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Engagement Planning – Data dissemination

Best Companies highlights the importance of data dissemination for improving workplace engagement

You’ve finished your survey, responses have been collated, and analysis has been conducted.

Data dissemination is a vital component to improving workplace engagement as it's where teams, divisions and organisations review and reflect on the results. Your employees took time to respond to your survey and to demonstrate that their efforts meant something, giving them sight of the results builds trust in the employee engagement survey itself and in the management of the organisation.  

This can be a sensitive subject, especially at a senior level where individuals can feel like they’re being judged for the engagement levels of their employees. It can be tempting to dust unwelcome results under the rug, but this will hamper your efforts at improvement long-term and dissuade employees from trusting the process in the future as current known engagement issues aren’t being addressed. Just remember that authenticity is the name of the game here!

In this resource, we’re going to look at some best practice around sharing your employee engagement survey results with all parts of your organisation, and some common temptations to avoid!

HR/Executive Teams

The first stage of dissemination is going through highlights of the data with your most senior colleagues; Directors, Senior Managers, or C-Suite Executives.  

The aim is to get the senior team to understand what the strengths and weaknesses of your employee engagement levels are; their understanding will help key messages cascade when the rest of the organisation sees the results.

Whether you run your survey internally or with an external provider, the highlights should focus on trends from within the data and key drivers behind these. These trends can also be looked at from the perspective of the organisation overall and from that of different job grades. Though there are many demographic groups you could choose to view the data by, job grades offers a view of key populations and how engaged those with different levels of responsibility are.  

Remember, we’re looking at the highlights from the data. Depending on the size of your organisation, there could be a variety of highly positive or negative trends in different teams of groups. However it can be very easy to become bogged down in the detail. For data dissemination here and to the wider organisation we want the major points that potentially affect the whole population, not select groups, to be the messages that are spread. Thinking of it from a SWOT analysis perspective, where we might analyse the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, is a good way to establish what may or may not be a highlight.

Spreading the Message

It is crucial to brief managers on the results before the message is spread further. In addition to the highlights, this is the time to share team-specific information with the individual managers.  

The main purpose is for the managers to understand their team’s results and how they compare to the wider organisation. If there are significant differences it can be a difficult pill for the manager to swallow, and since their team’s results may form part of the overall highlights it is courteous to notify them. The team’s results shouldn’t be treated as an all-encompassing report on the manager’s ability or a measure of their performance; there are a lot of factors that feed into the engagement scores for a team.  

After managers have seen their teams’ data, the same organisation-wide results that the Executive Team went through should be shared with all employees. Organisation size will likely dictate how you go about this but bringing people together to share the results face-to-face is, in our experience, more effective than sending out a highlights email.

Managers can then take their individual teams through their engagement results. It may be appropriate to cascade team data; for example, a director might take senior managers through a division’s data, senior managers might then take their group’s managers through the data, and finally managers would run through team data at a more granular level. Every organisation structure is different, and as such how you approach this should be tailored to your size and requirements.  

A final consideration is around trying to justify or make excuses for the data that’s revealed. At any stage of dissemination, your goal is to establish what the data reports, not why it might be that way. This is something that can be explored in action planning, the next stage of the process.

Beware of SARAH

No, we’re not talking about Sarah from Accounts.  

S.A.R.A.H is a behaviour model which predicts how someone will feel when receiving challenging personal feedback. This can happen to anyone in the organisation; a director for a division or an individual from a team will both feel the SARAH model take effect, and it can have detrimental impact on their response to the data and your surveying effort if the model is not understood.

Typically, someone reacting negatively would go through the following phases after reviewing the data:

Shock: They may not have been expecting the feedback to be as it is.

Anger: They may feel agitated and frustrated, especially toward the person or system delivering the feedback.

Rejection: They may feel the feedback is wrong, or not relevant to them and start making excuses.

Acceptance: They will begin to see elements of truth within the feedback.

Help: The individual feels ready to receive support and move forward.

It’s surprising how common we see this process happen, and it’s something that you should keep in mind when disseminating your data. As the first three steps will have a negative impact on how someone might talk about the data, further dissemination should only be considered once you’ve reached either the ‘Acceptance’ or ‘Help’ stages of the model.

What happens after we’ve shared the data?

After the data has been shared, teams will need time to digest this. A week or two will allow anyone who needs to journey through the SARAH model the time, and any urgent questions about the data can be asked.  

Following this, it’s now time to strategize how we celebrate the strengths and improve on the weaknesses in the data. To do this, we want to gather opinion from across the organisation, and action planning workshops are the best way to achieve this.

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