3 Keys to Getting Employee Buy-In For Your Engagement Survey

Gaining a pulse on your organization's employee engagement level is hard to get without the input of your employees. If your employees don't buy into the survey process, then what? You waste time, money, and worse yet, faith in your chances of gaining credible employee feedback. That's why your employees' understanding, participation, and faith in the survey process is crucial.

Because employee buy-in is so important, we've spelled out a few points all employers should hit on when communicating the values of measuring employee engagement with their employees.

Build Trust

One of the most critical factors when it comes to survey buy-in is employees' trust – trust in leadership and trust in the survey process. Without trust, employees are unlikely to complete the survey, much less take the time to give open and honest feedback.

Trust starts in the highest tier of leadership. Before an employee will put trust in an employee engagement survey, he or she must first put trust in their leaders and their motives for administering an employee engagement survey. It’s simple: Full trust in leaders leads to full trust in their company initiatives. Employees must be reassured that leaders are implementing the survey for the good of the company, and not their own selfish curiosities.

Another important component is trust in the survey process. It is important to let employees know that the survey is completely confidential and open and honest feedback is not only encouraged, but expected. Partnering with an outside vendor can assist in building this trust with your employees. Knowing that the organization's employee engagement surveys are administered, collected, and analyzed confidentially by a third-party often builds trust with employees, resulting in sincere feedback.

Build Value

The second critical factor to building buy-in is showing employees the value. Leaders already know that an employee engagement assessment is an invaluable tool. It allows organizations to gain a pulse on their employee engagement level, analyze top weaknesses and strengths, and hear the praises or complaints of employees. Without this survey, problems are difficult to spot and positive change is even harder to implement.

While the value of an employee engagement survey may be clear to employers, some employees might need a bit more convincing. A common concern of unconvinced employees is that their personal opinion is irrelevant and voicing their concerns won't benefit them as individuals or affect the organization -- it's a leader's job to disprove these concerns.

Your organization has a few ways to put these concerns to rest:

  1. Prior to the survey, leadership should communicate with employees about how the survey results will be used to drive the organization.
  2. Explain to employees your plan for action post-survey. For example, when will results be announced? How will leadership decide what to work on? Will managers have additional follow up with their teams? Show employees ahead of time that you have a plan.
  3. If you've surveyed in previous years, be sure to remind them of the action that was taken in the past as a result of their feedback.

The best way to build value is to follow through.

Build Empowerment

The third most important component of gaining buy-in is building empowerment. Engagement surveys are designed to do just that: put power in the hands of your most valuable resource: your employees. However, if your organization doesn't truly listen to employee feedback and act on it after a survey project, you'll not only lose employees' trust and faith that the survey process is valuable, but also take away their feeling of empowerment.

Obviously, leveraging employee feedback from the survey to make changes is one way to build empowerment, but here are some other ideas:

  1. Make sure that you don't just make changes, but you reinforce those changes by communicating them to employees. Saying, "Based on your feedback from our employee engagement survey, we've decided to..." will help drive home that your actions are tied to their feedback.
  2. Include employees in focus groups post-survey in order to gain extra feedback on targeted items. (Need advice on how to conduct an employee focus group? Download our ebook, How to Conduct Employee Focus Groups.
  3. Build empowerment by sharing ownership. Involve employees in the action-planning process. Encourage teams to determine what steps they want to take in the next year to improve engagement.

Free ebook and templates! How to Increase Employee Participation with a Strategic Communication Plan

Published January 20, 2013 | Written By Natalie Wickham