Effectively Using Employees' Opinions to Shape HR Strategy
Without a prompt and visible response, even the best designed employee opinion survey or exit interview process will fall prey to employee cynicism. If employees feel that management is ignoring their feedback, an effort to involve their opinions will likely cause a drop in morale.
Utilizing employee opinion and exit interview data well is a challenge. In this Astronology, we share methods for strategic analysis that can help you turn your opinion-based data into concrete strategic objectives.
STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES IN HR
Strategic objectives in human resources are set to reinforce employee efforts and behaviors in support of an organization's critical success factors - factors that will determine the future success or failure of an organization.
Many successful human resource functions have taken a page from the book of Drs. Kaplan and Norton and adapted the Balanced Scorecard approach to their strategies. In terms of HR, this approach involves viewing the organization through five strategic lenses:
- Learning and growth
- Human Resources
This approach involves developing metrics (criteria for measurement), collecting data, and analyzing it as it relates to each of these perspectives.
In the quest to link the needs of the organization and the needs of its employees, conflicts often arise. Whether they arise from miscommunication, lack of acceptance, or a discord between organizational and employee values, HR is at a disadvantage when it does not strive to understand these conflicts and their foundations.
As explored in the past two issues, two powerful tools for collecting the data needed for this effort are employee opinion surveys and exit interviews.
Successful strategic planning in human resources begins with linking the information from opinion surveys and exit interviews. Trend analysis will become easier with time, but using both sources in tandem will reveal a clearer picture of working conditions. The following questions may be of use in this analysis:
- What do both sources identify as common sources of dissatisfaction?
- What do both sources identify as common motivators?
- What perceptions of the organization and its leadership are common?
- Are particular supervisors singled out as strong or weak leaders?
- How is human resources perceived in both sources?
- What are employee perceptions regarding the organization's mission, vision, values, and objectives in both sources?
Once these sources of data are analyzed, it is the responsibility of human resources to conduct an internal analysis of its programs as they relate to communicating and reinforcing the strategic values of the organization. To this end, SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is an excellent strategic tool.
SWOT Analysis is a flexible line of questioning that can be used for organizational, individual, or competitive ends. In this context, the data analysis described above will be further organized:
- What are the current strengths of the organization?
- What are the obvious weaknesses to be modified?
- What opportunities exit to modify systems and / or programs that will better reinforce those employee activities and behaviors needed by the organization?
- What threats could interfere with successful implementation of necessary changes?
HR has an obligation to provide the organization's leadership with insights regarding employee perceptions, as well as with concrete recommendations for reinforcing what is working and what needs to be changed. Employee opinion survey and exit analysis data are a prime source of information in this endeavor, but their collection could result in a backlash if results are not both shared and acted upon. After analysis is complete, share some version of the results with your employees, and tell them what will be done about the problems they have identified.
For instance, if an employee opinion survey communicates a lack of understanding about the organization's mission, vision, values, and objectives, a training program could be instituted to address the problem. As this information can be distributed via e-mail, a technically savvy organization can raise employee awareness with no greater cost than a few hours of writing time.
Effective use of employee opinion and exit interview data provides the backing and justification the organization's senior leadership team needs to support HR's recommendations. Linking this supportive data to concrete proposals and programs that demonstrate ROI, return on investment, is key. The lack of response to employee concerns raised in the collected data can lead to increased turnover, inability to recruit effectively, and, potentially, lower productivity and efficiency due to lower morale.