Ashley Schwedt | Feb. 28, 2019

Now What: Using Climate Survey Results to Improve Company Culture

You completed your climate survey. You got your results. They weren’t great. Now what?

By conducting a climate survey, you made an implicit commitment to your employees to do something with the data. So the one thing you can’t do now is nothing. You have to take steps to address the issues identified. If you fail to follow through on this commitment, employees will assume their voices weren’t heard, and that leadership is ignoring the issues. 

In the extreme, failing to respond can result in Institutional Betrayal (an extension of Betrayal Trauma Theory). Coined by psychologist Jennifer Freyd in 2009, Institutional Betrayal occurs when an employer fails to respond to wrongdoings experienced by its employees. It describes the experience of depending on, and trusting, an institution – only to be let down by a lack of follow-through or action.

Wharton professor and Organizational Psychologist, Adam Grant, refers to the opportunity to respond to negative results as your “second score”. He says, “Somebody might have just given me a D-minus, and I can’t control that. What I can control is saying, “I want to try to get an A-plus for how well I take that D-minus.”

To that end, here are a list of five-steps you should take in addressing your climate survey results with your workforce. 

  1. Share the results of the survey: How you do this is up to you (Impactly can help.). You can share with the leadership team first, then managers, then employees, or you can share with everyone all at once. You can choose to share only highlights from the results, or share aggregated responses to all questions. The way in which you share your results likely depends on the size of your company, the involvement of your executives, and your access to employees. The benefits of sharing the results is twofold. One, by sharing baseline data, you’ll be able to give employees a feeling of progress once you show improved scores next time! Two, sharing the responses shows that you’re not ashamed, but rather motivated to do something with the results of your climate survey.
  2. Ask for improvements or solutions: Give your employees the opportunity to be heard, and give yourself permission to not have to go at this alone! Conduct interviews, focus groups, or follow up surveys with your employees so that those who have thoughts and contributions can opt-in to sharing those potential solutions. By giving people a voice early on, they’ll also be more likely to contribute to the solution itself. Employees put in more effort toward initiatives they helped to create.
  3. Pick 1-2 solutions to follow through on: You can’t do everything. Don’t become disillusioned with the idea that there are so many possible options for improvement. Pick one or two areas that you’d like to improve and dedicate your efforts and resources there. Narrowing in on just a few initiatives will allow you to create measured and significant improvement.
  4. Communicate about the plan and process: Share with employees what you’re working to improve and how you’re going about doing that. The biggest mistake made with change efforts is not communicating effectively about that change. Working behind the scenes doesn’t give you the credit you deserve, and also doesn’t make your employees feel assurance that anything is actually being done with their survey responses or ideas for solutions. Don’t fear over-communicating. Effective frequency tells us that people need to hear things 6 to 20 times to actually retain the information.
  5. Share improvements and successes: Baseline data is just that – a baseline. By taking action toward specific and impactful change, you can share new data based on your next climate survey responses. Communicate to your employees the areas in which you were trying to improve, what actions you took, and the change that you saw. If you don’t see a positive change, it means that you can try again! It also may mean that there were additional variables making your job harder. One tip: Don’t wait for your next climate survey to measure success. This is your lag measure of what you hope the outcome to be. Determine lead measures that you can track throughout the process that will help you determine if you will have lag success. For example, if you are aiming to improve knowledge of reporting procedures, you can measure email open rate, clicks on the procedure website, and even manager perception on employee knowledge.

Conducting a climate survey is a big step – don’t let it go to waste by not following up on the results!


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