The 5 stages of effective action planning

The impact of your employee and volunteer surveys is determined by the action that you take on the results. However, the effectiveness of action planning processes vary from organisation to organisation.

There are 5 stages that we recommend including in your action planning process.

1 What are your survey results like?

Imagine being asked this question by your Chief Executive or Director General. You would want to be able to make 3-4 points and feel confident about the underlying evidence.

Some of the things to look for:

  • Which questions and topics have high and low scores?
  • What does the comparison with any external benchmarks reveal?
  • When you analyse your results by demographic groups, are any gaps revealed?

Armed with your analysis, you will want to start planning:

  • What could be the top 4 priority areas to work on for the organisation as a whole?
  • What do you see as the underlying causes and what work will be needed over what timescale?
  • Who will you need to work with to help the organisation to engage with this?


2 Involve your senior team

Little change will be possible if the senior team are not playing an active role in shaping the way forward, and staff will want to hear what the senior team makes of the survey results.

If there is scepticism, and particularly if it is your first survey for a while, you may want to move forward one step at a time. For example, sharing the results with the Chief Executive and other senior leaders first and building consensus on the messages and way forward.

You will want to enable a senior team discussion of the survey results, covering:

  • Presentation of the key findings from the survey.
  • Discussion of initial reactions including areas to celebrate, areas to explore and any surprises.
  • Agreement to responsibilities and timings for sharing the results and action planning.

After an initial discussion, many senior teams find it helpful to hold a retreat to discuss and agree the way forward in more detail. You may find it helpful to undertake further analysis to understand whether an issue is widely shared or more experienced by particular groups.


3 Publish the results

Being open about the survey results sends an important signal that leaders are listening and that people’s views matter. It is an essential building block for the conversations that need to happen.


The most common approach is to invite everyone to a ‘Town Hall’ meeting. What often works best is to present an overview of the results first and then for the Chief Executive to set out their assessment of the positives, areas for improvement, and map out the plan for moving forward. This is usually followed by making the organisation-wide results available to everyone.


Publishing departmental results requires thinking through the following questions:

How far to disaggregate?

Should survey results be published at team level or stop at departments? We encourage organisations to go as far as possible. A team manager will find their own results report much more insightful than having the responses for their team subsumed within a larger departmental report. You’ll of course need to consider confidentiality implications when breaking results down this way.

Should results be published all at once or sequentially?

We often see organisations taking a sequenced approach to publishing results – starting at directorate level and then moving to departmental and team levels. Some organisations publish all the reports at the same time.

Who sees what?

There are two approaches:

  1. Departmental results are seen only by the departmental manager, their managers and their team members.
  2. Everyone sees everything. For example, by publishing all departmental results in a place which everyone can access.

We find that most organisations adopt approach A. It keeps the process tight and reduces the risk of blame and defensiveness particularly for those managers with less strong results.

However, approach B is more open and transparent. It can increase accountability and encourages managers to learn from others who are performing well.

Some of our clients like to prepare a 1-page summary to accompany departmental reports, helping managers to see the key points quickly. Data visualization can be helpful when publishing your survey results.


4 Decide priorities and actions

The 4 L model sets out a good methodology for deciding priorities and actions.

You may wish to capture your decisions in an action planning template – download the action planning guide to see an example template.

When teams have completed their action plans it may be helpful to capture these in a database to enable tracking of progress. The Reflections action planning module enables you to keep track of progress on actions in the same platform as your survey results dashboard.


5 Drive change and monitor progress

As you monitor progress you may wish to consider:

  • What traction are you getting – what proportion of teams have shared their action plans with you?
  • Are there common priorities being worked on by different teams where there may be scope for some shared knowledge and joint approaches?
  • What are some of the success stories? Can these be highlighted in your communications?
  • Are there delays and blockages? If so, what can be done about this?
  • Could a follow up pulse survey be helpful to understand how things are progressing?


In our guide ‘Taking action from your survey – A guide for leaders and managers’ we provide real examples of actions taken by not-for-profit organisations. We also share our 5 recommended strategies for effective action planning. Download the free guide here.

Does your action planning process need some structure and support? Get in touch with an expert at Agenda.


Share this

More Insights

Our partners

AHRMIO Association of Mental Health Providers AVM Bond CDR Charities HR Network Charity Comms CHS Alliance Heritage Volunteering Group Hospice UK Humentum Hospice Volunteer Managers Network National Care Forum NCVO Voluntary Organisations Disability Group

Get in touch

+44 (0)1865 263720

Follow @AgendaConsult
Find us on LinkedIn

Agenda Consulting
Belsyre Court
57 Woodstock Road

Company No: 4509427