The Motley Fool’s Organizational Development Team is six people strong, supporting a company of over three hundred Fools (the term they use to describe their employees). Lee Burbage, Chief People Officer and Kara Chambers, VP, People Insights at The Motley Fool, joined Culture Amp Insights Strategist Steven Huang for a one-hour webinar on taking action on employee feedback. Burbage and Chambers have been using the Culture Amp survey platform for over three years, and are dedicated to utilizing people analytics to create a great company culture.
During the webinar our audience of people geeks asked great questions, but we couldn’t get to all of them on-air. Below, Burbage, Chambers and Huang provide their answers to audience-submitted questions on collecting, understanding and acting on employee feedback.
When a survey closes how do you share the results with the entire company?
Lee Burbage: I always get asked, "What is the best practice for giving access to and communicating results?" And my answer, which frustrates many people is, "It depends." Trial and error is a good way to learn what works for you. For us, we tend to have three buckets of people - ‘Thanks, I care very little’, ‘Thanks, I care some and want a little bit of information’, and, ‘I really want to dig in and understand more’. For anything we communicate with the company, we try to provide for all of those groups and it's the same for surveys.
What we found as a leadership team, is that we like to get in a room together and open up the results so we have that experience as a group. You're always going to have room for improvement. It can actually be a hard thing to sit and digest survey results by yourself, so it was key for us to start reviewing this feedback in a group setting.
Kara Chambers: It never occurred to me not to share results with everyone. I do post general results to everyone after an engagement survey closes. The one thing I sometimes hold back is team-specific results because I feel like if there's an issue on a team, I don't need to blast that to the whole company. Maybe that's not fair, right? So, sometimes I'll make those private and debrief with those managers. It depends.
In order to slice the data, what type of demographic questions do you recommend asking?
Steven Huang: Add all of the demographics that will allow you to determine what might be impacting performance, productivity, retention, and everything else that you care about. This is your chance to explore your workforce and evaluate your HR initiatives.
Other than the basics, I’ve seen companies add:
- Comp-ratio (to determine impact of cash compensation)
- Who attended certain L&D classes (to measure ROI of classes)
- Who was promoted in the past cycle (to measure impact of promotion)
- Who has transferred in the past six months (to measure internal mobility)
- Personality/behavioral types (to see if introverts or extroverts have similar experiences)
- Commute times (to evaluate potential commute benefits)
- Inclusion demographics (e.g. race, gender, sexual orientation, veteran status, parent/family status)
- Managed by a local manager or manager in a different location (to determine impact of remote managing)
The Motley Fool has over 180 demographic fields loaded into their data!
How structured is your process for acting on employee feedback?
Kara Chambers: It's important to find an owner for specific action areas and let them have structure. For example, our CEO or our Head of Tech may not be the action plan people every time, but they're standing up in front of the company saying, ‘Based on your survey feedback, we're going to do this’. We constantly link actions back to survey results. I like to think of it as a constant undercurrent, rather than a specific action plan.
Lee Burbage: We've been doing some kind of employee surveying for ten years. What we’ve found is that it takes about a year for us to make real cultural change. Given our cadence, that's two surveys a year. If you're treating it too much like a project, with a beginning, a middle and an end, you can fall into a trap of, ‘oh, we're going to move this number, and now this number and now on to the next thing’. It's always on for us, and that can cause us to approach action planning in different ways.
A few VPs at my company are concerned about the anonymity of employee surveys as it relates to employees providing false or exaggerated info. How would you address this?
Steven Huang: Anonymity is a valid concern when surveying employees. That’s where using a third party vendor can add a lot of credibility to the confidentiality of a survey program. Pre-communicate; be upfront about the purpose of the survey and how the data will be used. We have a list of Employee/Manager/HRBP FAQs that many companies tailor for their company and then send as part of this pre-communication strategy. Additionally, give people a channel to ask questions about aspects of confidentiality.
Unfortunately, there is no way for us (or anybody) to determine if responses are false or exaggerated - only the survey participant knows! Our surveys are designed to overcome the anxiety people feel when giving feedback - and anonymity is an important part of creating a space where people feel comfortable honestly sharing their point of view. Although individual responses are confidential, survey results provide insights into where most people give similar scores, and where there are outliers, so outliers are easy to spot, and don’t significantly impact the overall score. Of course an outlier doesn’t necessarily mean someone is exaggerating, it’s entirely possible their experience is different from the majority of the population.
Either way - you’ll have valuable data to start considering areas for action and we find that the value gained from being able to slice and dice the data by different demographics vastly outweighs the potential for response distortion.