Poorly designed employee engagement programs can actually hinder the very things they are designed to improve. In a previous post, we discussed how poorly managed engagement surveys can decrease trust in your organization. This post will explore the topic of accountability.


Employee engagement is a two-way street

Increasingly, organizations are wondering how they can design surveys to make their employees accountable for their own engagement. It’s an important question that should be considered by anyone who wants to design a mindful, smart survey program. At Qualtrics, we see this as shifting the conversation around engagement from adult-child, to adult-adult. While a company has a responsibility to create the right conditions for engagement, employees also have to take some responsibility for their own levels of engagement.


When we begin thinking about accountability, we also have to acknowledge the importance of another concept – empowerment. Accountability and empowerment go hand in hand. In order to expect the former, you have to provide the latter. If you hold someone accountable without empowering them, you increase the potential for frustration and disengagement. If you empower someone without holding them accountable, you will likely not see effective results.


3 ways employee surveys can actually limit employee accountability

  1.     Leadership has all the responsibility to act – When poor survey results arise, companies often ask “What does leadership need to do?” rather than “What do we all need to do differently?” By focusing only on leadership, you are taking accountability for change away from front-line employees.
  2.     Action planning is hierarchical – Action plans are generally created by management and viewable only by senior management or HR. This sends the message that problem solving is driven from the top-down, when it should involve employees at all levels.
  3.     Most survey questions don’t measure individual accountability – Many surveys are designed around measuring how the organization, division or manager is stacking up for employees. There aren’t many questions that measure whether an employee is taking advantage of the opportunities the company provides to increase engagement.


Practical solutions to increase employee accountability

  •      Create team ownership of action planning –­­­ Have employees and managers come up with the action plan for the team. Reserve time in a survey results session for the manager to leave the meeting, giving the team time to discuss results and priorities for action without leadership present. Additionally, select members can have access to online planning dashboards.
  •      Change your communication tone – Firmly let people know that engagement is something everyone needs to take responsibility for in your communication. It’s not “You said, we did”, it’s “We said, we did.”
  •      Remember that empowerment is the key to accountability – Ensure you’re giving employees all the knowledge, information, and tools they need to deliver on the level of accountability to which they are being held.
  •      Encourage employees to explore their personal levels of engagement  – While many engagement issues should be anonymous and private, front-line employees can, and should, be encouraged to identify where they can address personal drivers of disengagement.


A questionnaire framework for accountability

For an organization looking to pinpoint where employees can be accountable for individual engagement, review how many of your survey questions address accountability. Focusing on this may complicate survey design, but results will be more actionable at all levels.


The following framework can help you design questions that focus on accountability. All questions should be designed to target one of four layers:

  1. The organization
  2. The team
  3. The manager
  4. The individual.


Each survey theme should have at least (and ideally only) one question that fits into one of these four layers.


Sample theme: “Career Development”

  1. The organization – “There are opportunities for growth in this organization”
  2. The team – “On my team, there are opportunities for me to get involved in challenging and interesting work”
  3. The manager – “My manager gives me the opportunity to try new things that align with my career goals”
  4. The individual – “I have a career plan or a good idea of my career goals”


Repeat this approach for every theme on your survey. This model allows a company to pinpoint at what level things are not connecting. It allows everyone to isolate their responses by level so employees know that if it’s an employee question, it’s for them to act on.


Want more tips for bringing accountability into your survey program? Request a meeting with our team HERE. And, to watch an on-demand webinar with more tips for building successful employee engagement programs, click below!

Employee Engagement Best Practices

Watch Webinar