Post-survey action planning: Your complete guide
Employees don’t get sick of surveys, they get sick of a lack of meaningful change afterwards. Think about it. You’ve run a survey, looked at the data, seen the biggest issues…then what? Despite best intentions, action planning can go awry once things go back to normal. A lack of visible action can leave people feeling resentful. Why take part in the next survey if nothing has seemed to change since the last?
Our complete action planning guide will walk you through how to build a post-survey action plan focused on long-term change.
We’ll show you:
- Why your usual action planning approach isn’t working
- How to write a meaningful action plan (without spending hours on it)
- Examples of employee engagement action plans
- Proven ways to engage managers with action planning
Let’s crack on.
- If you focus on one group, make it line managers
- Line managers: An action planning workshop to lead with your team
- Support managers with action planning
- Engage stakeholders as key communicators for action planning
- Leaders’ role in change management
- 3 ways leaders can influence employee behaviours
- HR’s role in change management
How to make an action plan
You’ve got your survey results, now how do you turn these into an action plan that will deliver change?
Use our action planning framework below to prompt your discussions and write an action plan that will let you get on with the important bit – putting the actions in place.
When you get your survey results:
Understand the themes emerging from your survey results; an intuitive results dashboard like People Insight’s will help highlight these. Both focus groups and manager-led discussions can dig further into feedback. Use these to understand the issues before you start to write your action plan.
Share initial results with leaders and line managers and brief them on their role in action planning. HR can facilitate action planning, but need line managers to take a lead in delivering change. Tailor your survey results dashboard so managers have access to local data and can focus on what matters.
Prioritise 2-3 issues to focus your action planning efforts on. For instance key drivers show the survey items with the highest impact on your overall score; benchmarks show how your scores look against your peers so you can spot where you’re lagging behind; and historical data can reveal how scores have improved since previous surveys or where there’s still work to do.
Plan how you will make change happen. Involve your survey champions and line managers and explore results by demographic to see where they differ; can you adopt initiatives from the higher scoring groups? Break actions down and assign realistic timings for each stage, including how you will communicate progress.
Then, when you’ve made your action plan:
Act on what you’ve committed to. Be clear about accountability for items in your action plan, deliver quick wins that show change is happening and keep employees in the loop using your intranet, team meetings, video messages and infographics.
Sustain the momentum once everyone is back to business as usual. Give action owners the tools and support they need to deliver change; keep people interested by sharing updates in creative ways and celebrate milestones as progress is made. People Insight’s results dashboard includes an interactive action planning tool which makes it easy to track action planning progress.
3 ways to improve your action planning approach
Most of us have been burned by poor action planning. You know the drill. You spend hours talking about results and ideas for what can be done. These become a presentation for the Board, which you tweak and change until they’re happy, then launch it to your organisation and keep everyone keen for a week. Then their attention dwindles and everyone returns to how it was before…
These action planning best practice tips will change that.
1.Start thinking about your action planning approach early in the process
Consider your post-survey strategy from the start, to set yourself up for success. Ask yourself:
- How does your employee survey fit into wider change processes?
- Who will be responsible for owning action plan items? Not just the realm of HR, identify which groups or individuals within your organisation can help influence behaviours and lead change.
- Which stakeholders need to be involved in action planning? Book in action planning sessions ahead of time to make sure you get everyone in the room.
- What do local teams need to deliver post-survey action? Think about behaviours or systems that have got in the way of change in the past – are any of these still in place?
Involving stakeholders in action planning at LSBU: London Southbank University (LSBU) engaged leaders early in the action planning process. People Insight partnered with the LSBU OD team to deliver an interactive workshop to support this key group in understanding their survey results. A range of activities combined to provide key insights from the survey, share best practices and discuss potential ways forward. Leaders were reminded of their role in positively shaping local culture and took away ideas they could share with line managers, and use to inspire change.
2. Understand the issue you’re trying to solve.
Make sure you understand the issue behind the data, before you start putting solutions in place. Use qualitative methods like focus or listening groups to delve deeper into what your survey data is telling you. These are also a great way to crowdsource solutions from the people experiencing the issue.
