Body in Motion
The first of Newton’s laws of motion states “a body that is at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it.” His second law states “a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.” Those same laws seem to apply to the world of employee survey action taking.
Some of those who get survey results never seem to get around to taking action based on the survey results they have in hand. And just like a body at rest, they tend to stay at rest doing nothing with the findings.
- The survey results provided may not be definitive enough for them and they may request additional analysis after analysis until they get around to doing just about nothing.
- The survey results may point to action that is difficult or overwhelming and so the easiest path may again be to let things be just as they are and do nothing.
- They survey results may point to behaviors that go against closely held beliefs that the manager may have, so even though the data says one thing, he or she may simply know in their heart the “right thing to do” regardless of the data.
In one study which pointed out some of the obstacles to having action arise from the survey process, (Wiley & Brooks, 2010), the 3 top obstacles to taking action on a survey were identified as:
- Accountability (12%)
- Holding organizational members responsible for their role in the survey program; ownership and clarity of assignment
- Resources (12%)
- Especially time (given the other demands of manager’s job), but other resources as well: training, technical, financial
- Importance (12%)
- Management (especially executive management) attention to and support for survey
But looking on the positive side for a moment, what are the benefits of taking action, even if it may not be the perfect action based on the survey results? If you look at survey data longitudinally and track which employees saw results from a previous survey vs. those who did not (from within one organization), and which ones saw action arising from the survey vs. those who did not, the data strongly suggests that seeing the data and seeing action, drives a very positive shift in the next survey iteration on critical business performance metrics.
- In one organization for instance if 75% or more at the department level could recall actions arising from the survey their average employee engagement score rise by 5 percentage points.
- In that same organization, those departments where less than 50% could recall actions arising from the survey score their employee engagement scores went down by 13 percentage points.
The benefits of taking action, even if it is not the perfect action are very clear. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, and in our fast changing world, staying in motion; constantly improving organizations based on insightful data which is tied to the organizational strategy is a very impactful way to help performance.
© 2012 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.