Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed by all the options - and so you do nothing? That was where I found myself leading up to this interview.
Then I realized that this is a problem I frequently see with clients who are trying to figure out what to focus on and where to start when building a better workplace culture. I give the same answer to them every time - start with the data. I figured this is the best place for me to start, as well. So today, I’ll be sharing the seven data sources you should consider when undertaking an Employee Feedback Audit.
In this episode you’ll learn:
The real reason for employee survey fatigue. Contrary to popular belief, it's not about the number of surveys you send.
How far back you should go when collecting employee feedback data.
The three types of quantitative data and the four types of qualitative data that absolutely need to be included in your audit file.
What to do with the data once it’s collected.
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If so, I’d love for you to subscribe and leave a review telling me why you love it! This link will allow you to find us on you podcast player of choice: wanttoworkthere.captivate.fm.
Here's the edited transcript:
How to Conduct an Effective Employee Feedback Audit - And Why You Should Do It Before Anything Else
Welcome back friends! It is officially episode five of the Want To Work There podcast - and I’d be lying if I said this episode wasn’t a bit of a struggle. It all comes down to the fact that I’ve had no less than 247 ideas for episodes since launching.
There are SO MANY different things I’m excited to talk about when it comes to improving workplace cultures. And to be honest, it’s been more overwhelming than helpful.
Instead of feeling inspired, I became overwhelmed and stuck. I kept putting off episode planning because I didn’t know where I should start.
It wasn’t until I was brain-dumping into a voice memo that I realized my problem was not unique to me or this situation.
In fact, it’s the exact same problem that anybody trying to create a better work environment faces. At least it’s the problem that both me and many of my clients have faced when tackling this challenge.
Where do you start when there is so much you can (and feel like you should) do?
Oftentimes we’re quick to jump into action - prove that we can move the needle by selecting what feels like the lowest-hanging fruit or the most pressing problem and diving straight in. The problem here is that like anything in life, we usually want to do a lot more than we actually have the time or resources to accomplish. When we pick the wrong things to give this attention to, we are running the risk of making changes that feel more performative than impactful to employees.
X2 Because of this, anytime someone is just figuring out where to start, I always give the same advice - start by collecting the data. Now it’s my turn to take my own advice. Instead of jumping straight into tactics, I’m going to start by walking you step-by-step through an employee feedback audit.
Why start with an audit?
Because before you start requesting employee insights, you have to know what you already have. Whether it’s a lot or just a little, it’s always important to start with what has already been pulled together. This is especially true when you’re stepping into a new role, as there is often a treasure trove of data that you can find if you just take the time to look.
Not only will completing this audit give you a sense of how thoroughly you’re currently gathering feedback data, it will also help you avoid a common trap: employee survey fatigue.
Contrary to popular belief, employee survey fatigue is not about the number of surveys disseminated, but rather what is done with that information before it’s collected again. If you act on the data you receive before surveying again, employees are happy to add their voices to the mix. On the other hand, if your survey results die in a google drive somewhere – and then you just survey again and again and again… that’s when the fatigue kicks in.
By evaluating what you already have before you collect more, you’re sparing yourself from walking straight into this cycle.
I only recommend collecting employee feedback that’s been gathered in the last year. Past that, the data isn’t recent enough to ensure relevancy. It also limits the amount of data you’ll be working with to a manageable amount.
Before we dive into the different types of data you should be searching for, create a central place for all the information to live. Ideally, use a shared folder on the cloud like Google drive, or a paid option like Box or Dropbox. Creating one central depository will make it that much easier to carry out the final step in the process when we arrive.
Lastly, I know some of your are visual like I am and would appreciate this audit information laid out in written form.
If you fall into that category, I’ve created an audit overview that you can find and download at wanttotoworkthere.com/resources.
There are seven employee feedback categories to audit
The first three all consist of quantitative feedback - aka insights that are numbers-based, countable, or measurable.
Quantitative insights are helpful for seeing the big picture and overall trends.
1. Employee engagement survey
Employee engagement surveys have definitely become more common in organizations, especially given great tools like Culture Amp, Lattice and 15Five that make it extremely easy to collect the data. They’ve also become more prominent given they are a prerequisite for receiving a lot of company awards,
including many of the Best Places to Work lists. Although I’d argue that data collected for any award purposes is always going to be skewed and should always be taken with a grain of salt.
I’ll absolutely be doing an entire future episode on what type of surveys you should be doing, when you should be doing them and how they can be most impactful. But for right now, I just want you to focus on whether or not your employees completed any employee surveys in the past year.
While many places do them annually, it’s becoming more common to do them bi-annually or even quarterly. Usually, these are fairly lengthy, but it has also become common to distribute a one-question eNPS survey, so make sure to keep on the lookout for those results, as well. Anything you find will be your first addition to the audit folder.
