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Employers are increasingly relying on workplace assessments as a tool to gather information from their employees in order to identify organizational culture issues and develop recommendations and strategies to address those issues. Using a combination of information-gathering techniques, such as interviews, focus groups and questionnaires, employers can encourage participation while maintaining the confidentiality and trust of their employees. A well-structured and strategic process can generate good information and a clear way forward.
Once the assessment is completed, however, the need for structure and strategy remains. It is important to take action following the assessment that makes good use of the information gathered, and also sends a message to employees that their participation was meaningful and worthwhile.
- Share the outcomes of the assessment
This might seems like an obvious step, but it’s surprising how often it is missed by employers. When conducting assessments, I typically recommend to employers that they make this a commitment at the outset of the process. Employees don’t need the whole report, but by sharing the themes of information gathered and the organization’s plan to address the recommendations, employees will feel a part of the process. They will also be more likely to participate in future assessments. Depending on the timing of the meeting to share the outcomes, an employer might even be able to report on one or two steps that they have already taken in response to the recommendations.
- Monitor the action taken
One side benefit of reporting an action plan to employees is that it creates accountability for the organization. Regardless of what is shared, it is important that an organization monitors the implementation process. Appoint someone as the implementation lead; prepare specific timelines for action; meet periodically to update senior leadership on progress. If no one has accountability for the implementation of the action plan, there is a real risk that the implementation work becomes “side of desk” work – ie, non-urgent – and all the valuable information gathered will be wasted.
- Assess again
Assessments can be a significant commitment of time and other resources. It is not necessary to repeat the process on an annual basis. What is helpful, however, is to periodically check in on the feelings of employees within the assessed area to see if the actions that the organization is taking are having the desired impact. One option is to use the assessment questionnaire again and measure improvements in the rating scores. Another might be to conduct follow-up focus groups, or even select one-on-one interviews. What’s important is occasionally checking in with employees to make sure that the steps that you think are going to address concerns are actually doing so.
In my experience, employees can be wary about participating in workplace assessments. Many express feelings of frustration at having previous similar processes lead to a lack of action or information from their employers. By sharing information, taking action, and measuring success, employers can address that reluctance head on and get the most out of the assessment process while also letting their employees know that they are valued.
About the Author: Toronto Employment Lawyer Cory Boyd has worked with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and Toronto Community Housing as an in-house investigator and human rights consultant. At Rubin Thomlinson, he continues to apply his analytical skills to conducting workplace investigations and preparing thorough reports.