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How to turn your employee pulse feedback into actions

5 min read
As with any type of employee feedback, gathering and reporting survey responses is just a means to an end for a pulse survey. Ultimately the purpose of the program is to inform decisions that are made in the organisation. Here’s are some tips on how to set your program up to do it.

It starts with your question set

A pulse program is only as good as the content you ask on your surveys. It won’t be possible to drive action without asking the right kinds of questions. In order to drive action, you need to make sure you’re asking the right kinds of questions.

So as a rule, your survey should be weighted heavily towards ‘driver’ items as opposed to ‘outcome’ items. Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow:

  • ~75% Driver or “Actionable” items
  • ~15% Outcome items
  • ~10% Open-text items

Here are a few examples:

Driver items (actionable)

Outcome items (non-actionable)

My manager gives me the opportunity to try out things that interest me in my role

I am likely to recommend this company to family or friends as a great place to work

It’s up to me how I get things done in my role

I intend to work at this company for at least another two years

My team works together effectively

Overall, I am satisfied with my job at this company

Find out more: What to ask on an employee pulse survey

Before you start, define the right level for ownership

For your pulse surveys to have any impact, you need people on board within the organisation to drive change. This stakeholder level might vary depending on the survey, but typically organisations target senior management and above for pulse programs. Defining your audience for reporting is a key step after defining your pulse survey purpose – and you should have this audience in mind when you review your actionable survey items.

Here are a few tips to help get this audience on board:

  • Engage them early – explain what you’re doing and what you need them to do. Remind them of the purpose of the survey, and the metrics they will be able to view in the feedback dashboards. Ideally, you can also explain to them the business metrics they will be able to align against their pulse survey results
  • Set expectations – make sure your managers know when they can expect to see results, the teams or levels they’ll be able to see results for, and the responsibility on them or their admin teams to review results and when you need them to set their action plans
  • Have clearly defined owners – it’s easy to think ‘someone else is doing it’ so make sure everyone knows their responsibilities. On a pulse survey, this might mean ensuring you have somebody within any business who is responsible for reviewing and acknowledging employee feedback. You might not necessarily need to get a business leader to commit to reviewing results themselves, but they should commit a resource in their org to doing so.

The dashboard reviewers need to know they are responsible for receiving and digesting feedback, and not to dismiss results. They must be transparent with the team and acknowledge anything that’s surprising, great or difficult to see or hear.

Encourage the right kind of feedback from employees

You’ll need honest and constructive answers from your employees in order to drive the right actions and improvements.

Move away from a ‘scores’ culture

Goodhart’s law states that “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

The same principle applies to pulse surveys – if the focus of the survey shifts to being on scores and targets, it will become increasingly difficult to use them to inform decisions.

A common pitfall for organisations is to start to use the pulse survey to feed into manager scorecards. While this is driven by good intentions – to increase the importance of the survey to senior leaders, it also can drive a metrics-culture and steer the pulse away from gathering valuable employee feedback. Keeping the survey focussed on the feedback -positive and constructive- will ensure that the data continue to be relevant, and more aligned to necessary actions.

Keep communications regular

Communication is key, so create a constant channel, using a variety of one-way and two-way platforms: team meetings, open forums, social media, web, conference calls, emails, video, intranet, even posters and screensavers.

Employees need to see that their feedback is being listened to. It may not always be possible to show change as a result of the feedback, but it is always possible to acknowledge the feedback. This will keep employees on board and encourage them to continue to give their feedback to you.

Be open – if something is a clear issue but hasn’t been resolved yet after a number of pulses, it’s tempting, but unwise to ignore it. An elephant in the room can very easily overshadow the good work you’ve done in other areas, so the best approach is to have a leader acknowledge it and clearly respond.

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