If you have an employee listening strategy that integrates annual employee surveys, pulse surveys, online polls and social listening you’ll already have a ton of data that can help. If not, take a look at how to design an employee listening strategy.
3. Get creative with your solutions
Once you’ve identified the areas to focus your action planning efforts on, start to come up with ways to deliver positive change.
How can you get people excited about the changes? Firstly, put quick wins in place to demonstrate your commitment to action planning.
For more strategic change, involve employees and think outside the box. Identifying wellbeing as a key action area from their employee survey, London Southbank University (LSBU) converted a disused lab space into a social hub where colleagues can focus on games, activities and wellbeing.
Changing behaviours and getting leaders on-board
If you focus on one group, make it line managers.
Line managers are pivotal game changers in action planning. However, a lot of organisations come unstuck when it comes to engaging line managers in great action planning.
Line managers are the closest to the change happening ‘on the ground’, the change that’s most keenly felt by employees. They have more personal, more regular communications with their team and the opportunity to engage employees by explaining what your post-survey action plan means for them directly.
Change closer to home has a greater impact on individuals more quickly, which is why it’s vital for line managers to take the lead in local action planning. Also, visible local change has a much greater influence on ‘belief in action’ scores. When these scores are good, commitment to the survey and change programme continues with high response rates and willingness to act.
So, how can you get line managers excited about action planning?
- Share their team’s feedback – Yep the good, the bad and the ugly. People respond to feedback in different ways, so support them through this process of understanding feedback and where to take action. For instance People Insight’s survey dashboard creates user-specific dashboards, so managers need only view the relevant data to them.
- Give line managers ownership – Confusion over who’s doing what can lead to nothing getting done. Brief line managers about their role, expected behaviours and how you can help them with action planning.
- Ask them how it’s going – Give line managers a regular, informal way of feeding back progress and issues, and equip them with the training & tools to get stuff done.
Line managers: An action planning workshop to lead with your team
Action planning within your team isn’t just down to line managers. An effective action planning workshop helps your team get to grips with your survey data, involves them in suggesting ideas and commits you all to targeted actions.
Before the session:
- Familiarise yourself with your team’s survey data
- Share key findings with your team.
- Explain the purpose of the action planning workshop; that it’s for them to share their views and inform change, not to hear about plans you’ve already made.
During the session:
- Be open, honest and transparent. Reassure your team that you don’t know who said what (and don’t want to find out!).
- Celebrate your successes and dig into the areas where you scored less positively.
- Ask your team if there are any surprises in the results, whether there is other evidence to back up the scores and how they would like to see your scores change next year.
To wrap up the session:
- Prioritise 2-3 actions with the biggest impact.
- Assign owners and due dates to each action.
- Focus on actions you can take as individuals or a team. In addition, make a note of any that need to be communicated at a department level or fed back to the central engagement team.
After the session:
- Commit as a team to keep up momentum
- Agree how to share progress; you might add action planning to the agenda of 1:1s or discuss it in a regular team tea-break.
Support managers with action planning
Empowering local teams: London Southbank University
London Southbank University (LSBU) operate as a Group, with two technical academies and a further education college, so empowering local leaders to deliver change was vital to post-survey action planning. People Insight’s intuitive results dashboard and iDeck, a dashboard feature that exports instant results presentations, allowed LSBU local leaders and managers to take ownership of their results and identify how to take action.
As a result, the School of Applied Sciences focussed on 2 priority areas of engagement to improve: leadership and inclusion (which have improved by 17 and 16 percentage points respectively). This has been achieved through a number of activities, including:
Engage stakeholders as key communicators for action planning
The buck for action planning doesn’t stop with HR. Leading meaningful change needs to be driven by other parts of the business too.
We talked above about the importance of engaging line managers in action planning; no amount of action planning will lead to change if line managers are disengaged, left in the dark or confused about their role.
Line managers are key. However also consider how you might engage other stakeholder groups in the process. For example:
- Identify your project sponsor and brief them early on what you need them to do.
- Be clear about their role in communicating change. As a champion of the project, how can they help you launch change and make it stick?
