Monday April 12, 2010
Jo Harley comments on election fever (or not)...
In less than a month we’ll be deciding who is going to run our country for us, a pretty big decision and one that impacts on the way that we all live our lives. So why is it that in the last general election that only 61% of the population turned up to the UK’s polling stations and voted? Perhaps its laziness, or the perception that there isn’t anyone is worth voting for or is it that some we think that their voice won’t be heard; that their vote just won’t make a difference? And I suppose some people feel that even if they do register their vote, or their opinions, little will be done as a result.
I was thinking about how the politicians can not only win our vote, but get us to the polls in the first place? If 40% of people that are eligible to vote don’t do so, surely this is a demographic worth addressing. Are these the people that don’t have a strong opinion one way or another and are happy for others to make their decisions? And, if so, are they the one who will be first to complain when things go wrong and speak dismissively of the choices that have been made by their peers?
We have a similar phenomenon in our line of work, which over the years has become more apparent. As well as employee engagement surveys we also ask people to have their say about how their place of work is performing when they are using talent toolbox (our award winning online talent management system) to facilitate reviews. The majority of people do jump at the chance to have their say, to drive their own destiny and to register how they are feeling about what happens in the workplace and be a part of the future of the organisation. There are a few though that for a variety of reasons doubt that they really will be heard, that anything they say will make a difference and that nothing will be done as a result. Is this, I wonder then the same feeling disenchanted voters are experiencing?
So, here are my top tips for organisations (and for politicians!) on how to ensure that people will let you know what they are thinking, so you achieve 100% completion/ response rate in your appraisals and employee surveys:
WIIFM? (what’s in it for me?)
Why should someone be taking part? What is the individual going to get out of this? At the outset it should be clear that anyone participating will be heard, when the results will be published and that the organisation means to act on these. If people have had experience of negative reviews, nothing being done and their opinion being ignored they will be harder to convert, and you may get a better response rate after the first time when people can see you mean to deliver on the outcomes.
Engagement & PR
It’s important to get people in the organisation talking about what you are doing, a teaser campaign works well with both engagement surveys and performance reviews. For example posters with ‘coming soon’ and a date. Engagement sessions are a must if introducing web based performance management (such as talent toolbox) so people understand the benefits from the beginning. It helps if there’s an element of fun and an end goal. For example, our engagement survey with Pizza Express featured a video of two senior executives playing ‘air guitar’ at a social event and employees were able to view this spectacle and then vote for their favourite – but only if they completed the survey first. People talked about this and encouraged their colleagues to participate and the hype gave way to good completion levels.
Fun, simple and quick
People will do something if it is made fun, click here to take a look at this for proof!
The more simple and quick for the person to complete the better so really think about what you are asking, why you are asking it, and what you are going to learn/action as a result of the question. We recommend asking no more than 20 questions on an opinion survey with few ‘open’ questions as they are harder to collate.
We find that people are competitive by nature, so when we send round our weekly completion updates to our talent toolbox clients, we split the data by region/department/area so people can see how they are doing compared to the rest of the business – a ‘league table’ if you like.
Research shows that incentives won’t necessarily boost the response rate, but may ensure that the quality of responses are better. One idea is to base a charitable donation on how many people answer the survey. The more people answer the more the charity receives.
Ensure that any outcomes are distributed – quickly! Its no good waiting for six months to let people know your findings. Act on these results as soon as you can, follow this up in six months by publishing what has been done and how it has successfully worked in the organisation. Even if something can’t be changed it’s important to show you have listened and explain why the changes aren’t possible and stressing other associated benefits instead. You employ adults so treat them as such and make communication two-way and consistent.
I know that many of the above don’t apply to voting in the General Election, however with all the money that is spent on marketing and campaigning, I do hope that this gets addressed and this election there is a higher % of people going along to have their voices heard. After all it is a decision that affects us all.
PS. Would love to hear any further tips for increasing participation!