How Can Employee Feedback Data and Analytics Improve Engagement?

Let's talk about employee feedback from the perspective of how data and data analytics can improve employee engagement and positive employee relations. Getting employee feedback is one of the most important steps you can take today to stay in tune with your employees. Employers can utilize digital employee surveys and other feedback collection strategies to connect with their in–house and remote workforce. However, the kinds of questions asked on the survey determine the type of data collected, which determines the value of the employee feedback. Feedback data turned into analytics can help your leaders understand what employees are thinking, feeling, and experiencing to make better decisions that improve the employee experience and, thus, operational performance.   

Engagement Surveys as Tools of Positive Employee Relations 

Gallup surveyed millennials to find out why they are less willing to remain in their jobs. About 50 percent of them said they did not strongly agree they would be working for the same employer for another year. This means half of the millennial workforce sees no future with their company. The reason is attributed mainly to low engagement, with only 29 percent feeling engaged. No wonder there is a Great Resignation taking place. Low engagement means employees are indifferent to work.  

In a different survey, Gallup found that millennials and Gen Z want most of the same things in an employer. They want to work for an organization that genuinely cares about their wellbeing, has ethical leadership that is open and transparent, and is diverse and inclusive. How do you find out what your employees want from your organization? The same way Gallup does – ask them. Conducting employee surveys gives insights into what your employees are thinking and feeling, providing invaluable information that drives decision-making, organizational policies, and leadership development and training. 

Unless you know what your employees want and expect, you are most likely failing to meet their needs in one or more ways. It leaves an opening for labor unions because it's a formula for low engagement. One day, you discover some of your employees are interested in joining a labor union and are shocked because you were sure your leadership was caring, emotionally intelligent, and looking out for the workforce's wellbeing.  

Types of Employee Surveys

The Society for Human Resources identified three common types of employee surveys.  

  • Employee opinion and satisfaction surveys – measures employee attitudes, views, and perceptions of their employer 
  • Employee culture survey – measures the employee's perspective of the workplace culture and enables assessing whether it aligns with the organization. 
  • Employee engagement surveys – measures employee commitment, a sense of purpose, motivation, and passion for the work and the organization 

Notice all the surveys include the measurement of many psychological factors – attitudes, perceptions, perspectives, a sense of purpose, passion for work, etc. Employees can speak and write words, but what are the feelings and emotions behind them? For example, an employee opinion survey measures attitudes towards a management policy on remote working. Now ask yourself: What do they feel when they decide to deliver negative responses? Do your employees feel like your leaders don't care about their family responsibilities, work-life balance, or mental health?  

Sentiment analysis measures how your employees feel about your organization as an employer and how they feel about being a member of your workplace. It uses large volumes of employee feedback to quantify and measure how they feel about their work and working for your organization. The worst way to find out is when you discover a union authorization card in the breakroom or when your employees file a petition for a union election 

Employees today want to work for employers who genuinely care about what they are thinking and experiencing. In return, your organization should want to know where there are gaps in employee engagement and what is causing the gaps. 

Chief Operating Officer Scott Purvis at IRI Consultants offered insights on sentiment analysis.   

  • Establish a clear line of sight on the issues or topics of interest 
  • Craft the questions to uncover employee sentiments targeted to the issues 
  • Utilize validated questions around engagement, diversity, vulnerability, and the like to provide subset indexes within the assortment of questions. 

"Adding employee voice is essential for any topic of interest, initiative launch or matter impacting the employee experience," says Purvis, "Asking employees what they think, what they hear and what they feel provides valuable input to decision-making and gauging impact." He also points out that collecting data for data's sake is not useful. The employee feedback must be translated into actions. "Take the voice of the employee and drive measurable actions to convey voice was heard, valued and is being utilized."  

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Positives of Collecting Employee Feedback 

There are so many positives of collecting employee feedback. You can use the data analysis to:  

  • Improve the workplace culture 
  • Identify specific employee concerns 
  • Stay ahead of labor unions 
  • Demonstrate people come first  
  • Gain insights for developing specific action plans 
  • Make evidence-based decisions 
  • Facilitate employee-employer communication, allowing managers to respond to employees, so employees know they are heard 
  • Develop a data-driven strategy for solving a workforce-related problem 
  • Assess the actual organizational culture and not the one you believe exists 
  • Assess the sense of inclusion and belonging employees have  

By discovering what your employees want and feel, your leadership can address specific issues. This doesn't mean you will do everything employees want, like raising their pay 15-percent because they believe their current wage rates are unfair. It does mean you can address the perspective with facts, i.e., your company's pay scale is competitive with the industry average pay or the pay at local competitors. Perhaps you learn your employees feel their supervisors aren't transparent and make decisions without concern for their health and safety. Employee feedback can drive the most effective leadership training of frontline supervisors.

