From comprehensive annual action plans to continuous agile improvement work

by | May 20, 2022

SJ changed its way of working and increased its understanding of the employee experience, simplified the managers’ feedback to the team, and included employees in taking responsibility for continuous improvement work.

Blog image_SJ

Previously, SJ applied an annual employee survey that meant a lot of work for everyone; employees were expected to answer about 90 questions, the complicated measurement results were analyzed centrally, and based on the analysis, managers had to build action plans for the coming year.

“Despite the complex material and great efforts from all parties, the outcome was roughly the same every year,” explains Henrik Månsson, Head of HR Strategy at SJ.

In the traditional way of working, the organization experienced a lack of analysis and understanding of the employee experience. At the same time, some teams did not feel the survey questions related to them, in particular, the staff traveling on the trains without easy access to team meetings.

“Since we did not have all the answers we were looking for, we asked additional questions. More questions mostly led to survey fatigue; we did not necessarily gain better insights that we could use in our improvement work,” says Henrik.

The measurement results feedback to the employees usually took a couple of months after the employee survey had closed. First, a central group needed to analyze and try to understand the data collected. After the analysis, managers had to build annual action plans to respond to the measurement results. Since employees had to answer questions that stretched over a year’s timeframe and then wait for feedback, the action plans’ focus did not feel relevant once put into use.

“In the end, we asked ourselves, ‘How can we get away from the need for analysis and come to a dialogue?’ The answer was to measure more frequently, ask fewer questions and use a digital tool that automatically analyzed the survey answers for us,” says Henrik.

The change to Populum‘s digital tool not only meant a different partner for employee surveys but a new and more modern way of working for SJ.

“Now we have instant feedback to the employees where they can see how they and the group responded to the employee survey. Already when the measurement results are released in the tool, changes are taking place in how we work better together. With everyone being able to see the analysis immediately when a measurement closes, the feedback is communicated, and the dialogue has started,” explains Henrik.

With few questions grounded in the latest neuroscience and psychology research as well as organizational theories, it is clear where to focus the team dialogue.

“We were worried that we would not have enough material to analyze to understand the actual employee experience, but it immediately became very clear. Because we understood our employees right away, we gained a lot of commitment from the managers. Now the managers can work on concrete improvements that produce results within the teams. We act in small steps on what is here and now instead of comprehensive, long-term action plans,” says Henrik.


About SJ

SJ is a Swedish railway company that offers sustainable train travel, both as an independent operator and in collaboration with others. Almost 6,000 employees work at SJ.

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