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Actions speak louder than words

Actions speak louder than words

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Gathering data on your employees’ experience is the first step, then you have to create action items to effect positive change. 

By Kyle Ahern

The projects that are featured in this special issue of Civil+Structural Engineer Magazine have demonstrated the capacity to positively change the way the AEC industry builds and develops the built environment for the future.  However, a major factor that supports these considerations for the built environment is the well being of the employees at these AEC firms.  To start building this positive change within your own firm, employee experience is a good place to start.   

When designing your employee experience there are many factors to consider. How are you going to go about collecting information from employees on how they’re feeling? Will it be through an employee survey, through an anonymous feedback mechanism that is always accessible, through employee reviews, or a combination of all of these? There isn’t a correct answer to this question, but it is critical that you collect feedback from employees about how they’re feeling.

Once you’ve chosen a collection method, you have to consider who is going to be in charge of analyzing and assessing the collected data. Is it one person, a team, HR personnel, or executive leadership? You need to have this figured out before the collection process is done so that you will have people ready to start processing the results.

After the results have been processed, you need to set expectations about who will get to see what results. The entire company doesn’t need to see all of the data that came from the process but everyone deserves the chance to see the findings. You can create an executive report where you share all of the findings with upper management and then a scaled down version to share with the entire company. No matter what you decide, you have to present the results in some way to show your employees that someone is paying attention to the data and compiling the results.

Finally, and this is where I want to focus the rest of this article, you have to create action items to act on those results. First you have to start with the what, who, and when. The “what” is the action item and all that it’s meant to achieve. Don’t just create an action item that has no meaning behind it. It can’t be something that is just symbolic because employees will see right through it. It has to be thorough and well thought out, and it has to address at least one of the key findings you presented company-wide to let employees know you recognize the issue and are putting forth effort to fix it. The “who” is the person who is assigned to the action item. They are in charge of making sure steps are taken to address the issue. They can assemble a team or get input from other people, but ultimately, it is on their plate to make sure that it gets done. Pushing these responsibilities down in the org chart is also a great way to get buy in throughout the organization on the action items, and it’ll encourage more people to get involved. The final aspect in this equation is the “when.” Set a date for when this is expected to be done or at least preliminary actions to be taken. Setting realistic expectations and deadlines will give people the finish line and a time frame to make sure that it gets done.

One more thing to consider when working on action items is how the new policy, procedure, or benefit (or whatever else you are working on) is going to be rolled out to the company. So many times I hear from employees that they did not even know their company offered some type of benefit or they didn’t know of some policy change within the organization. You have to roll these out with purpose.

I strongly suggest getting your marketing team involved to help drive an internal marketing campaign. This team is used to getting people’s attention about your company so use their expertise to get the attention of fellow employees. Don’t just roll something out in a boring email that people will click on and then forget. Try to get creative with it and make sure people understand what it is and how it will impact them personally. Your internal marketing team is a great resource to use for this.

In the end, as the old adage goes, actions will always speak louder than words, or in this case action items. Have a plan, stick with that plan, get people involved, and get creative with the roll out. Be intentional about your employee experience and any changes you’re going to make!  


Kyle Ahern is the employee experience and data strategist for Zweig Group. Contact him at kahern@zweiggroup.com.