Pssst… Reasons to Avoid Conducting the Next Engagement Survey

After all these years, it turns out that engagement surveys may not be all that organizations want them to be. Don’t blame the survey; it does its job to collect data. That data can drive significant change when there’s an action plan. If there’s no action plan, reconsider issuing the next engagement survey.

For decades, organizations have used engagement surveys as a tool to help improve productivity, and attract and retain employees. Increasing profitability is the common goal of pinpointing areas of concern and resolving the issues. The challenge is not often in facilitating the survey or identifying areas needing improvement; the struggle is developing an action plan and addressing the underlying problems. That is where many organizations fail.

Neutral Rating Survey Question Response

According to Leadership IQ (a leadership training and research firm), more than 3,000 respondents to an online quiz indicate that nearly 60% of companies are not taking meaningful action on the data from their employee engagement surveys. In our experience, Findley consultants recognize that identifying issues is the easy part of surveys.

Driving organizational change is tough.

Without getting into finite detail, the output of survey results can be grouped into several categories: culture, work-life, leadership, management, rewards, communication, career path, learning and development. There are many challenges in addressing such broad topics with a survey, including:

  • Were the appropriate questions asked?
  • When negative responses are provided by employees, an expectation has been set that problems will be fixed. Will corrections be made?
  • Generally, there are multiple root drivers for getting low scores. Does the survey provide enough data on where the problems reside?
  • Those assigned to address problem areas are often the people associated with the low scores. Should an independent resource contribute to the development of a solution?
  • How balanced is the approach to addressing issues? Does employee feedback carry all of the weight or are management’s voices considered, as those may offer differing opinions than those expressed by the employees?
  • Over-reaction is as bad as indifference or being slow to act. It can lead to rash piecemeal corrections without a holistic plan for improvement. How are survey results addressed?

Surveys by themselves will not fully define or solve organizational issues; they can contribute to identifying some negative areas in the organization, but the challenge remains for leadership to address the noted issues of concern. Moreover, improving employee satisfaction scores to higher levels does not always correlate to improved business results. Our experience shows some organizations that have high engagement scores do not carry that success into business performance. A balanced approach is needed to connect people and business expectations; organizations need to progress beyond surveys.

Engagement surveys are one piece of the equation. Similar to online candidate assessments used in recruiting, they are not the definitive answer, rather surveys are tools to measure critical areas. They become data points to be considered.

Aside from engagement surveys, companies should look at the big picture and manage to an ideal state. From Findley’s experience, the most successful organizations have this core characteristics framework which connects their people and business strategy:

  • Effective leadership which formally includes a people strategy within its business plan
  • Trained managers who use effective goal setting, provide ongoing feedback and support their employees
  • Clear job expectations, competency standards and organizational structure which supports each employee’s work needs
  • A performance culture which fosters open communication and supports challenges to the status quo
  • Issues are addressed as they happen, they do not linger and become chronic
  • An indoctrination and learning strategy connected to clear career paths
  • Defined rewards strategy (base, incentive, other benefits/perks) tied to performance

These are the day-to-day fundamentals, the blocking and tackling of management and leadership that drives retention, engagement and business growth. For many organizations, however, this stated framework is not ingrained in the company’s culture. Instead, they focus on symptoms found in the survey data, spending too much time on the granular points versus tending to broader core success factors.

Too often, department heads or individual managers are tasked with the follow up activity required to fix low scores. Meanwhile, the core issues reside with the broader organizational strategy and operations decisions and therefore, are rarely corrected satisfactorily.

Before performing the next engagement survey and assessing the data, step back and consider what will be done with the findings. Determine how the core characteristics of successful organizations can be incorporated into the action plan.

Questions regarding how to develop an innovative HR strategy or assess your current HR function or talent, contact the Findley consultant you normally work with, or Dan Simovic at, 216.875.1917.

Published February 1, 2020

© 2020 Findley. All Rights Reserved.

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AI Technology Transforming the Next Generation of HR

The right mix of technology, artificial intelligence and the human element is a differentiator.

With the coming of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and broader uses of technology, HR professionals will be challenged to manage and humanize HR systems to achieve their objectives. AI is the ability of a computer program or a machine to think and learn. Call it what you will, HR Technology (HRIS, HRMS, HCM) are here to stay.

Steven Hawking once said that “Unless we learn how to prepare for, and avoid, the potential risks, AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilization.”

HR is Already Using Artificial Intelligence and Leveraging Technology

Many experts predict that AI will replace jobs involving repetitive or basic problem-solving tasks, and even go beyond current human ability. AI systems will make HR decisions instead of professionals in industrial settings, customer service and other interactive roles. 

Likewise, Human Resources technology and AI are used increasingly in every facet of the organization’s employment lifecycle as listed below.

