How to action plan with mixed respondent groups

Kim Jansen

Anonymity plays an important role in the execution of an employee survey. In order to ensure anonymity, survey groups usually consist of a minimum of 10 people. When groups are below 10, we often combine groups to make a mixed group. Although a simple solution, this can raise several practical questions such as: How do you guide the transition from an anonymous report to an open discussion? Will you make one plan with the mixed groups or will you get started per team?

Mixed reports

As discussed above, the anonymity guidelines of our employee surveys stipulate that in order to ensure anonymity respondent groups must consist of a minimum of 10 people. Although this is a rule we adhere to, we do understand that in organisations it is not always possible for all respondent groups to be above 10 people. When this happens, one of our practical solutions is to join two smaller groups together to create one ‘mixed’ group.

The reason why we refer to them as mixed groups is that individuals within the group belong to different teams within an organisation.

Action plan per team, not per report

When aiming to make an action plan on the mixed group report, we advise you to make it team specific rather than addressing the group as a collective. Often, we hear from organisations “we happen to have one report, therefore we will invite everyone”.

Taking such action is unwise, and will not lead to improvements in work atmosphere or employee performance. Overall it is best to do the action planning process with a homogenous group that deals with the same issues and same manager. If not, you run the risk of ending up with a vague action plan with only partial buy-in from employees.

Recognise the situation 

When you discuss the results with smaller teams that form part of one report, it can happen that individual teams will not recognise their own behaviour in the average scores. Start by simply recognising this fact as it is the only way that you will be able to create a foundation in order to get started. Although unrecognisable, the scores from the report can be used as a starting point in order to initiate conversation with employees.

Set goals and preconditions together

Ask the team what they think is important for the session taking into account that they are using a report for a mixed group. Set the goals and create the preconditions for a constructive session together with all team members. From my experience, this is a very effective and successful way to start a democratic session.

Winning questions

Many managers often ask their employees if they recognise the results in the report, which often results in a discussion as to where the scores come from or in finger-pointing at other teams. It is much more interesting to ask which points are important for them personally and to get started with the results in this way.

Approaching employees with questions such as: “Which points do you find important and would you like to address?” are ideal. Such questions are safe, focus on action and focus on futures; which is exactly what you want!