What to do when employee survey results are bad?

So you want to know how your people feel about working in your organization. Why not do a survey? But the results can be an unpleasant surprise. What to do when you get feedback you did not expect, when you think is unfair or even irrelevant. Here are 5 things you should not do.

Hide the Survey Results

You asked for feedback and you got it. Hiding the results is one of the worst things you can do. Next time nobody will be willing to take part and whatever the bad negative might be, you will destroy a lot of value.
So the best thing you can do is give the brutal facts back to the audience. It’s an opportunity to get into a dialogue with those who have given a negative feedback.

Question the participation rate

You might want 100% of people to take part. It never happens. So if you have more than 50% participation it’s OK. If you use low participation as an argument to flush the results, think again. The reasons why people do not take part might be bad for you: no trust, no time, no belief it will help.
There’s always a lot of discussion about the reasons why people does no participate and if they have an even more negative view. You cannot know. But if people think it’s not important enough to spend some time giving feedback, you might assume they have something on their mind.

Criticize the method

You chose the method, so live with it. If you say that you will not take the results into consideration because of the method, you insult all those who have participated.

Do nothing

Doing nothing with the results is a destruction of value. You have the results, you should open all communication channels to reach deep understanding and start remediation. At least bad results give you a reason to talk to as many people as possible, try to understand them but also explain the reasons why the strategy is what it is. Don’t be defensive and you’ll learn a lot.

Stop Listening

Business strategy depends on how well you listen to people. You depend on them for its execution and they might know how to get ahead. So you’d better keep on listening. It’s not because the results of your survey (in whatever form) are disappointing, that listening is not important.
Next time you might consider not going for a survey but for a process of continuous listening. As long as you listen, show that you listen and do something with the information you cannot go wrong. There are alternatives to survey to gather information in a participative and fun way. But don’t forget that the reasons why people do not participate in your survey, will be the same reasons they do not take part in the other forms of exchange.