11 tips from two HR experts: Launching an enterprise survey

“A project of this magnitude really helped put us on the map,” says Maribel Hines of the HR team’s first enterprise-wide employee engagement survey. As Vice President - Talent & Organization Development at Universal Music Group, she’s championing the importance of collecting employee feedback and taking action.

Andrea Reyes, Director of Field Training at Journeys, is in a similar role as the company’s survey champion. Her focus has been on the importance of employee engagement over satisfaction, which has led to better insight for their company.

With over 8,200 employees at Universal Music Group and over 12,000 at Journeys, using an employee survey ensures everyone gets a voice.

Recently, Maribel and Andrea joined us for a webinar on this topic, and we’ve distilled their top tips for collecting, understanding and acting on employee feedback using employee engagement surveys.

If you want to learn even more from these great People Geeks, get your ticket for Culture First and attend their session in-person.

Tip #1: Get a senior sponsor for your survey, and get CEO/Chairman buy-in

“Our decision to launch a global employee engagement survey was led by our new Executive Vice President of HR, Gautam Srivastava, who joined the company about two years ago,” says Maribel. He realized that the HR team needed more data to use in conversation with company leaders. They had anecdotal information and insights, but they needed to understand what was happening on a global level. “Gautam pushed us to run a global survey and spoke with our Chairman early on about the process and received support,” says Maribel.  

Tip #2: Choose the right vendor partner for your survey

“Once we decided to run an engagement survey, we took care in researching vendors,” says Maribel, “We purposely looked for a solution that was flexible and whose experience would resonate with employees. We wanted the solution to feel like an extension of how we operate as a company.”

Tip #3: Get global HR business partners on board for success

Maribel realized that they also needed to get HR business partners on board. “There were initial concerns about having the bandwidth to execute properly, and if this was the right time to launch. So, this survey really gave us an opportunity to figure out how to work well as a global team,” she says. They planned around their bandwidth concerns and their comprehensive implementation plan made a difference. Maribel shares that, “Most of what we envisioned would happen post-survey, has actually happened as planned.”

Tip #4: Know that employee satisfaction is not the same as employee engagement

Journeys has always believed in putting put people first. Andrea says, “For 30 years we’ve built a strong culture around putting people first. But we hadn’t done as much as we could to get their input on a global scale.” They wanted to move beyond employee satisfaction to fully understanding employee engagement with their feedback strategy.

Andrea explains, “In retail, pay and hours are always going to be a thing, and while people might not feel 100% satisfied with them, they could still be highly engaged. That was important for us to understand the difference between.”

Tip #5: Understand the questions you are going to ask

Both Journeys and Universal Music Group had specific goals in mind when preparing to launch their first survey. They also knew that asking the right questions was important to getting the right data.

“It was great to have an off-the-shelf set of questions and factors to help guide us,” says Andrea. Having the ability to customize those questions to your own company’s culture is also important. Andrea explains, “We have 12 core values and we kept those top of mind when creating the survey.”

Maribel and team started with Culture Amp’s standard questions then quickly found themselves with a long list of questions. “We said, ‘Wow, that’s a lot to go from not surveying our people to asking quite a bit.’ So, we narrowed to a set of 30 global questions,” explains Maribel.

Journeys’ first engagement survey included 58 questions, but as Andrea explains, “We didn’t have a team in place that could handle that type of response. My advice is that if you're going to ask a question, be prepared to react to the response. If you don't feel like you could react, then don't ask.” Maribel adds that creating criteria for evaluating which questions to keep and which to cut can be helpful. “For us,” she says, “We looked at each question one by one and asked, ‘Will it matter to our leaders?’ and ‘Could we take action if we get a low score?’”

Tip #6: Brand your survey to make it unique

“Like any new program or initiative there could potentially be some fear around your first survey,” says Andrea. Education and communication are key to getting people on board, and that’s something both Journeys and Universal Music Group took into account.

“The branding piece was definitely a factor that helped our project be successful,” says Maribel. Their survey brands was, "Your voice is universal" playing off of the same messaging of Universal Music Group.

Tip #7: Prepare for a global audience

“Because we're a company with over 8,200 employees, we didn't want the survey to take on the perspective of a US-centric or a North American view,” says Maribel. Ensure that you have the right representation and give thought to cultural nuances and contexts.

Tip #8: Communicate the survey’s purpose to senior leaders

Maribel and her team created simple, succinct briefing docs to help leaders understand the survey, what questions were being asked, and to keep them involved in the process. “Leaders had an opportunity to add additional questions if they were really curious about getting some additional points of insight for their people,” she says.

Tip #9: Show that it’s a process, not a one-off thing

From their first survey to their second, Andrea noticed a difference - more people participated. “Nobody lost their job, nobody was reprimanded. People started to see action. The advice that I have for anybody that has that fear of unknown is you will start to create a culture of feedback,” she says. Once people see that it’s not a one and done survey, they realize the commitment that is being made to listening to employee feedback.

Tip #10: Cascading results makes for consistent messaging

Post-survey, both Maribel and Andrea agreed that cascading results was an effective system. “The HR team created an executive briefing that was shared with our chairman first. This included some initial recommendations that we also got approval on at that point. This gave us the go-ahead to start briefing all of the business leaders and direct reports,” says Maribel. They also involved HR business partners in the briefing conversations which helped keep their message consistent.

“Similar to Maribel, we needed the President of our company and his direct supports to see it and understand and digest the survey results” says Andrea. With over 60 district managers that need to understand the information, communicating results is not a small task. For their second survey Andrea explains, “We opened up live participation results for managers from the day the survey went live. This helped leaders to encourage their team to participate and it did lead to and increase in participation for us.”

Tip #11: Involve people in post-survey action planning

After their second survey, Journeys hosted a breakout session with all district leaders. “We really put it in their hands, let them dissect and compare the data. It got everybody really excited and we were able to take all of that information back for action planning,” says Andrea. When it came time to implement on the action plan, leaders were already on board.

Last words of advice from Maribel and Andrea

For organizations that might be facing the challenge of bringing an employee engagement survey on board, Maribel has a few simple questions you can ask to help reveal the need:

"What is it that you don't know about how your people feel? What hypothesis do you have about how your people feel that would be helpful to get more information on?”

Once you understand that need, connect it to pain points within the business and message that to the right people. “That is what's going to open their eyes and get them on board,” says Maribel.

She adds that while the concept of engagement is now on many people's minds, it’s something that has real meaning for Universal Music Group now. “Our leaders, our managers, are now starting to think more about employee engagement and how what they do impacts it.”

Andrea says that the biggest change she’s seen is that having an employee engagement survey has made feedback part of their culture. “People want to share their voice. If they didn't participate in the last survey, they're excited. I hear things like, ‘I've been waiting for this! I didn't do it the first time. So excited to give you my feedback!’”  

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Culture Amp helps you make your company a better place to work. By making it easy to collect, understand and act on employee feedback, we enable HR leaders to make better decisions, demonstrate impact, and turn company culture into a competitive edge.

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