5 things that make or break an engagement action plan

Four years into a more robust employee engagement effort that is part of Investing In YOU, we have been holding focus groups to figure out how to make our response to survey data more effective in improving engagement. We’ve learned a lot from you about what works and can offer these best practices that have helped boost belief that action will be taken as a result of the survey 11 points since 2015. This is the largest increase countywide on any question and speaks to the trust that is being built in the process. These practices are common among groups that have seen significant increases in areas where their action plans focused.

5 best practices that can make an action plan effective:

  1. Involve the whole team in a discussion to understand the data and pick an action plan focus. Teams that had successful action plans agree that it makes a difference to involve everyone. First, data is shared with everyone so a common understanding can be established. Then, the team turns to action by agreeing on where to focus their efforts in the coming year, what should be done and who should do what.
  2. Attend action plan training. Whoever is going to facilitate the conversation and project manage the action plan, often the manager or supervisor, learns a lot about how to have the conversation and drive toward results in the action plan trainings that are offered each year.
  3. Align with existing work. Successful teams think if ways they can integrate their action plan into their day to day work. An Example is focusing on a set of agreed upon behaviors in day to day interactions as a way to improve respect. Teams that take this to the next level add recognition for consistency or outstanding performance in the chosen focus area.
  4. Track progress and adjust along the way. Teams that treated their action plans like other work priorities had greater accountability and follow though. Checking in on progress and adjusting along the way helped them have a greater impact.
  5. Communicate action plan progress and results. Teams agree it’s an important step in building trust to communicate progress on a regular basis and tie activity back to the survey.

5 things that can break an action plan:

  1. Top down decision making. Several teams tried it this way first time out and agreed it caused staff to disengage and left managers and supervisors solely accountable for outcomes.
  2. Not creating time and space for the work. Teams that rushed through conversations and didn’t set aside time to regularly check in on conversations did not see as great an impact.
  3. Losing focus among competing priorities. Teams that saw this as a one-off work item instead of integral to the success of their unit were not able to carve out the time and space needed to follow though.
  4. Making progress but not communicating it was part of the action plan. Several teams talked about spending a lot of time and effort on their action plan but not communicating the progress and tying it back to the survey. This showed in a lack of improvement in their data despite their solid efforts.
  5. “Inauthentic” efforts. The words “authentic” and “inauthentic” came up a lot in our discussions. Teams are looking for honesty, transparency and true effort to make improvements.

The King County Employee Engagement Survey has been used to hear from employees about how to make King County a better place to work, and how to provide services more effectively to residents. Based on employee feedback, the survey will be administered in spring of each year instead of fall. This year, the survey period is March 11-29 (March 11-22 for Transit employees). 

Learn more about the changes coming to this year’s survey in this blog post  and on the King County website at www.kingcounty.gov/employeesurvey.