At the same time, your organization finds out what it's doing right and can stay on track. Getting regular employee feedback can lead to reduced employee turnover, fewer sick days, increased productivity, increased innovation because employees feel safe in expressing creativity and positive employee relations. The feedback is essential to helping your organization stay union-free because the data analytics puts focus on the things important to your workforce and not on what you think is important to your employees. 

One of the common mantras of employees thinking of unionizing or protesting is that companies place profits over people. A positive of regularly collecting employee feedback is that the surveys send a clear message the company is placing people over profits.  

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What Should You Ask Your Employees? 

Each employee survey can cover a different topic or issue. For example, you can ask the following "feel" questions. Here are some examples.  

  • How do they feel about their supervisors and higher-level management? 
  • How do your employees feel about the workplace culture? 
  • What do they feel about their work? 
  • How do they feel about their opportunities in the organization? 
  • How do they feel about access to management

Employee surveys aren't just discovering what employees feel today. They also help management better understand how to maintain employee engagement when there is a disruptive change in the future, like another pandemic, reorganization, merger, plant closure, etc. 

Jennifer Glaeser Beck, VP of Research & Consulting at Spring International, discusses the importance of ensuring the data delivers the information needed for potential changing circumstances. Post-Covid, Human Resource leaders are reflecting on their responses and asking if they had the tools necessary to make evidence-based decisions. To stay prepared for the major issues, she recommends collecting additional metrics that measure employee attitudes about job security, health, safety, connection, and empowerment 

She also recommends utilizing "people metrics" to enable the organization to adapt quickly to a situation because it has the information needed to make better decisions. For example, collecting skills or training data can help your leaders redirect workloads as needed during a period of change or disruption and in an appropriate manner. Perhaps many of the employers who watched their employees turn to unions - because employees believed they were being taken advantage of with excessive workloads or forced to do work they were not ready to manage - could have avoided some of the issues by having better information as to who should do what and better information on the people who have the skills most adaptable to the situation.  

People Element posted an infographic showing employee engagement benchmark highlights. The data revealed how employees felt about: 

  • Communication between departments 
  • Communication within their department 
  • How valued the person feels as an employee 
  • How well leadership listens to and cares about employee concerns 
  • Whether they are made aware of available job opportunities 
  • The opportunities they have to be promoted 
  • Whether they have resources and equipment to do their job well 
  • The resources and support needed to manage stress 

As you can see, employee surveys can cover a broad swath of topics. Do you know if your employees are satisfied in the workplace? Do you know where you are most vulnerable to unionizing? Employee feedback can help you answer that question.  

employee survey and data analytics

Making Employee Feedback Work for Everyone 

You want employee surveys to work for everyone – employees and leaders. Developing employee surveys and collecting and analyzing employee feedback is complex. A poorly written survey can open the door to negative employee relations instead of positive employee relations. For example, the survey asks employees questions about their perspectives on labor unions, making them feel like it's an effort to stop them from exercising their protected concerted activity rights.  

It gets even more complicated if your workforce is unionized. Here is an example. The Postal Service conducted a "Stay Survey." Newly hired non-career employees were asked about job satisfaction and working conditions. The American Postal Workers Union filed an unfair labor practice charge (ULP) with the NLRB, saying the survey results are intended to be used against union members during arbitration over a new collective bargaining agreement. The NLRB ruled employers cannot "attempt to erode a union's bargaining position by engaging in a direct effort to determine employee sentiment rather than discuss such matters solely with the union." 

Following are a few guidelines for making employee surveys effective without assuming the risk of alienating employees. 

  • Set clear objectives because that drives the data you want to collect 
  • Set a survey schedule 
  • Minimize the time commitment 
  • Ask questions that convey a genuine interest in employee wellbeing and happiness
  • Use neutral statements 
  • Ensure anonymity 
  • Gather continual feedback 
  • Use a variety of ways to collect employee insights, including leader check-ins, focus groups, pulse surveys, meetings, and other employee-leader encounters to supplement survey data.  

Your employee feedback quality is as good as the quality of the employee survey design. Making an investment in ensuring the employee surveys are done correctly will deliver returns in many ways. Gather regular employee feedback as part of your proactive approach to developing positive employee relations and staying union-free. 

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