The Power of the Follow-Up

That’s why it’s key to follow up or make an action plan after fielding engagement surveys, according to Elizabeth Dunlap, senior vice president and chief people officer at restaurant chain Panera Bread.

A fundamental purpose of conducting engagement surveys — or “warmth surveys,” as Panera calls them — is to increase communication between managers and employees. This way management has its finger on the pulse of what employees value and are concerned about.

Employees are surveyed annually about various facets of their work, including work environment, responsibilities, rewards and recognition, relationships with managers and training and development.

After the survey, reports are shared with leaders and managers. They are also ultimately shared with employees so they can plan for potential improvements in engagement. For example, Dunlap said employees from the company’s franchise operations team recently ranked the benefits they were offered with a low score.

“It’s very difficult to change individual offerings for people — these are broad organizational programs [and] we feel good about the competitive programs that we offer,” Dunlap said. “So the leader of that group decided instead to attack it from a communications perspective. Every time he had that group together, he asked various members of HR to come over and talk about the different programs and benefits that were available.”

During the course of the following year, the score improved significantly even though none of the benefits changed.

The difference: employees were more knowledgeable about what benefits were available to them and how to take advantage of them.