How Managers can Make the Most of an Engagement Survey

Engagement Surveys aren’t anything new and they’re still an art that is being mastered, but no one has to start from scratch when it comes to making the most of them.

Hilary Constable, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Principle Consultant

Constable HR

Engagement Surveys aren’t anything new and they’re still an art that is being mastered, but no one has to start from scratch when it comes to making the most of them. Your HR Department will most likely have resources for you, so take advantage of those. Here are some things I’ve learned that I have found to be especially helpful for Managers.


  • Get your team ready.
    • If surveys are new to your team: There will be some overall communication and that’s a good start. As the leader of your team, you’ll need to be ready to answer questions that may come directly to you. Why are we doing this? What will be done with the results? Are we going to do this every year? Will my responses be confidential?
    • If surveys aren’t new: If it was a positive experience, build on last year’s success. If it wasn’t positive, figure out why it wasn’t and how you can improve the experience. Ask your team and your peers, talk to HR, or look at the previous results – whatever makes the most sense for your organization.
  • Understand your team members’ personalities.
    • Whether or not you have a formal personality assessment like DISC, you can think through how your team has responded to the survey or other new initiative in the past.
    • What this means for sharing information: Do they ask a lot of questions? Do they like all the details up front or do they prefer to start with the overall idea and work their way down to the finer points? These insights will help when you get questions, need to inform your team of the next step in the process, or share results.


Ideally, everyone on your team would participate in the survey. Realistically, some people may decide not to participate. Usually, that’s because they don’t have enough time, don’t think anything will be done with the results, or are worried about confidentiality of their individual responses.

  • Set aside time for your team to complete the survey. For example, repurpose time that would normally be spent on a recurring meeting, such as a staff meeting, and, instead, give your team that time to complete the survey.
  • Be available for questions. Even if your organization has a big kick-off meeting, your team may still respond best to a conversation with you. Be as flexible as you can be and give a few options for people to talk to you about the survey, especially if this is the first year your team is doing it.
  • Understand how they company will maintain confidentiality of survey responses. Surveys will need to sort responses somehow and there will be an answer to the question for how they’ll do it.
  • Take notes about what questions you hear people asking. Use these to find ways to make the survey process more enjoyable, more effective, less threatening or whatever your team would benefit from. Your notes could also be helpful the following year when you’re repeating this same process.


  • Know when to share the results. Usually, this is a coordinated event so that the whole organization will get the results at the same time and no one will feel left behind.
  • Know how the results will be shared. For example, if you will be responsible for that, be crystal clear on what exactly the results mean, how they’ll be organized, and be ready to explain that. This is a good way to build confidence in the results.
  • Share the results in a way that makes sense for your organization and your team. Would your team prefer to have see the results and have time to review them before creating an action plan or do they like to think on the fly?


  • Tailor the idea generation to your team and how they work best. Giving them some time to let their imaginations wander can be a great way to find ideas that wouldn’t have come out of a more structured approach. If your team tends to be quiet, try giving them time to look at the results on their own first.
  • Don’t bite of more than you can chew. Making noticeable progress on a couple things is better than making little progress on several things.
  • Remember the positive results too. If your team scores high on something, nurture that. Teams who focus only on the negative results or things they want to change may find themselves neglecting something else that used to be a strong point.
  • Take some time to think about how the results can help you improve your own work.


Recognize improvements your team makes between surveys. This builds positive momentum and helps the survey be a positive experience that improves your workplace. Everyone appreciates a little encouragement along the way.

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