There are loads of benefits to having engaged employees. When people are engaged at work, managers see better performance, increased productivity, and lower turnover. That said, only 32% of employees (full and part-time) reported feeling engaged at work. Maintaining high engagement is a manager’s priority — so how does one gauge their team’s engagement levels?

Employee engagement surveys are the answer. They’re a great way to measure employee engagement, going straight to the source for answers and providing objective clarity on whether any steps need to be taken to drive engagement. But while managers can prepare and send out the best engagement survey imaginable, collecting data is only one part of the equation. Employee survey results are only effective if you analyze them properly — because then you'll know what are the right actions to take!

If you’ve ever thought to yourself: Hey, I know how to create a great survey. But how do I analyze employee data properly? Well — this article is for you. Here, we focus on analyzing employee engagement survey results — how to interpret results, communicate them to the right stakeholders, and prepare an action plan to boost engagement.

Engagement surveys: A tool for employee feedback analysis

Before diving deeper into employee engagement analysis, let’s first understand the importance of employee engagement surveys and how their insights can serve managers. 

Engagement surveys are tools to measure employees' engagement, satisfaction, and overall happiness at work. They can take the shape of online surveys, self-evaluations, or even open-ended questions during one-on-one. Their purpose is to gather feedback from employees and their own perspectives regarding work — about their experiences in their role, with their colleagues, and within the office culture. 

A crucial asset to continuous performance management, they also generally drive more honest, open communication between managers and employees. 

How can employee engagement survey results benefit managers?

The collected employee survey responses can help managers see (or uncover) what’s going well or needs improvement, so managers can make better-informed decisions to improve engagement and job satisfaction. 

There are infinite ways engagement survey results can provide clarity. Here are seven important benefits:

  • Help with trend identification

Seeing the trends is a cornerstone for understanding how employee engagement levels are moving. If an employee engagement data analysis is done routinely, results can also reveal patterns across individuals, teams, or departments over a period of time. Are we seeing peaks or lows? Is this new or recurrent? Are there any events or circumstances that correlate with trends?

Hot tip: Here, technology comes in handy! Did you know you can use AI-powered analysis tools to make uncovering feedback or topic trends much easier?

Reveal participation rates

Sometimes, the answers employees provide — or lack of — reveal an understanding of engagement levels. Happy and committed employees fill out engagement surveys. If there’s low participation, this might indicate disengagement from employees. A lack of survey results can provide indirect answers to the broader engagement question.

Provide an objective lens via statistical analysis

Data, when well dissected, is clear and objective. Even if an organization thinks its employees are highly engaged, numbers might show otherwise. An employee engagement survey statistical analysis helps provide managers with a factual understanding of engagement levels across their employees so they can make decisions based on facts, not assumptions.

Provide a subjective lens via sentiment analysis

The results from open-ended questions or in-person discussions that are part of engagement surveys allow managers to evaluate the emotional layer of feedback. By understanding the sentiments, positive or negative, the right interventions can be tailored.

Create a strengths and weaknesses assessment

No company gets everything perfect all the time. Employee feedback helps build a case for what is effective for sustaining employee engagement and what is possibly hindering it. Managers can then better prioritize the biggest strengths to capitalize on and the biggest weaknesses to address.

Enable departmental comparisons and correlation analysis

When engagement survey data is collected and analyzed over time across several teams, comparisons can be made to better understand if there are any department-specific trends and factors that influence engagement levels. Managers can take a cue from teams with higher engagement levels.

Help HR finetune demographic breakdowns

Breaking down engagement survey results by demographic variables such as age, gender, race, or tenure can provide deeper insights into employees’ unique experiences and perspectives — which is a great asset for HR, helping design engagement strategies that address diversity and inclusion issues.

Survey data interpretation: How to make sense of results

Now, to the crux of the matter: understanding employee engagement survey results isn’t as simple as reading a one-layered score. To really get the most out of engagement data, managers should consider the scores of both metrics and sub-metrics to assess any fluctuations or trends.

Numbers need to be contextualized as certain factors can impact results. Managers should always consider the following before landing on their interpretation:

Employee survey data interpretation: Five considerations

1. Timing

The timing of employee engagement surveys can majorly impact the results. One primary timing factor is frequency. An annual or quarterly survey feedback analysis provides a less targeted understanding of engagement trends over time. This gets even trickier if the employee survey questions are different each time. The lack of consistency will make it harder to directly cross-compare what drives engagement (and what doesn’t).

Seasonality can also play into survey results. Managers might see a higher alignment score earlier in the year when business strategies are fresh in everyone's minds. Or, motivation could trend down toward the end of the year, when employees are finishing up projects and looking forward to the holiday season. 

Managers can arrive at a more accurate understanding of engagement levels by trying to be proactive in how often engagement surveys are planned and considering timing when looking at engagement survey results.

When timing could skew results

Imagine sending an engagement survey during the peak of summer, when many employees are out of the office on vacation. The absence of key employees’ answers might impact the accuracy of survey results, making it harder to determine how engaged 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 engagement scores similar organizations in the same industry typically see before making a judgment. Knowing the appropriate employee engagement benchmarks from an industry perspective will help managers better interpret their own employee engagement survey results.

3. Business size

Like industry factors, employee engagement benchmarks can also vary based on business size. After all, comparing employee engagement survey results for a business with a dozen employees to one with a workforce of a thousand employees would be unreasonable. Whether measuring engagement within a startup or a large corporation, comparing employee engagement scores of a business to ones of a similar size helps managers know if they’re within the norm of competitors.

