In an earlier post, I covered the potential of pulse survey data to unlock the secrets of employee motivation and retention. Google, Amazon, and Adidas, among others, have already reported making strides in this direction.
Yet, many companies in Asia still lag in their approach to using pulse surveys to build a base of structured data from which to analyze their workforce. While sheer headcount numbers may not be a concern in a region with 60% of the world’s population, there is still a talent gap in Asia. This adds pressure on employers to get the best out of the talent they have, and to retain that talent for as long as possible.
While simple in abstract, implementing a pulse survey process work can be tricky. Here's how you can make it work for you.
1. HR Must Be Accountable
The first step to tackling these questions is to accept that HR as a function is not unique, at least not in this regard.
Think about the types of metrics that other departments monitor and report on continually.
The finance team scrambles at the end of each month to ensure that the books balance. Engineering teams practice preventive maintenance every day and keep detailed logs. Marketing teams report on the performance of various campaigns down to the very last click.
In most companies, a monthly management report on such metrics is normal. Adding a pulse survey report would therefore actually be a mere extension of an existing reporting process, rather than having to create a separate process and add cognitive load to the company.
A good way to start working out the optimal pulse survey architecture would be to ask yourself:
- How often does management review relevant operational data? Is this consistent across all levels in my company?
- What is the scale of follow up actions from such meetings?
- What other HR data is reported at such meetings?
2. Create An Organization Habit
Building an organizational habit is not easy, but it is no harder than trying to rally the organization each time an annual survey is launched. Having a short survey would help: no more than 30 questions for a quarterly survey, and 15-20 for a monthly survey. Using automation to drive the process also relieves much of the administrative load.
The great news about pulse surveys is that once it becomes a habit, no incremental effort is required to sustain it – unlike the annual roadshows required to revive attention around an expensive engagement survey.
Importantly, HR and leadership interventions can then be strategically targeted at areas that most need them.
What if you're already stuck in an annual survey cycle? There's no need to unplug that immediately, leave it be if it gives other leaders comfort and if the change management is too complicated. In that case, use the pulse surveys to track follow-up items from the annual survey. The important thing is to build foundational habits around data collection.
3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
Like any other program, over-communication about the purpose, expectations, and mechanics of a pulse survey track is critical. Especially at the beginning. A customer of ours turned a response rate of 26% to 93% within less than a month, purely on the back of strengthened internal communications.
A good place to start would be to frame the why behind the program. Appealing to the genuine desire to make the workplace better and improve the lives of employees at work resonates, especially if it is sincere.
Reinforcing this throughout the program by communicating results, actions taken, and experiments that succeed (and fail) is equally important. This builds trust, and creates a virtuous cycle of performance improvements and accountability that boosts productivity.
To do this, equipping leaders at all levels with the data they need and generating ideas for follow-up action, is a critical step.
4. Staying Agile And Responsive To Business Change
Are you going through organizational transformation? Trying to enter new markets? Build a new culture? Had significant changes in senior management? Or do you just want to keep your best talent?
Each of these episodes requires deft people management. In many cases, leaders thrust into these situations may be facing them for the first time, or may be relying on experience in very different circumstances. Lacking data, leaders have no choice but to rely on gut feel and intuition to steer their team through. Given the high cost of error in each of these episodes, this really is no way for companies to do business in a time when the average lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 is below 20 years.
With a series of trailing data to rely on, leaders can identify which teams would be affected the most, how they'd be affected, and possibly even which intervention activities would be most effective in facilitating the change.
5. Don't Leave Your People To Chance
Establishing a habit and culture of regular feedback earlier rather than later opens up huge possibilities for organizational agility for leaders. The best part? The financial and attentional costs are likely to be less than what your company is incurring today.
Young companies, particularly in Asia, have a unique opportunity to "leapfrog" beyond legacy processes and build the right organizational habits from the start, and implementing the steps above would be a great start.
This post was originally published on Forbes.