Acting on data builds trust, teamwork and an involved workforce

Linda Dulye's picture
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Last month’s edition of Spectator-Free Workplace highlighted the value of measurement in a workforce communications program.  Identifying the key drivers of your communications program, measuring them and communicating them to your boss and your business’ management team are all important elements of maintaining an effective communications process – and keeping your job. 

More importantly, in the current economic environment, having the ability to demonstrate effectiveness using hard data – just like everyone else in your business – is the key to defending your programs and demonstrating value against competing priorities when budget trimming comes – and, make no mistake, if it hasn’t come to you yet, it will be there soon.

But, the identification and communication of those key drivers is only part of the requirement, and too many organizations stop right there. Consider Box-Checker Johnson and her boss, Mr. Noclue.

Boss: “By the way Johnson, it occurred to me that we haven’t heard the results of that all-employee survey corporate insisted that we take right before the holiday.  How’d we do?”

Johnson: “Well, we didn’t communicate it well and there were a lot of people out since we launched it on the day of New Year’s Eve and asked that it be completed by day’s end.  We wound up with an 8% response rate – and those people said they wanted raises and free donuts in the cafeteria on Wednesdays.”

Boss: “Sounds like everything’s going as expected.  Nice job, Johnson! Let’s just keep this between you and me, shall we?”

While there were a multitude of measurement sins committed in the above effort, we’ll focus on the last:  failure to act on the data.

Along with the existence of UFOs, extraterrestrial life and Area 51, one of the world’s great mysteries is why organizations go to the trouble of launching a survey only to ignore the data. 

Don’t fall into that trap.  Here are tips to keep you from tumbling into data paralysis.

  • Form a team.  If you don’t already have an employee action team (what are you waiting for?!), assemble a team with representation from across your business.  As we discussed last month, the people with the best improvement ideas are on the front lines.  Getting them involved in making improvements drives ownership, accountability and involvement.
  • Share the data.  Give them the data.  With the help of a facilitator, have the employees analyze the data so that they can understand what’s going well and what’s not.  We use a structured, nine-step methodology to help teams identify the issues and work through the process of identifying, implementing and measuring improvement recommendations.
  • Give them support. The team will need the support of a member of the leadership team to guide them and keep them on track.  Select a member of the leadership team (NOT the HR lead!) to act as a liaison between the action team and the leadership team.  That individual will be responsible for periodically meeting with the team for a short period of time to coach (not manage) them on putting the best solutions in place.
  • Assemble and present a plan.  The team will build and present their case for change to the business leadership.  The leadership will negotiate with the action team and reach a final agreement on an approach.  The management sponsor will help advise the team on how to present their data and assembling the final pitch.  The plan should include roles, responsibilities, target dates and tracking mechanisms.
  • Keep measuring.  Continue to pulse your team through formal and informal measurement practices. You need a steady stream of quantitative and qualitative data to determine what’s still working, what’s breaking down and what is downright broken. The identification of metrics and measurement help ensure that what gets fixed, stays fixed.  It also provides an opportunity to engage other employees in ensuring improvements.

Acting on data also demonstrates to the broader employee population that their voice was heard – and important enough to warrant action.  Be sure to communicate the successes – and celebrate them.  Acting on the data you collect – whether it’s from a semi-annual all-employee survey or feedback from an all-employee meeting – builds trust, teamwork, and an involved workforce.

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