4. Company context

What’s happening within a company at any moment can also heavily influence engagement survey results, as the workplace climate directly influences how employees feel about their work. When teams succeed and hit targets during a high sales season, employees are more likely to be engaged. On the flip side, engagement might naturally take a hit if a lot of pressure is going on, be it due to a structural shift or change of administration.

Consider the timeline of events 

Let’s say an engagement survey is sent out amid a company high (like bonus season). Results might show high engagement. A few months later, another survey is sent out — but this time during a company low (for example, a failed product launch just occurred). Results might be lower. It’s important to consider workplace events, as they can influence employee engagement, and might not reflect the validity of ongoing engagement strategies.

Beyond company context, community or global events can also impact engagement. Gallup's State of the Global Workplace Report found that employee engagement dropped by 2% from 2019 to 2020 worldwide, correlating to events relating to the pandemic.

5. The highest and lowest engagement level metrics

Sometimes, less is more. When conducting an engagement survey analysis, dissecting every single comment, response, or data point would be inefficient — this is both a time-consuming and unfocused approach. By prioritizing selected employee engagement metrics, managers keep their attention where it should be and avoid getting lost in the noise. 

Within those selected metrics, the highest and lowest metrics and the areas of most rapid shifts should be looked at first. Those usually indicate the biggest opportunities for improvement. Good data is about quality, not quantity.

Engagement surveys are not managerial impact assessments

When analyzing employee engagement survey results, it can be hard not to take some things personally — particularly if the results are less than stellar. Managers need to remember that their team’s engagement scores do not automatically reflect their skills. Rather, they’re benchmarks acting as a jumping-off point to build effective action plans.

How to build an action plan from employee survey results

A proper employee engagement survey data analysis provides managers with key insights into the current state of employee engagement within their organizations. But the work doesn’t stop there! The next step of the process is to build an action plan based on your survey results. 

Here’s the step-by-step to building an engagement-boosting action plan:

Step 1: Communicate the survey results

Once an employee engagement survey results analysis has been conducted, managers should share the results with their team. This is crucial for building a culture of trust and transparency.

Tip #1: Be selective and specific. Select a few key data points to share to avoid overwhelming employees with information. This keeps everyone’s attention on the right things and the presentation focused. Highlight only the scores or fluctuations that should be prioritized and their interpretations.

Tip #2: Start a conversation. Sharing survey results is an opportunity to drive engagement within a team — so seize it! Make room for questions or comments, so employees can share additional perspectives on what might be contributing to the results. They might contribute to ideas for improvement that weren’t thought about before.

Step 2: Create new goals based on survey insights

Once managers have had a chance to review the survey results with their team (and hopefully have great discussions), the next step is to create action items. These take the shape of engagement goals, which will steer the engagement tactics part of the action plan. Some good questions to ask 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?

Tip: Don’t try to do everything all at once. Decide on one to three key areas or metrics to prioritize setting goals as a starting point. Otherwise, you’ll dilute your efforts.

Step 3: Involve employees in building the action plan

Employee engagement action plans will only be successful if managers can get their teams on board. One of the best ways to get their buy-in is to involve them in the building process. Invite employees to help set the next steps. Brainstorm ideas and collaborate on setting the engagement goals everyone can work towards. Encourage team members to take ownership in co-creating more engagement and check in regularly on how they're progressing.

Step 4: Activate the plan and its recommendations for improvement

Once you share and discuss the survey results with your team and set engagement goals together —  it’s time to formalize the plan and implement it! Here’s how:

  1. Assign responsibilities: Define who’s responsible for each action item (engagement goal). For example, an HR manager could set up the calendar with engagement activities, like workshops, and an IT lead could set up new feedback tools to improve engagement survey data collection in the future.
  2. Set timelines: An effective goal is time-bound, so each action item should have a realistic timeline. Deadlines also set a sense of importance and urgency. For example, the aim could be to select the new feedback tool within a month, followed by a two-month implementation period.
  3. Allocate resources: Budgets, resources, tools, or even training might be required to achieve the action items. Are the engagement workshops going to require more time from HR? Is there a cost to acquiring a new feedback tool? Managers need to have eyes on this.
  4. Communication progress: Keeping employees informed by sharing milestones, blockers, and general progress is crucial for transparency. Open communication is also key for ongoing feedback, which feeds into monitoring progress. An employee could have valuable insights that might spark a really useful engagement strategy adjustment.

Monitor progress and adjust: All good plans must be flexible and ready to be adjusted depending on what’s working and what’s not showing to be as effective as initially anticipated. Tracking tools, team feedback, and ongoing review conversations are all great ways to monitor progress.

Tip #1: Select the right key performance indicators (KPIs) to track improvement: Choose KPIs that align with your engagement goals — metrics like employee satisfaction scores, retention rates, productivity levels, and feedback from Custom Surveys.
Tip #2: Create a routine for benchmarking results over time: The more regularly managers measure and benchmark engagement levels over time, the more precise are progress insights. Make routine building super easy with Automated Pulse Surveys.

Employee engagement survey results: More than a score

Employee engagement survey results don't just help managers know how engaged their employees are — they provide key insights into what contributes and detracts from that engagement. 

Hopefully, this article has provided insights to help you in your engagement analysis (from current employee engagement survey results to future ones). Remember, feedback can be a gold mine for engagement when properly leveraged. Collecting data is one thing, but building engagement plans becomes a breeze once you know how to properly analyze them and communicate your findings. 

And that's how you drive a happier, more engaged, and all-around more productive team.

Equip HR and managers with tools to engage, recognize, and drive performance.