves?”

Never ask or expect employees to share how they scored a particular survey item, but rather ask them how the survey items made them feel. Most importantly, making progress on your action plans and achieving your goals is a top predictor of how engaged your team will be in the future.

Action Item Leaders (AILs)

Once the team has discussed and agreed on at least one key SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timely) action to take, an AIL from the team should be assigned.

Because the team’s manager is ultimately accountable for up to 70% of their team’s engagement, it is helpful for the AIL to be someone other than the team’s manager to reinforce shared accountability for engagement.

Making progress on your action plans and achieving your goals is a top predictor of how engaged your team will be in the future.

An AIL is a team member who takes accountability to ensure a single team action item is completed as expected and when promised. If a team has more than one identified action, assign a separate AIL to each goal.

Being an AIL does not mean this person does all the work to achieve the desired result. Instead, it means they are responsible for ensuring needed resources are in place and the work required to accomplish the objective gets done.

AILs are responsible for reporting to the team monthly or quarterly to ensure the action is moving toward completion. When the team achieves its results, the AIL should share the team’s success with the company. This communication should celebrate the accomplishment(s) and provide engagement best practices for other managers with similar challenges.

Finally, employee engagement, surveys and what must follow is not an HR initiative — it is a business one. As such, it is most effective when CEOs and business leaders become the face of communications and expectations, further enforcing that employee engagement does matter for individual and business success.

If you’d like to learn more about fresh ideas to enhance your organization’s approach to recognition, employee engagement and performance management, shoot me an email at or call John Schaefer directly at 888-646-6670 toll free. Thanks!