When employee culture surveys raise more questions than answers

You’ve completed your culture survey, the results are back, and the scores are lower than you anticipated. Yet, your inbox for formal complaints is empty. Why this disconnect?

The silence behind the survey

Culture surveys, designed for anonymity, make employees feel safe to share their workplace concerns. This safety net might be missing, or be perceived as missing, from the formal complaint process. The issue may be about trust, uncertainty about a complaint being treated with impartiality and sometimes, the issue might even be fear of reprisal for submitting a complaint.

Employees may vent in a survey, but when it comes to putting their name to a complaint, they back down. They need to believe that speaking up won't land them in hot water.

Building trust takes more than anonymity

If you ask yourself, "Do we just listen, or do we hear?" There's a big difference between listening and hearing. Listening is passive; hearing is active. Your team needs to have confidence that their concerns won't just be noted; they'll be acted upon.

You can build trust through clear, consistent communication. Ensure everyone knows how to report issues, and that there will be no negative fallout.

Creating a 'speak-up' culture

It's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work on fostering a culture where employees feel confident to voice their concerns. Actively promoting how, where and why employees can submit their concerns is vital to develop a speak-up culture.

Visibility is key

Make sure your employees know where and how to voice their worries by providing and promoting clear, simple channels that are as easy to access and navigate.

Guarantee safety

Policies against retaliation are fine, but let's see them in action. Share success stories of complaints leading to positive change without backlash.

Options galore

People are different. Some prefer telephone, other prefer online, email or post . Provide different methods for feedback. Anonymous hotlines and digital platforms all play a critical part.

Education is empowerment

Make sure everyone knows why feedback is essential.– from the CEO to the newest employee.

Leadership sets the tone

If your leaders openly seek and act on feedback, it sends a clear message: we're all in this together.

Keep them in the loop

Tell your team what you're doing with their feedback. It's like responding to a text – it acknowledges the sender and encourages more communication.

The external provider or the Ombudsman option

An impartial figure to handle complaints can be very important in resolving concerns. An external process which provides anonymity, impartiality and protection to your employees is the best-practice solution that encourages employees to raise their concerns and potentially prevent a crisis from developing.

The follow-up

Don't let feedback disappear into a black hole or silos. Close the loop with the person who raised the issue. It shows you value their input.

From feedback to change

When your culture survey raises a red flag and your complaint system stays quiet, it’s a call to action. It’s time to build a culture of trust that turns whispers into conversations, and concerns into positive and constructive change.

Surveys as a starting point

Remember, a survey is not the solution. Use them to inform a strategy that encourages open, honest dialogue.

Action steps to take now

  1. Review your survey. Look for patterns in the responses. Is there a particular area that's causing concern?
  2. Talk to your team. Not in a formal meeting, just a casual chat can work. Sometimes, the best insights come from a quick informal catch-up over coffee.
  3. Audit your current complaints process. Is it truly anonymous? Is it easy to use? If not, it's time for a change.
  4. Take action on the feedback. Even if it's a small change, it shows you're listening.
  5. Check your culture. Does it encourage openness? If not, consider what you can change.
  6. Consider an external hotline provider that can pull all parts of the complaints process and management together in one secure, intuitive and easy to use platform

A chance to make things better

A poor employee culture survey result isn't the end of the world. It's a chance to make things better. But in order to turn those insights into action, you’ll need to ensure your team trusts the process.

Create a culture where feedback is welcomed, acted upon and celebrated. Only then will the silence break and the real conversations begin.

At PKF, we provide an end-to-end integrity solution. From a cutting-edge hotline, to a team of specialist investigators. We can assist you with all integrity matters. Contact us today. 

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