Building HR Capabilities. Through the Employee Survey Process

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1 Building Capabilities Through the Employee Survey Process

2 Survey results are only data unless you have the capabilities to analyze, interpret, understand and act on them. Your organization may conduct employee surveys regularly most Fortune 1000 organizations do. But what happens to the information you gather? Does it translate into actions that create a culture of engagement and drive business results? Or do managers get a report, file it and forget it? Survey results are only data unless you have the capabilities to analyze, interpret, understand and act on them. Organizations with these capabilities can follow trends in their workforce and employee attitudes over time, using the data to guide workforce movement and engagement. In the same way companies analyze and act on the results of a financial report, employee surveys can help you leverage employee data to judge how well the business is doing and how well your talent is aligned with organizational goals. As your function becomes more agile, the role of your business partners should fill the interpretationto-action gap between data and managerial action. You will need to help them evolve from people who check the box and build an action plan into data interpreters, role modelers and advisors respected by business leaders. One of the best ways to help build these skills and capabilities is through the employee survey process. benefit, or in response to business needs? When your employees titles changed to business partner, did you enhance their skill set? Are you now hiring and training differently for those positions? If not, the widening gulf between their current capabilities and the key skills needed to drive engagement and business results could be blocking the way toward greater strategic value for. The prevailing model has four components, each of which contributes to an efficient and effective function. Focus: Alignment between and the business Business Partners Focus: Reinforcement of one culture; consistency and standardization; value measurement; governance Focus: Cost-effective service delivery of administrative work (including shared services) Leadership Team Operations Centers of Excellence Focus: Expert design services; business and local fit; global best practices Challenges to the prevailing model What capacities will need in five years? In 10 years? It s all about the agility to predict where and when talent will be needed, and move them there at the right time. The agile function of the future will: Maintain fewer permanent resources Act as a consultant to business rather than as an enforcer of policies Produce greater business results Add more value by providing key expertise based on business needs What about now? Does your center of excellence (COE) run surveys and other programs for its own Business partners are in the field every day; they understand the challenges leaders face, and they know that if unsupported data are thrown at them, they will resist making changes. But they need the capabilities to equip line managers with the skill and will to make meaningful changes. In an agile function, the business partner role focuses on the alignment of with business goals. In turn, leadership should see business partners as valuable consultants who provide useful data, analysis and insights they ve never had before. Building Capabilities Through the Employee Survey Process 2

3 What survey data tell us about the optimal organization Business partners can be thought of as the GPS of the employee survey process. They guide the leaders who set the final destination, letting them know if the ship deviates from its prescribed course. To be credible advisors, business partners must have a good understanding of employee opinion data, because it is the key to understanding, and driving, desired behaviors and attitudes. Once the survey is accurately fielded, the business partners should be the ones to guide and facilitate the process as well as to help leaders understand the results. However, in many companies, looking at data from employee surveys, head-count reports, and turnover to find trends and determine where the business will need engaged talent is a skill business partners may not have developed. To support them, organizations need to leverage their strengths (e.g., helping people) by training them how to look at and interpret all the types of data that come from the COE. interprets data and helps leaders act on it Suppose a manager receives a survey report but is not sure what to do with it. Historically, has merely checked with the manager to see that a report was received or an action plan completed (not necessarily carried out). helped to manage the survey process but did not consult with the business on how to use the resulting data. In a strategic and agile function, however, business partners become active consultants to the business managers in their location. They help interpret data, deliver analytics and link survey results to local trends in their business. It is not unusual, even in a company with very smart people, for business partners to have little experience working with data; they may not even be familiar with Microsoft Excel. It makes a great deal of sense, then, to deal with basic gaps in data management skills in conjunction with a project such as an employee survey, in which these skills will be essential. A learning and development program for business partners should address two types of capability: Interpreting data Helping leaders understand and engage with the data to drive necessary action Putting data and people skills together in this role is a great example of how business partners can drive alignment with strategic business goals. Bridging the action gap Presenting a series of workshops or a certification program to business partners who can then bridge the gap between survey results and manager action with strategic insights is a great example of investing where it will make the biggest difference. Learning and development can elevate the business partner role so it is seen as a crucial link to business. Without a true business partner interpreting employee survey data, the action needed to create meaningful change based on those results can too easily fall into the empty space where effective communication should be. Towers Watson research shows that managers play a major role in raising or lowering levels of employee engagement. If simply delivers the results to a manager, it is tacitly expecting the person who is the problem to fix the problem. Our work with clients has shown that if you train and enable business partners to guide the survey process toward corrective action, the results for engagement and productivity are very successful. It is not unusual, even in a company with very smart people, for business partners to have little experience working with data; they may not even be familiar with Microsoft Excel. Building Capabilities Through the Employee Survey Process 3