  • Employers use social media to brand their companies and attract candidates
  • Applicant Tracking Systems technology improves HR professional’s recruiting and hiring efficiency and productivity
  • Screening technologies, such as video interviews, assessments or automated scheduling/screening help to vet candidates
  • Technologies have automated several HR-related tasks such as employee onboard processing, employee benefit elections and processing retirements
  • Performance management systems track individual performance and link that performance to company results
  • Employee engagement surveys, and 360 feedback systems capture the employee perspective
  • Training modules are distributed to employees and their utilization tracked via learning management technology systems
  • Compensation data surveys and cloud-based technology tools are available to compensation professionals that subscribe to them

Today many employee or prospective employee interactions are not with a human being. Instead, leveraging AI in HR, candidates apply for a job to an automated HR system, have an initial online screening, interview via video and through conversational job matching, are assessed to determine if they are talent worthy of further consideration. The assumption is that these HR software solutions are faster, more accurate and cost-effective at selecting the best talent.

How has the Human Resources Professional’s Role Changed?

Businesses that are late adopters of technology will be left behind. In today’s competitive market your speed to attract, hire, manage, develop and reward your talent is a key success factor. As we have seen in the marketplace, organizations that are lacking in this space have higher employee turnover and lower productivity. They are not meeting the needs of today’s generation which require immediate capability to engage and transact certain activities. Organizations using traditional HR approaches and software solutions struggle to land and keep top talent.

Human Resources professionals will need to significantly adapt and add new skills beyond being people experts. HR teams will need to develop a stronger understanding of systems, process and data analytics). We see this movement in the world of professional sports where data analytics augments identifying top talent. Businesses are slowly following this AI trend and are beginning to reap the benefits.  

Building Your Next Generation HR Team

One of the best innovators in hiring today is a company called Catalyte. In fact, Catalyte’s mission states: “Catalyte advances human potential for the digital economy. We use artificial intelligence to identify individuals, regardless of background, who have the innate potential and cognitive ability to be great software developers.”

Catalyte uses AI to review candidates for pure ability – not experience – and then builds skills through a strong apprentice and training program. The organization looks for raw talent and molds that talent to develop the computer programming skills they need to succeed.

Is your HR team combining innovative technology with raw human skill to build your workforce for the future? What kind of HR talent do you need to create and lead this kind of approach?

In larger organizations, where resources may be more plentiful, the focus of systems, process and data analytics may be assigned to specific departments. In smaller organizations everyone shares the burden of addressing these AI areas. Irrespective of the size of the organization or the specific role, HR professionals will need to build their technical acumen and become the conduit to building a workforce for the future.

After all, even AI uses algorithms built off of desired outcomes, as identified and input by human experts. Therefore, HR teams today require a mix of both art and science.

Questions regarding how to develop an innovative HR strategy or assess your current HR function or talent, contact the Findley consultant you normally work with, or Dan Simovic at, 216.875.1917.

Published August 14, 2019

© 2019 Findley. All Rights Reserved.

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Using Lean Six Sigma to Create HR Bandwidth

HR leaders are continually looking to accomplish more with less, especially with the wave of experienced HR professionals leaving the workforce. Companies are finding success using basic Lean Six Sigma principles to create bandwidth.

Recent anecdotal accounts related to the struggle to find strong HR talent are backed up by statistics. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs categorized under Human Resources Manager will grow 9% by 2026, which is 2% greater than the average projected growth of all jobs in the U.S.

But there is also a projected decline in labor force participation for all workers (age 16 and over) from its historical peak of 67.1% in 2000 to its projected decline of 61.0% in 2026.  It’s clear that HR and benefits departments will be challenged to find the resources necessary to meet business objectives.

“Our clients are asking the questions – how can we be more efficient, more responsive, more effective and deliver more value to our business without adding to staff?” says Nancy Pokorny, a Principal with Findley.  “It’s a perfect time to review people, process and technologies,” added Pokorny who is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.

In fact, one Findley client recently gained 112 hours of bandwidth (on a single project) using the Lean Six Sigma DMAIC approach to identify opportunities for process improvement and automation. That’s nearly three solid weeks of one person’s time that could be reallocated to more strategic endeavors.

Pokorny cautions that there is an art to utilizing Lean Six Sigma principles and tools to optimize HR impact and efficiency, and it’s important to avoid creating a process that is overly engineered and unnecessarily complex.

“The key is to focus on using the tools that get to the heart of the matter quickly such as DMAIC, Ishikawa (Fishbone) Diagram, Root Cause Analysis and Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA),” shared Pokorny. “Simpler is better, and the Lean mindset can provide a concise way to organize information and identify potential solutions. Organizations can then develop more efficient in-sourced or out-sourced solutions, which can help to alleviate the talent gap.”

For detailed information on how one company improved bandwidth using Lean Six Sigma, view the Findley Proof case study.

Questions? Contact the Findley consultant you normally work with, or contact Nancy Pokorny at or 216.875.1939.

Posted August 21, 2018

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