When Staff Survey Says ‘Lack of Communication’

A common concern on staff engagement surveys is “lack of communication” or “leadership doesn’t follow up on my concerns.” Often it feels like there is a disconnect – supervisors say they do follow up on concerns while the survey results don’t reflect that response. So that begs the question: Do staff feel they aren’t being listened to because the follow-up loop was not completed?

When a staff member expresses a concern, be sure to follow up in a timely fashion when the concern has been investigated or addressed. Sometimes you can give a clear explanation of the follow up, and other times the investigation will lead to information that must remain private. In those cases, it is still important to follow up with the person who expressed concern. Consider a response such as: “I want you to know that I followed up on your concern. Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with details of what I learned because it is sensitive information. But I want you to know that I take this seriously and I appreciate that you brought it to my attention. If you experience this concern again, please let me know. Thank you so much for your dedication to our work!”

These follow up conversations are often quick, but the impact can be lasting.

Consider whether the event would benefit from being addressed in larger group settings, such as department or all staff meetings as well. Did you learn anything important? Is there a larger trend that needs to be addressed? Are there many people involved?

How does this theory apply in your organization? What formal follow-up occurs as a result of your staff satisfaction survey or focus group work? What evidence do your team members have that their opinions were heard and acted on? Does your organization have a policy to guide behavior on following up with concerns?