2. Pulse surveys are more frequent
Pulse surveys are shorter, more frequent inquiries that are usually gathered weekly or bi-weekly. Often the questions change and rotate, although some organizations keep at least one static question that’s asked every time. These specific types of surveys are usually handled by a third party tool, given their frequency, which makes it extremely easy to locate and export the data. That said, you'll find in many of those tools that there's a variety of different ways that you can download the data. I recommend pulling everything from the last year in a general download to start, knowing that you can always go back and pull reports in a variety of different ways should you uncover any patterns you want to dive into deeper.
3. Speciality surveys
Last in the quantitative data category is any specialty surveys that your team has participated in. Many companies have distributed return to work and DEI surveys in the last year. It’s also common for employers to collect feedback from new hires at the 90-day or six-month mark. You’ll want to ensure these results are also included in your audit collection, as they are absolutely part of the big picture.
Which brings us to qualitative employee feedback - data that delivers more detailed, personalized insights. I personally am most intrigued by qualitative data because it helps us to understand the why, how, or what behind certain behaviors. There’s always so much to unpack.
First up in the qualitative category is any insight gathered from one-on-one conversations that managers are having with employees. I’ll admit, this is a tricky one because depending on how these one-on-one conversations are happening, there’s likely not an exact record of what's been said. At the same time, one-on-one conversations are perhaps the most important way to gather employee insights, because they're both happening in real-time and with someone they’ve hopefully built a lot of trust with.
Given this, it’s too important of a category to ignore when auditing. Here are some questions you can ask yourself about gathering 1:1 employee feedback:
Are our managers consistently holding 1:1s with employees?
If yes, are they recording notes from their conversations, either in a software product, a word document, or an email recap? Would they be willing to share those notes?
If they haven’t been capturing the conversations in a written manner, would they be willing to sit down and do a debrief with you on the employee feedback they’ve received that continues to be top of mind?
While some will get lucky and be able to gather great insight using one of the above tactics, many others will come up short in this category - and that’s absolutely OK. If that’s the case, it means you’ve uncovered a great area of opportunity that you can find ways to tap into in the future.
5. Stay and exit interviews
Next up are stay and exit interviews - although the latter is the one that’s most likely recognizable to most. Exit interviews are conducted with employees when they're on their way out of the company and onto their next opportunity. They focus a lot on reflection points, things that could have been done differently, and anything else they’d like to highlight about their experience at the organization. Oftentimes these are done by a people ops representative and then tend to be filed and forgotten about - which makes them a great data source to revisit.
I also mentioned the Stay Interview. While a newer practice, they are gaining a lot of momentum at forward thinking companies. The idea is to conduct an exit-style interview, but with current employees long before they’re thinking about leaving for a new opportunity. Basically, it’s your chance to ask an employee what would continue to make them happy working for the company, with the opportunity to actually address appropriate changes before they leave.
And yes, I’ll definitely be doing an entire episode on the best ways to utilize this great retention tool. For now though, a reminder to add any already conducted stay interviews to your audit file.
6. Focus Groups
Typically focus groups are used to further dig into areas of quantitative data that have proven to be outliers in a survey. They give you a chance to dig deeper and explore more of the why, how, or what behind certain responses. If you’ve conducted any focus groups in the last year, you will absolutely want to include those insights in your audit.
7. Public reviews
Last, but certainly not least, is employee feedback that’s been provided publicly via sites like Glassdoor. While we sometimes forget that this is valuable data, it’s important to include it in your overall audit.
Here is a list of the sites I recommend you scan for potential employee feedback:
If there are more than a few reviews, I recommend starting a spreadsheet that includes the comment, date it was left, site it was left on, and whether or not the organization responded. Compiling them will make it not only easier to add to your audit file, but also can give you a great high-level look at the overall sentiment of the comments across platforms.
And there you have it! A full audit folder of any and all employee insight that was collected within the last year. Woohoo! But now what?
Now it’s time to dig in to the data
Block off time on your calendar to close down everything on your computer but the data and put your cell phone on airplane mode. Then open up your audit folder.
I want you to read through all of it once without any preconceived notion or thoughts about what you're going to do with it. I just want you to take it all in.
And then when you've done that, spend some time free writing. What are the things after that first read-through that really stuck out to you?
Did an idea spring up that you just can’t get out of your mind? Is there a certain data gap that feels incredibly frustrating? Write it all out. It’s important to reflect this way, before we move into a more nuanced, data-driven approach to analysis.
If nothing else, I know this activity will bring clarity to one important aspect: just how well you’re seizing opportunities to highlight employee opinions and insights.
If you've got a folder brimming with data - amazing, you've been doing a great job at proactively listening to your employees. This is going to serve you incredibly well in understanding just what tactics and strategies to take on.
On the other hand, if you're realizing that all you have is one or two Glassdoor reviews, and not much else, you should be equally as excited! It means then you've uncovered an amazing opportunity to be more proactive in listening to your employees!
Either way - you’ve got the next step
And I’ll be with you no matter which of the two categories you fall into. The question is where would you like to start? Do you fall into the first camp and are eager to learn how exactly you can act on employee insights? Or do you need help picking the best ways to solicit employee insights?
Until next time, make sure you’re not only taking care of your team, but that you’re taking care of yourself.
You have the most chance for impact when you’re pouring from a full cup.