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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Increase workforce engagement through effective use of surveys

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Recognizing that heightened levels of employee engagement drive customer loyalty and increased revenues, Sears Canada, one of the largest, most successful and diverse companies in Canada, has long surveyed their employees to gauge their work experience and uncover opportunities for improvements. By surveying their employee population annually, the company has been able to understand the perceptions and attitudes of their associates while providing a vehicle for managers to facilitate communication and design new programs and processes. Keeping a pulse on attitudes and perceptions across the organization has enabled Sears Canada to develop a more engaged workforce that is committed to reaching business goals of providing customers with quality merchandise and exceptional service. Sears Canada is a multi-channel retailer with a network of 188 corporate stores, 182 dealer stores, 65 home improvement showrooms, over 2,000 catalog merchandise pick-up locations, 107 Sears Travel offices and a nationwide home maintenance, repair and installation network. The company also publishes Canada’s most extensive general merchandise catalog and offers shopping online at their website. With 37,000 associates at hundreds of locations across Canada, one of the challenges for the organization is ensuring effective communication across their diverse and dispersed associate population. Given all the technology options available today, most companies rely on email and corporate Intranet sites to communicate with their employees. At Sears, where associates may be working behind a cash register, attending at customer homes, or driving a forklift, web-enabled technologies are not necessarily effective for a large portion of the employee population. Plus, with many part-time workers and multiple locations, it is nearly impossible to have a “bird’s eye” view of every work environment and managerial interaction. With a strong belief that there is a direct correlation between engaged associates and customer loyalty and revenues, Sears Canada’s mission statement espouses total satisfaction for customers and opportunities for associates to grow and contribute to the success of the organization. As a result, surveying its associates has been an integral part of Sears Canada’s corporate initiatives for many years. Through the survey process, which involves not just the survey and the reports, but also discussions of the results with employees and action plans developed from that feedback, associates have a voice to raise concerns and leaders can gain insight into employees’ perceptions and attitudes. Acknowledging that the questions used for measurement should be evaluated periodically to ensure their continued relevance to the associates and the company, Sears Canada turned to Kenexa, a global leader in providing talent management solutions, to redesign their survey and improve reporting capabilities. “We survey all our employees annually, measuring their perceptions of Sears’ culture, leadership and managerial practices, education, training and development, work experience, our vision, mission and values and customer focus,” said Adrienne Campbell, National Manager, Associate Relations and Recognition at Sears Canada. “We believe, and a lot of studies support this, that an engaged associate company to our customers, so it is important that we all be aligned to the company’s goals, understand what is expected of us to succeed, and that we be able to use the survey information to celebrate and build on our strengths, and address any gaps that may be identified. It also helps us ensure that everyone is treated fairly and with respect.” “The way the questions are worded is very important and we value Kenexa’s expertise in helping us to do this properly,” said Campbell. “We recently redesigned what we measured, how we measured it, and what we did with the results. When you have such a big company, our survey gives us more granular results that you might not otherwise be able to obtain from the corporate right down to a departmental level. We also worked closely with Kenexa in developing tools to assist leaders and HR in being able to interpret the reports and effectively respond to the results.” The company-wide survey is administered through a paper-based process because the majority of Sears Associates are not web-enabled. By partnering with Kenexa, associates were assured that their responses would be kept confidential, HR was assured that they would be able to effectively administer the survey to their widespread associate base and leaders were given support in using the results. Through the Kenexa solution, results are tabulated for viewing an enterprise-wide score as well as enabling managers to drill down by their business unit. When it comes to engagement surveys, Campbell stresses the importance of understanding what you are asking and why you are asking it, as well as knowing what you are prepared to do with the results. “If you believe in engagement, you need to go out and measure it and then take the required steps to increase and support that engagement,” she said. “Our company mission, vision and values are the road map to success, and the survey process provides a great opportunity for us to test the extent to which our associates understand and have pride in who we are, and whether we are living our corporate philosophy.” By measuring communication through its survey, Sears Canada learned that many associates felt that corporate information they were receiving was sometimes difficult to understand and not always delivered in a timely manner. This feedback has enabled HR to improve its communication to associates such as using shorter, more precise wording, making verbiage clearer when talking to associates about employee policies and programs, and delivering more frequent bulletins regarding targeted issues such as how to use benefit programs. The survey also helps pinpoint units where there may be specific concerns, allowing HR to focus on intervening, investigating and resolving issues in a way that enhances the work environment. “This program is valued by all our leadership team, and has been customized to measure, report on and respond to those issues that are relevant to Sears Canada and its associates,” said Campbell. “We have come up with a reporting, feedback and action planning process that is relevant to us and helps to drive our business results. With the assistance of Kenexa, we are better able to manage our workforce by sharing best practices, and effectively identifying, responding to and communicating on key issues or concerns that are drivers of engagement at Sears Canada.”

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