EXCLUSIVE: DVSA shares engagement survey best practice

Employee Benefits Live 2021: HR teams need to go beyond engagement survey results and talk to their teams about the challenges they face, the deputy head of employee engagement at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has said.

Speaking on the first day of Employee Benefits Live 2021, Leigh Barlow reminded employers that, without further interrogation, a survey will only ever show whether an employee has ticked a certain box, not why they have ticked it.

He said that employers should not lose sight of the humans behind the data, and seek to find out the “why” behind their responses. “The problem with employee surveys sometimes tends to be that they are organised by people who love numbers,” said Barlow. “Remember, you need to think about the ‘why’; think about the people behind the [responses] and what their job involves.Go out and talk to teams to understand who they are and why they might’ve ticked certain boxes.”

He said people should be encouraged to provide written comments: “What you’ll get from that is the [ability] to report on challenges and areas for improvement; it doesn’t substitute going to talk to them, but you can still glean a lot from comments.”

Barlow said that the DVSA’s approach to employee engagement research usually starts with focus group meetings, followed by a survey. He added that there is “never a right time” to run a survey, and ideally it should be a continuous process; however, many big organisations like the DVSA are not yet at the stage of facilitating continuous feedback.

He said it is important that survey data is presented to frontline managers so they can understand any employee sentiment challenges, but this should only ever be data related to something they can take action on. “You need to make it real to [managers] and what makes a difference to their teams,” he added.