4 Roll out the idea that business partners are taking on a more strategic role One client we worked with was a large chain operation with many divisions, each of which had 30,000 to 40,000 employees. We have learned that the best practice is to apply the model from the top down, so an manager was assigned to each division president. Making them champions of the survey process gives leaders ownership of the project and greatly increases the chances of translating data into action, and action into business success. To do this, it is necessary to: Involve the leaders up front Explain the benefits of measuring employee attitudes Share the results with leaders first Here s how it worked: The manager and division president received survey results at the same time, and were expected to talk about the results and work together. The manager was prepared in advance to guide these discussions through a series of questions, like an interview. (What did you think? This is what I thought.) The manager and the leader, in partnership, then communicated the results to the organization as a whole, while leaders modeled the behaviors they expected of their managers. In one of the divisions, the survey results were very negative: Engagement had dropped, and the data clearly showed it was largely due to senior management. The manager modeled the desired management behavior, becoming a partner in the corrective process. For the managers, a three-day class broken into two-hour webcast modules worked very well. Every two to three weeks during the webcast series, a different tutorial was offered. A webcast might provide, for example, a sample regional employee survey report along with role modeling of a difficult discussion with a business leader. Another learning and development feature was monthly touch-point calls with the business partners, during which they brought up actual situations and discussed with a trainer how to approach those scenarios. Some organizations effectively introduce the planned role change, and in others, a one-on-one transition happens between business leaders and division representatives. The leader in a local market gains more confidence in the new role, as the business partner brings to bear more data interpretation and deeper insights into trends and workforce analytics. The idea is to develop business partners who interpret the data and draw related insights about what needs to be done differently how certain behaviors, and what s expected, need to change. The employee survey process then works both ways: Developing business partners who provide more analytics Demonstrating s strategic value to business leaders Whether your company has rolled out a role-change program or not, the survey process can be employed at any stage to help build the capability of by leveraging individual strengths and developing additional skills. Maximizing the value of employee surveys The importance of business partners in getting things done within the COE cannot be overstated. If you don t focus on enabling them and building their confidence whether you are trying to push out talent management, talent review, performance management or an employee survey the effort can fail. If business partners are not comfortable with data and can t take the work forward, a gulf opens between the COE and the field, threatening the value of any initiative. An function considering a capability-building employee survey process should include the following components for business partners: 1. Equip them with the skills to interpret, draw insights and hold value-added conversations with leaders about employee survey data 2. Train them how to communicate corrective action through role modeling 3. Build their confidence and interpersonal skills: a. Taking the initiative in a discussion b. Holding a difficult conversation with a manager c. Dealing with resistance from managers d. Thinking on your feet and finding a comfort level in ambiguous situations e. Questioning and thoroughly understanding COE directives Some organizations effectively introduce the planned role change, and in others, a one-on-one transition happens between business leaders and division representatives. Building Capabilities Through the Employee Survey Process 4

5 You don t want your surveys to be isolated projects that yield only dead ends, and you don t want them to be viewed as initiatives with minimal business involvement. This is learning that can occur in the midst of an employee survey process and be applied immediately in real situations. Not only do you get the benefit of the data, you also up-skill your staff at the same time, which makes for an effective investment. Equipped, aligned and engaged You don t want your surveys to be isolated projects that yield only dead ends, and you don t want them to be viewed as initiatives with minimal business involvement. You want employee surveys to be seen as relevant to the business, yielding good insights and moving your organization toward positive results. Companies spend a lot of money on employee surveys. To gain the full value of these investments, the process of transitioning and building capabilities needs to be a major component of the implementation. Just doing a survey and putting out a report is a wasted investment, and unless you have people who can communicate insights, your survey has not served the business. To accomplish that, the COE needs to equip the business partners and, thereby, business leaders with more actionable information than they ve ever had before. And that s going to significantly increase s value to the organization. The best practice is being mindful of what business partners will need to carry out the employee survey and make the data work for the business. Before rolling the survey out, organizations should consider what support the business partners will require during the process. When business partners are well equipped, aligned and engaged, they become stakeholders who contribute to business success. About Towers Watson Towers Watson is a leading global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management. With 14,000 associates around the world, we offer solutions in the areas of employee benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management. Copyright 2011 Towers Watson. All rights reserved. TW-NA

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