Don’t you wonder from time to time what your employees are thinking? Are they wondering about your leadership style, your compensation and benefits package? Are they happy in their current positions?
When I owned our business, I tried to do surveys to determine what the employees were feeling and if they had suggestions for how we could improve. We almost always learned more than expected – about the employees and ourselves. Our surveys were pretty unsophisticated. Today there are many more professional resources available.
Over two-thirds of the larger companies in the U.S. survey their employees in order to gauge satisfaction, help in recruiting new employees and structure internal policies. When done well, surveys tell employees that their input and concerns are important. They help create a higher sense of morale and a stronger sense of loyalty. Surveys also provide owners and managers with important information for mapping their company’s future.
Employee Survey Benefits
Some key benefits of surveys include:
- Demonstrating to employees that management is taking an interest in them, their views and their ideas.
- Identifying strengths and weaknesses in management performance and organizational policies and procedures that will improve operational efficiency and reduce costs – as well as improve employee satisfaction.
- Improving employee retention, which will in turn reduce costs of recruiting, training and replacement.
- Improving the ability of employees to achieve a better balance between their work and home lives.
- Determining key contributors and barriers to delivering excellent customer service and soliciting improvement ideas from employees who deal with customers on a daily basis.
- Determining issues that may arise from changes in current policies and procedures so they can be managed in a proactive rather than reactive way.
- Helping owners and managers get key employee issues and concerns out in the open. Disgruntled employees can affect a company’s bottom line. Employee insights into the workplace can help companies identify and deal with issues of satisfaction, thereby ensuring harmony, high productivity and increased sales.
Several types of surveys include:
- Employee Satisfaction Surveys: These deal with workplace issues – such as compensation and benefits, effective communication, reaction to changes, leadership styles, etc. The data from these surveys helps paint a portrait of employee attitudes and opinions. These surveys can be useful in tough economic times. They also help employers isolate the root causes of persistent problems such as low productivity or high expenses.
- Exit Surveys: We used these to get more honest responses from people who were leaving the company. Data from exit surveys can be used to create procedures to increase job satisfaction and lower costly turnover.
- Customer Care Surveys: No one knows customer needs better than those in direct contact with them – your sales team. Thus, it makes sense to survey these employees to improve customer service.
- Surveys on Specific Issues: If you’re thinking about making a significant change (benefits, new products or services, location, etc.) a survey will give you the employees’ view, which can help you determine interest.
Here are tips for effective surveys:
- Advertise the Survey. To ensure success, it’s important to let employees know about the survey in advance. This can be done verbally, via e-mail, posting on bulletin boards or making it part of a staff meeting.
- Provide Anonymity. This is imperative. If employee identities are tied to their responses, they may feel threatened, especially if their opinions differ from management thinking.
- Clearly State the Purpose. This will make employees are more likely to buy into the survey. Additionally, owners/managers must be committed to taking action based on the survey results. If employees can see that their opinions drive change, they’re more likely to participate enthusiastically in future surveys.
- Share the Results. When you share the results, you’ll see the responses increase. You don’t need to share 100% of the survey results, but a summary covering the most important findings will demonstrate openness, particularly if they lead to some type of action.
- Give Employees Time to Respond. You might want to indicate that they can complete the survey on company time. Some companies have found that a small incentive for turning in their surveys also helps improve the response rate.
But there are also some things to avoid, including:
- Limit Open-Ended Questions. Stick to yes/no, true/false, and rate answers on a scale on 1-5 whenever possible. A few short essay questions are okay.
- Keep it Short! A good survey can be completed in 15 to 20 minutes. This would allow for 50-70 close-ended questions and a few open-ended questions.
- Don’t Combine Questions. Focus each question on a single topic.
Electronic vs. Paperless
Increasingly, organizations are moving toward electronic methods of surveying their employees. The most common method is hosting a Web-enabled survey. This type of survey offers many benefits:
- Cheaper and easier to administer than a paper-based survey.
- Availability of real-time response rates.
- Allows employees to be routed to certain questions without knowing they are being rerouted.
- Ensures all respondents answer every question they are asked.
Before deciding that this is the best option, consider the following:
1. Do all employees have, or have access to, a computer that has external Internet access?
2. Are all employees computer literate to complete a Web survey?
3. Can you provide the necessary assistance with the survey?
If some of these problems exist, go with the paper-based survey.
Here are some elements of a well-crafted questionnaire:
- Each question must relate to, and be measured against, the survey objectives.
- It should include questions that the employee can reasonably answer.
- It should have similar questions grouped together.
- It should only include questions that will provide relevant and actionable information.
- It must strike a balance between the needs of the employees and the needs of the organization.
- It must include questions that will allow employees to provide improvement ideas and suggestions in the form of open and honest answers.
When designed properly, conducted regularly and acted upon promptly, employee surveys are an effective means of gauging the state of the company while ensuring employee loyalty and productivity. By conducting surveys, employers show they care about employee opinions. A good survey can bring management and staff together, helping them focus on the challenge of moving the company forward.
Employee surveys can help you become a better manager. These companies offer online surveys: www.towerswatson.com; www.grapevinesurveys.com; www.keysurvey.com; www.employee-satisfaction.com; www.bigpulse.com; www.objectplanet.com.