When it comes to effective employee surveys, creating and administering them is only part of the battle. Crafting the right questions is meaningless if the necessary time is not spent on deeply exploring the responses. Perhaps you’re part of the 22% of companies that receive positive results from their employee engagement surveys, but don’t think the survey process is complete as soon as initial positive feedback is identified. Uncovering actionable insights and improvements is possible even for positive results, and requires more than just a cursory glance.

Compare to the Past

The best insights should always refer back to the initial purpose and goals at the inception of the survey, and that nearly always requires a comparison to past results to discover downward or upward trends. Did morale decrease? If so, did specific negative workplace events occur since the last survey? If you can pinpoint the cause to one or two isolated and irregular activities, the results may not be cause for alarm. However, if there’s no clue as to why morale fell, that could be an indication of a more permanent trend that requires stronger action.

Receiving positive feedback can also be deceiving. Conducting a survey right after a holiday break or giving out a company-wide bonus could likewise skew responses. Take such factors into account when comparing to past data in order to gleam accurate insights.

Lacking past results like the 34% of companies that don’t survey regularly enough to have solid comparison data? In this case it becomes even more important to compare responses to industry averages by spending time researching other companies or enlisting experts already in touch with those figures.

Consider the Qualitative Data

It can be easy to get lost in percentages when evaluating employee survey results, but the qualitative data is equally as important and provides valuable insight. What feedback did employees give outside of the fill-in-the-bubble answers? Responses written out by survey takers give texture and specificity to their overall feedback.

For example, imagine that 82% of employees selected “Agreed” or “Strongly Agreed” when shown a statement indicating that their medical benefit plan was affordable. A manager taking a quick glance at that number would feel good, assuming that their benefits are competitive. However, a look at the qualitative data may expose problems that those numbers cannot adequately express. Perhaps one respondent had a medical emergency or illness that others did not encounter, and discovered that even though monthly premiums are low, certain procedures may not be covered. When an employee in that scenario shares this information, it gives management a deeper look at specific areas to address.

Segment Feedback into Groups

Breaking down employee survey results into different subsets or sample groups is another way to discover a deeper level of insight that can be hidden under the surface. This uncovers pain points or even positive factors that affect one group of employees but not another. If one group is feeling something much different from the other, looking at their combined results as a whole would skew figures and make responses seem balanced when in fact a problem may exist.

A productive method is to look at management survey results compared to those of general employees. To illustrate the importance of this, consider the statement “I feel that my job is secure.” When unseparated, overall company results may show that those working for your organization agree that their roles feel secure. However, if results are separated out by groups and investigated, it could be the case that those in management roles strongly agreed with the statement while front-line employees disagreed. The average meets in the middle, but being able to segment these and other groups will help discover the most accurate and informative survey results.

Communicate Findings

One of the most common post-survey mistakes is neglecting the proper communication of results. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, employees took the time to honestly provide their feedback, and it will erode trust if they never hear about that survey again after submitting it. Sometimes management feels an instinctual need to hide negative feedback from their staff, but employees already know any issues and are likely talking to each other about them. Being open and communicating findings with a plan of action is the way to instill confidence. Secondly, and just as important, sharing results with employees fosters productive conversations that can draw out further insights based on the survey.

Evaluating Your Employee Survey Results

Employee surveys can work wonders if they are appropriately planned, distributed, and analyzed. Each of those three stages requires a great deal of time and effort, and is dependent on the successful completion of the others in order to achieve real insights.

To see how employee survey results were successfully evaluated for a leading tech firm, click here for the case study.