By Michael Gunther
If you talk with any leader or HR professional, you will likely hear of the various assessments that they believe in or have implemented within their organizations. There are assessments for personality styles, stress, employee engagement, and the like. Despite the data and feedback received from assessments, I think employers are reaching a tipping point where employees are tired of providing feedback in hopes of a change within the organization.
Don’t get me wrong – I do believe assessments have a place within the managerial arena. But I think leaders need to shift their focus to actually act on the information received from the assessments. I recently heard of a company that had their top up-and-coming managers perform an assessment on their work environment last June, but the leaders have not yet shared or discussed the results. I’m sure the managers are wondering what happened to the information. The leaders seem to be oblivious to the fact that this inaction led to a broken trust.
I know many leaders actually do want to receive feedback on what is and isn’t working within their work environment. In response, the availability of assessments in the marketplace has exploded, even aiming to identify nuances like adversity, emotional quotient and happiness. There is no lack of tools or opportunities to gain insight to what employees are thinking.
Don’t let simple curiosity drive the quest for employee assessments; action based on the results must happen. Managers can’t ignore or discard the assessment feedback. I know of instances where managers own the feedback and issues presented, but never make changes based on the issues uncovered. This could be the reason why the employee engagement needle hasn’t really moved over the last few years, even though the number of feedback attempts has increased.
The heart of the issue is the conversation you have with your employees once the assessments results are obtained. Lead a discussion to review the results, clarify feedback and clearly identify specific actions to improve the situation. This part of the process seems to be where most leaders fail. They either struggle with leading an open and authentic conversation and/or simply do not create any specific changes that will happen to improve the challenges.
I personally find value in assessments because we teach our clients how to share the information and create a collaborative conversation with their team. In addition, we work with leaders to engage their team in creating solutions together, as well as developing an action plan with due dates for change. We also encourage the leaders to provide continuous feedback on the progress of the changes in order to keep the leader accountable. Not surprisingly, when the assessment process is done correctly, employees will continue to provide honest and valuable feedback because they see that the information gathered will improve their work environment.
If you are going to implement employee assessments within your organization, be sure to create a clear communication cycle for the assessment process. The conversation and action plan are the aspects of the process that will create a strong foundation for future assessment. Employees are willing to provide feedback throughout the year as long as you are willing to complete the whole feedback cycle loop.