- Show that you’ve considered their needs when planning their role in action planning. Some leaders are happy to dive into discussions on Slack or Workplace, while others are better suited to in-person presentations.
More ideas for how stakeholders can communicate change.
HR Business Partners
- Involve HR business partners throughout the action planning process and be clear about responsibilities when briefing them. Who owns what? How will you be reporting back to the Board? Whose responsibility is it to follow up on actions?
- Invite them to your results presentation so they can hear first-hand the results of your employee survey and the priority areas for improving engagement.
- Invite them to action planning workshops to represent their team’s interests
- Ask them for feedback on how changes are being experienced on the ground
- Encourage them to keep post-survey action on their team meeting agenda and influence action within their teams
- Share actions and progress with their team in a more informal way than line managers
Leaders’ role in change management
Changing at pace risks our people being left behind, disorientated or demotivated by confusing messages, lack of clarity and understanding. For change to be successful, leaders need to lead change prominently and engage staff throughout the change process.
Unfortunately People Insight’s findings demonstrate that only just over half of employees believe leaders listen and provide good direction:
|Question from People Insight’s total |
employee engagement survey database
|2018 benchmark scores|
|Leaders provide a clear vision of the overall direction of the organisation||58% employees agree|
|Leaders make an effort to listen to staff||55% employees agree|
When it comes to leadership’s role in action planning and managing change, these behaviours are key to achieving long-term success:
- Leaders must lead with genuine passion. Firstly develop a clear vision – that you really, really believe in. Only then will you be motivated to strive to achieve it and be able to motivate others.
- Live the vision and values consistently. Staff need to see you and your leadership team displaying the values and hear you talking about them frequently if they are going to buy into the process.
- Earn trust through being frank. For staff to believe in the vision, they need to believe in the person promoting it. Be honest, admitting where things have failed, what a challenge the change is and committing to improvement is a sign of strength, not weakness.
- Be present. Get amongst your people. Listen. Invite their views and opinions. Don’t hide in an office or behind a hierarchy. Be human.
- Collaborate. You can’t achieve change by yourself – but change needs a clear leader. Invite in staff – academic and professional, students and other stakeholders.
- Have stamina. Embedding change takes time, patience, determination and an unfailing belief in the process.
3 ways leaders can influence employee behaviours
Inconsistent leadership risks undermining your post-survey action plan. Imagine the frustration of employees told to change how they’re acting, only to see their boss sticking to old habits.
We can learn from organisations like Sturrock & Robson and A2Dominion Group who do a great job of engaging leaders to lead change by example.
3 ways leaders can influence employees to adopt new behaviours:
- Listen to feedback with humility. Keep employee feedback channels open and show you are acting on what they have to say. Look at employee listening tools as more than just a way to get an engagement benchmark or kick off change efforts; give your people the opportunity to tell you what they think of the changes and make suggestions, so you can adapt and improve where necessary.
- Make change visible. Employees don’t get survey fatigue, they get lack of action fatigue. Take an agile approach. At first make changes that are visible and tangible first, then communicate milestones on the way to bigger goals.
- Get in front of your people. It’s really easy to have poor communication undermine your change efforts. Create meaningful interactions with face-to-face meetings and walkthroughs, during the initial roll out of change programmes and after. Tell people what you are going to change, why you’re doing it and celebrate when you have done it.
HR’s role in change management
Across organisations, senior leaders are recognising the value of improved people data, recruitment and employee engagement and increasingly looking to HR to influence strategic change. Both Nottingham Building Society and Vinci Construction UK demonstrate the impact of this.
Nottingham Building Society were ahead of the curve; they appointed their Head of People and Development to the Executive Committee to raise visibility of the People and Culture agenda and align business objectives with their culture and employee experience.
Getting stakeholders outside HR involved with your survey programme and action planning is key to creating lasting change as a result of your employee survey. For instance The Nottingham engaged their CEO to share high-level survey results and key themes at a company-wide event; their People and Development team also organised a range of action planning workshops with managers to brainstorm action ideas and involve them in post-survey change.
