A Business Technology Place

Turning employee survey results inside out

Making sense of employee survey results.

This week I reviewed the 2018 employee survey results with my department. I’ll be honest; deciphering survey results is a challenge for a variety of reasons. Questions are interpreted differently. Similar questions with slight nuances yield measurably different answers. Survey results are influenced highly by what is happening at that moment in time (mergers, hiring freezes, large customer wins, new managers, etc.)

I first reviewed the results with the managers in the department. We discussed questions with the highest and lowest favorable scores. When we did this within a small group, we found different interpretations of the survey question. The process was useful because we had a healthy dialogue about the findings. But there was enough diversity of opinion that I wondered how employees would feel about our resulting actions.


The guidance from human resources and my history with employee surveys fit a set model. Employees take a survey. Management reviews the results. Then management responds with actions to address the areas with the lowest favorable scores. In this model, all the responsibility for action is on the management team.

Then I dug deeper and realized,

getting the most value out of employee survey results requires a more holistic approach than a set of management action items.

I reviewed all the question categories and realized they touch on interpersonal actions between all employee classifications in the company. So why would we respond by assigning action items only to the management group?

Changing the survey results approach.

I used the core findings in the results to create action items for the entire department. We can’t transform culture within a group only by having managers changing rules, policies, and workflows. To improve in areas like collaboration, trust, empowerment, and agility requires all employees work together as a cohesive unit.

I challenged the team with this thought, the first step on a journey for job satisfaction is looking in the mirror. 

It’s age-old advice to focus first on your own behaviors and attitudes. I followed with a paradox for success,

our personal success and how we view our job depends on how successful we make our colleagues, manager, and customers.

The employee survey questions had little to do with technology, tools, or things. The questions focused on communications and interactions between people. Our definition of success, or our inclination to mark a favorable answer, is directly influenced by how successful we make our coworkers and customers. If we think more about how we can give, rather than how we receive, then we’ll go farther and find more job satisfaction. This is a better recipe to maximize employee engagement.

Onward and upward!

Photo Credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Creative Commons

Starbucks gets the big idea


Have you seen mystarbucksidea.com? Starbucks has gone outside their corporate walls for idea generation and thought. They’ve given their customers a chance to submit ideas to help improve the Starbucks brand and business. This isn’t anything new you say? You’ve had the ability to do this for years right?  You could submit ideas and leave comments through suggestion cards and customer surveys. Hold on, let’s take a closer look at what Starbucks has done with this site.

The My Starbucks idea site is really a community. Customers or interested persons leave their ideas where they are visible to everyone. Each idea is then voted on by the community and discussed. If Starbucks implements an idea from the suggestions they will post it on their blog named Ideas In Action.

What so ingenious about this and how is better than traditional surveys and comments cards?

Idea submission

To submit an idea you must be a registered user. Not to worry, the registration form only has 3 fields ( Username, email address, and password). So you won’t spend time writing out your name, complete address, and those dreadful demographic questions.

The process then allows you to pick a screen name for use with any posts you might make. To submit an idea you only need to fill in three boxes: the idea name, a description of the idea, and the category (from a selection box).  How simple is that? Don’t forget you can submit multiple ideas and keep coming back to the site.

Viewing ideas

Both registered and unregistered users can view idea submissions. Ideas are grouped by category, points, date for easy viewing. This creates a sense of community and understanding. It’s not something you’ll find with traditional customer response mechanisms where your survey is a one-off input.

Voting on and discussing ideas

Registered, users can then give each idea a thumbs up or thumbs down which will help determine the point score for the idea. The total points for an idea are shown by its name. In this way, Starbucks can get an idea of just how popular an idea is with its customers. Think about that. You can make your voice heard through voting for others comments even if you don’t submit any of your own ideas.

Registered users can also create discussions for each idea. This allows people to both further clarify the thought or to have a healthy debate on the merits of each idea and if they should be considered further. Again, it creates a sense of community and feeling that customers can contribute to shaping the future of the company. You can’t get this by dropping a white card into a wooden box or by filling out an online survey and never knowing if anyone reads it.

It comes with the territory

Perhaps the most impressive thing I saw on the site, was that the moderator allowed negative posts to stay on line. Starbucks reserves the right to moderate the site from profanity or inappropriate comments (as they should). But they do not delete posts which customers use to vent frustrations or to give criticism. This lets you know that this site is not just a marketing feel-good board. It’s a place where comments are welcome and viewed. Posters beware though. Since this is a community site, you may find that others don’t agree with your assessment.

My hats off to you Starbucks. You’ve got the big idea!