Action plans make teams stronger

Failure to set clear action plans after a team evaluation is demoralising, undermines faith in leadership and jeopardises the entire programme.

State of the global workplace

According to the latest State of the Global Workplace report from Gallup, teams with thriving workers see significantly lower absenteeism, turnover and accidents. Powerful yet oddly unsurprising.

Amid layoffs and a changing workplace, worker stress is at a record high. According to the Gallup report, 44% of employees ‘experienced stress a lot of the previous day’. This despite the fact that job engagement surveys become more frequent and high-tech.

What’s wrong with employee surveys?

This article in the New York Times asks “Are surveys the wrong tool? Are employees not telling their managers the truth about their dissatisfaction? Or are the bosses not listening?” Answer? It’s probably a bit of each, and more.

Of course, the question of why many employees feel stressed and disconnected goes far beyond the effectiveness of employee surveys.

Let’s talk about why evaluations – whether team or individual – often fail.

How the rot sets in

In our view, the rot sets in when participants start to doubt the value of evaluations. That goes both for employees and management or in our case, clients and agencies.

While there is a fair amount of research linking more satisfied employees with higher profitability and productivity as well as with lower rates of turnover, there is scant large-scale studies on whether companies typically follow up on employee responses to job engagement surveys.

Why action plans are crucial

Recent research conducted by The Internationalist among leading marketers and agencies found that action plans derived from the evaluations were the most common way in which evaluation results were used. That’s good news. At the very least, it means the results are being used.

Action plans improve teams

In their book titled “Re-Engage” – based on analysis of over two million employee engagement surveys and exit interviews – the authors concluded that conducting a survey and not taking action “is like pulling a pin on a grenade and not throwing it”.

“…. like pulling a pin on a grenade and not throwing it”.

Re-Engage: How America’s Best Places to Work Inspire Extra Effort in Extraordinary Times

Worse still, it’s demoralising and it undermines the faith teams have in their leadership.

In an era where it seems everything is measured and where we are asked to rate our interaction with almost any purchase, survey fatigue is a problem. But when individuals are compelled to respond to evaluations that are seen to go nowhere, the risks are even greater. And their value diminishes.

Start, Stop, Continue

At Aprais we believe in the ‘Start, Stop, Continue’ technique as a crisp method of getting to an action plan. It encourages participants to come up with practical ideas for team-based improvement. We build this into many of our questionnaires to encourage action planning.

For those unaware,

  • Start: Things that the team believes would have a positive impact that aren’t already implemented.
  • Stop: Things within the team’s workflow or process that aren’t helping to achieve the team’s goals and should be stopped.
  • Continue: Things that already worked well in the previous evaluation and should stay in the workflow to ensure future success.
Four questions clients should ask

This article makes a bold assumption; that readers already embrace the idea of performance improvement – whether individuals or teams – and are prepared to change their behaviour to achieve those improvements. As clients are most often in the driving seat of relationships, there are four questions clients need to agree to in order to ensure that evaluations are used as means of constructive improvement rather than being weaponised as a ‘carrot and stick’.

  1. Do I truly believe that client-agency relationships should be a partnership as opposed to a master-servant relationship?
  2. Do I accept that opening up to finding out new things about my organisation could be the best way to ensure that it learns what it needs to do to get the best out of the other party?
  3. Am I committed to acting on the findings and investing the necessary resource in terms of time, people and /or money to ensure meaningful progress is made?
  4. Do I embrace the statistical robustness of large scale data and external benchmarking to underpin confident decision making?