HR can help sustain action planning momentum by embedding it into business behaviours. For example at Vinci Construction UK accountability for action is shared across the business. Their engagement programme is led by HR but owned by MDs at business levels and when creating their HR business plan, Vinci’s HR team incorporate survey feedback to commit to what they will do differently but also specify how they want people to behave and engage e.g:
You said: You wanted more regular feedback
We will: promote 1:1s with managers and hold ½ day manager training on what good 1:1s look like
We expect you to: engage with 1:1s proactively
Writing a meaningful action plan (that your team will actually use)
Free 2020 action plan template
People Insight’s survey results dashboard includes a built-in action planning tool to help your team record action items, assign owners and track progress. If you opt for offline action planning, use our free action plan template to record your action planning priorities.
Our simple action planning template will keep your plan on track, without giving your team a tonne of extra admin.
Smart action planning examples
Sturrock and Robson: Involving employees in change
Sturrock and Robson’s engagement and cultural change programme helped achieve an amazing 16% engagement boost by their next survey, reaching a score of 90%.
Once their survey results were in, detailed reports were shared with leaders and key headlines were communicated to employees. The leadership team appointed a team member, Amalie Lyneborg, to run the programme and act upon survey feedback. Over a 2-year period, Amalie delivered a face-to-face action planning and change delivery roadshow at each business site to make sure everybody felt heard and included.
After the roadshows, there was a long-term follow up plan. Amalie regularly checked in with sites to assess progress, carried out further visits to discuss with employees how changes were going and ensured that action progress was included on the agenda of every senior meeting.
As Sturrock and Robson demonstrated, change works when you get in front of your people to create personal, meaningful interactions. When combined with consistent communication about what changes happening as a result of employee survey feedback, people genuinely feel they’ve had a say in changes that will impact them.
Learn more about Sturrock and Robson’s post-survey programme.
Arrow Communications: Telling the story of post-survey change
Following their employee survey Arrow Communications committed to several new programmes and initiatives; they also committed to providing more regular feedback about the changes they were making.
Each quarter People Insight produce ‘You Said, We Did’ infographics which share Arrow’s post-survey progress with employees. The infographics show the headline feedback from the survey, the changes and progress made since it closed and the key activities to look for in the next quarter.
Arrow’s infographics keep up momentum around the survey so the excitement doesn’t end when the survey closes and keep Management accountable for seeing change through.
Nottingham Building Society: Keeping action planning front of mind
Nottingham Building Society experienced huge transformation during its multi-million pound investment in digital capability, with changes requiring significant changes to roles and culture. People Insight designed and ran a survey to help understand how employees were feeling and how the culture reflects the values of the organisation.
Following the survey, People Insight led workshops with senior leaders to share highlights from the survey results and focus them on priorities with the biggest impact for culture and engagement.
To keep post-survey actions front of mind, The Nottingham’s People and Culture agenda is included at every Board meeting. They also renamed their Staff Council the “Your Voice Matters Forum” to reflect their survey name and show changes were here to stay. Additionally, to involve employees and drum up action ideas for specific issues, The Nottingham held a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitching process. Ideas to solve communication included holding regular ‘Brown Bag Lunches’ to get teams talking to one another; these informal events are held frequently to share what different groups are working on.
More help with post-survey action planning
Our organisational psychologists are experts at helping organisations deliver post-survey action that makes a substantial, meaningful difference; on average, we find that clients see their scores for ‘belief in action’ increase by 20% after working with us.
Talk to us about:
Expert feedback and interpretation sessions
- Engage leaders in your people priorities and establish strategic relevance
- Present a credible, objective view of your data
- Provide insights, examples from and comparisons with similar organisations
Action planning support for managers
- Manager-level results dashboard access
- iDeck to create instant results presentation and simplify action planning
- Action planning or Train the trainer workshops to build manager capability
- Includes practical toolkits and session plans
Deep-dive focus groups
- Explore more deeply issues from the survey
- Crowdsource solutions
- Secure buy in to and ownership for change
Need help with post-survey action planning? Our organisational psychologists and experienced consultants will maximise the insights from your employee survey and engage your team to create meaningful change. Contact us to discuss how we can support your post-survey action planning.
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