With a well-constructed and well-considered plan—and the right employee survey results—you will eventually benefit from stronger leaders and a more engaging employee experience.

By Carolyn Nevitte

Though there are a few ways to measure employee engagement, including manager-employee one-on-ones and exit interviews, employee surveys remain top of the list. Through regular surveys, companies can pinpoint areas of concern, provide direction for organisational growth and show employees that their feedback is valued.

Despite all the advantages of employee surveys, we need to accept the reality — employee survey results won’t always be positive. It’s altogether possible you won’t be at all pleased with your initial results. But that’s the nature of a well-structured, constructive survey — it highlights and summarizes everything — the good, the bad and the ugly.

Invariably, you will receive negative feedback following your employee survey. But what is the best way to respond to this employee feedback? Below we’ll explore seven top tips to deal with negative employee survey results while using them to your best advantage.

View Negative Feedback as an Opportunity for Growth

Don’t be disheartened by seemingly negative feedback. Remember, “poor” results are much better, and a lot more helpful than no results at all. All feedback is a potential tool for improvement. Whether the feedback relates to management style or support, organisational processes or development opportunities, once you are aware of weaknesses in your company, you can begin to turn things around. 

Take Action (and Keep Your Employees in the Loop)

Incredibly, 52% of managers fail to take any action following a review of their employee survey results. There is absolutely no sense in investing time and money into conducting a survey and asking your employees for input if you are going to ignore the results. 

The aftermath of a survey review is one of those situations where actions speak louder than words. Once you have analysed the results and you understand what areas of your business require improvement, make a concrete plan of action (incorporating ideas from your whole team) and stick to it. Keep your employees informed of what you aim to achieve and how. This will demonstrate how much you value their insights while also showing you are a forward-thinking company dedicated to advancement.

Keep Positive — Don’t Take Bad Feedback out on Employees

The worst thing you can do with negative feedback is to let it affect your demeanor and your mood. As a manager, you might be hurt or even frustrated, but don’t take it out on your team. Your employees need to think of you as stable and secure — this will encourage them to come to you with more feedback in the future. 

If you have been particularly affected by the negative feedback, take some time to get to grips with it. Don’t act immediately, or you might end up behaving in a way you’ll later regret. Collect your thoughts and consider your next steps.

Be Transparent with Employees about Employee Survey Results

Transparency has proven to be a critical element when it comes to improving the employee experience. You’ve involved your employees so far — don’t shut them out now. The more transparent you are with your team regarding your employee survey results, the more they will trust and respect you for being so honest.

Make sure to share employee survey results that are both good and bad. Celebrate the good, but resist the temptation to undermine negative feedback. Acknowledge it, thank your employees for highlighting areas for improvement and explain that you aim to make changes going forward. Let them know they can come to you with ideas and solutions — encourage employees to stay involved with the process.

Keep Lines of Communication Open

Communication and clarification are essential in the months following the survey. Organisational change will undoubtedly be required to a degree, and keeping employees involved and updated at every stage will increase the odds of the change being successful.

Following the results of the survey, consider meeting with employees for clarification and elaboration. This will help you narrow your focus to key issues.

Send out communications at regular intervals. Discuss progress and any pressing issues during employee performance discussions and check-ins. Maintain an open-door policy, so employees feel free to come to you with any questions. The more informed employees are and the more context they are given, the better equipped they will be to make day-to-day decisions that support organisational objectives.

Decide What to Improve — And Stay Focused

When you created and designed your survey, ideally you would have focused on certain key areas. However, if you are in a position where you have several issues requiring attention and improvement, don’t make the mistake of spreading yourself too thin. 

Once you have a pool of ideas for improvement, it’s time to focus and create a plan. Set goals. Decide what needs the most attention, how it will be improved and who will be responsible for what tasks. Cultural change can be a challenge in itself — it takes a lot of time, commitment and effort. One of the biggest mistakes in change management involves undertaking too many changes at once while over-estimating the capacity of a company to change. Remember, as Stephen R. Covey once said, “When you have too many top priorities, you effectively have no top priorities.”

Keep Asking for Feedback

One survey isn’t going to cut it. It’s essential to carry out surveys and canvass for opinion regularly, so you are continually making positive change that will improve and enhance employee experience and your company as a whole.

Regularly carrying out surveys demonstrates to your employees that you are invested in change, but it also provides you with real, quantifiable evidence that improvements are being made and your employees are more engaged. And remember, when you solve one problem, you might notice other issues arise that need addressing. The best, most forward-thinking, modern companies strive for continuous improvement.

Carolyn Nevitte is HR Director at People Insight, a company that helps organisations measure and improve the employee experience through employee surveys, 360-degree feedback and expert consulting.

Employee feedback stock photo by lassedesignen/Shutterstock