There are a host of benefits to having engaged employees on your team. When people are engaged at work, you see better performance (both at a team and individual level), increased productivity, and lower turnover. And employee engagement surveys are a great way to measure how engaged your employees are, and gauge whether there are any steps you need to take to drive engagement.

Sending out the survey is the first step. But those employee survey results are only effective if you know how to analyze them and take action where it counts. How, exactly, do you do that? Let’s take a look at how to analyze, communicate, and take action on your employee engagement survey results.

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How to interpret survey results

Understanding your employee engagement survey results isn’t as simple as seeing a score. The overall engagement score you get from your survey is just one number you can look at. You also want to look at the scores of metrics and submetrics, and where there are fluctuations. Any area that's trending up or down is an important place to direct your focus.

Beyond digging deeper into the numbers, you want to consider what might be contributing to them. There are several factors that could impact your results, and they should all be considered when you analyze your survey responses.

5 Factors in employee survey results

1. Timing

The timing of your employee engagement surveys can have a major impact on the results. One primary timing factor is frequency. If you’re analyzing results from an annual or even quarterly survey, it will be harder to track trends because your last point of reference was so far behind. This is even more true if the employee survey questions are different each time. A lack of consistency will make it harder to really identify what (if anything) needs to change to drive engagement.

Seasonality can also play into your survey results. You might see a higher alignment score earlier into the year when the business strategy is fresh in everyone's minds. Or motivation could trend down toward the end of the year, when people are finishing up projects and looking forward to the holiday season. Take timing into consideration when you look at your survey results, and try to be proactive in considering your timing when you plan employee surveys, too.

For example: You send a survey in the height of summer when a solid percentage of your team is out on vacation. This will mean that a good portion of your team’s responses are missing from your survey results. The absence of key employees will impact the accuracy of your survey results and make it harder to determine how engaged your employees actually are.

2. Industry

Like so many business metrics, there are industry benchmarks for employee engagement. A high engagement score in one industry can be significantly lower in another. So when interpreting survey results, it’s important to consider what kinds of engagement scores similar organizations see. Knowing how engaged employees are, on average, in your industry will help you better analyze your own employee engagement survey results.

3. Business size

Similar to industry fluctuations, employee engagement benchmarks can vary based on business size. If you try to compare employee engagement survey results for your 50 person business to those of a 10,000+ person business (or vice versa), it could skew your analysis. Getting a sense of how other companies of a similar size score on employee engagement surveys helps you know if you're within the norm.

4. Company context

What’s going on in your company at any given moment can also heavily influence survey results. The climate of your workplace has a direct influence on how people feel at and about their work. When your team and organization are succeeding, hitting targets, and people have a clear sense of direction, they're more likely to be engaged. Or if there's too much pressure, a lack of autonomy, or shifting goals, engagement may take a hit.

For example: You administer a survey in the midst of a company high (like bonus season). A few months later, you send another survey during a team low (for example, a failed product launch). These types of workplace events can influence employee engagement. So if your employee survey coincides with one of those events, it could impact your results.

Beyond company context, events that impact your region, the communities represented in your workforce, and global events can impact engagement. Gallup's 2021 State of the Global Workplace Report found that overall levels of employee engagement dropped globally by 2 percentage points from 2019 to 2020. In this year of significant change in all facets of life, employee engagement was (understandably) impacted.

5. Your highest and lowest metrics

When you’re analyzing your employee engagement survey results, you can’t dive into every comment, response, or data point. Not only would that be time consuming, it wouldn't help you direct your focus. Instead, take a higher level approach to looking at your employee engagement metrics and deciding what to prioritize and pay more attention to. Start with your highest and lowest metrics, and the ones with the greatest fluctuations.

Looking to your high, low, and rapidly shifting metrics helps you pinpoint your biggest opportunities. Metrics that are on the low end show areas for improvement. Metrics on the high end show where your team is already thriving, so you can continue to empower them in this area. And metrics that are dropping or rising indicate any changes or challenges your team is facing that you might need to address.

Remember: it’s not an evaluation of your management

When you’re analyzing employee engagement survey results, it can be hard not to take some things personally, particularly if the results are less than stellar. But remember: your team’s engagement score is not a reflection of your skills as a manager. It’s just a benchmark that helps you see where your team is in terms of engagement. It can act as a jumping-off point to get to where you want to go.

Building an action plan from your employee survey results

Analyzing your survey results will give you key insights into the current state of employee engagement within your organization. But the work doesn’t stop there! The next step of the process is building an action plan from your survey results. Here's how.

Communicate your results

Once you’ve collected and analyzed your employee engagement survey results, the next step is to share the results with your team.

  • Be selective and specific. To avoid overwhelming your team, select a few key data points you'd like to share with them to keep your presentation focused. State the score or fluctuation you want to point out and explain your interpretation of it.
  • Start a conversation. This is an opportunity to drive engagement within your team, so take it! Have employees share their perspectives on what might be contributing to the results. Ask them where they see opportunities for improvement, and what they see as their greatest strengths.

Make goals based on employee survey results...

Once you’ve had a chance to review the results with your team, you want to create some action items from the discussion. From your own interpretation and your discussion with your team, decide on 1 to 3 key areas or metrics to prioritize setting goals for.

Questions for setting engagement goals:

  • What pain points and blockers are the team facing?
  • What are some concrete ways we can improve in those areas?
  • What's enabling our success?
  • How can we encourage and promote those factors?

...and involve your team in setting up next steps

Your employee engagement result action plan is only going to be successful if you can get your team on board. One of the best ways to do this is to involve them in setting next steps. You can even have a team meeting to reflect on the prompts in the section above. Brainstorm ideas together and decide on a few goals you'll work towards as a team. Encourage team members to take ownership of these goals and check in regularly on how they're progressing.

Employee engagement survey results: more than a score

Employee engagement survey results don't just help you know how engaged your employees are, they give you key insights into what contributes and detracts from that engagement. When you know how to properly analyze them and communicate your findings, it's easy to build engagement plans from them. And that's how you drive a happier, more engaged team.

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