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The Do’s and Don’ts of Employee Surveys

Do employee surveys work? Yes!

its survey timeThe sooner your business begins surveying your employees, the greater insight and better decisions regarding employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and a whole host of workplace issues that may be preventing your business from becoming a leader in your industry will be possible.

Maintaining highly engaged employees at all levels in an organisation is an important factor in achieving a competitive advantage. High employee turnover and falling productivity are two of the surest signs a business is headed for trouble. The greater the number of employees who leave, the more there are to hire and train, resulting in a huge financial and productivity drag on your company. In a nutshell, surveying your employees matters.

You will understand that the benefits of survey research extend far beyond productivity and turnover if you already survey your employees. The insights gained from surveying ensure that your company is able to attract and retain the talent vital to your company’s success!

The best surveys are written in clear language and have unbiased questions.

So what are the do’s and don’ts of surveying your employees?

Don’t… Survey everyone just because you can
A company-wide survey that tries to be all things to all people, and asks the same questions every year, will not yield the best insights. Targeted one-time surveys of specific units, processes, or roles will always produce deeper insights into the critical, current issues for those groups.

Don’t… Assign equal importance to all survey items
For a survey to deliver actionable insights, you must first know which measures matter most and why. For example, pay satisfaction, developmental opportunities, supervisor support, and open communication—will have the biggest impact on employee engagement and retention.

Do…Have the expertise to design a questionnaire
Ensure that the questions are relevant to the group taking part in the survey. Engaging an external provider can support you with this as well as providing assurance that the responses given will remain confidential and anonymous and therefore leads to a greater response.

Don’t… conduct a survey unless you are convinced your leadership team is committed to listening and acting on feedback
If you ask your employees what they think and then do nothing with the results, you will foster cynicism and scepticism with your employees. In fact, you’ll be worse off than if you didn’t conduct a survey in the first place.

engagementDo…Create a Post-Survey Action Plan
After your survey results have been collected it is important to follow up on your survey with action that will generate positive outcomes for your company. Management then needs to act on the opportunities for improvement within the company. This will send the message that they are listening to your employee engagement survey feedback and believe it is valuable. A suggestion is that managers include a “survey action plan” agenda item during their regular department meetings for a minimum of six months this will provide a perfect conduit for employee feedback.

Do…Keep it simple and execute flawlessly
The tendency after a survey is to overpromise and under-deliver. If you succumb to this temptation, born of great intentions, you run the risk of creating a sceptical work culture “they told us they would do blank but we’ve seen nothing!” When creating a post survey action plan keep it simple for the entire company to understand and hold managers accountable for implementing and checking on their department’s action plans.

Do…Embrace Change
When conducting an employee engagement survey, your company from bottom to top needs to be ready to embrace change. Identifying areas of improvement can only go so far; managers need to act on the feedback.

Do…Set the stage
For those companies conducting a follow up survey, promote specific actions, successes and progress since the last survey.

Do…Have a communication plan
When the results of your survey are summarised, invite your survey consultant be the “deliverer” of the first overview to your management team. They will be able to provide the proper context to minimize leadership anxiety—common with management teams who often take potential “less than positive” results personally. After this meeting, you should be working with your managers to outline how they roll out the results to their teams.

Don’t… guilt trip employees
Employees should never feel like they have to retract their survey responses. If you make them feel guilty about your survey results, they are less likely to trust the process, and you.

Don’t…debate who’s right and who’s wrong
Employee survey follow-up conversations aren’t about debating, which opinions are right and which are wrong. Employee surveys reveal perceptions, and right or wrong, perception is reality. Debating right versus wrong sends the message that not all employees’ feelings and experiences are considered valid and that disengages.

Don’t…try to change opinions
Communicating employee survey results isn’t a time to campaign and persuade employees to change their opinions. Presenting employee survey results is a time for humility. You need to open up communication about results to find out what changes need to take place in the company first.

Don’t…play “who said what”
Employee engagement survey responses should be confidential. When reviewing employee survey results, the conversation should never turn into speculations about who said what. This diminishes the credibility and integrity of a confidential survey process.

Do…be open
Being open and honest is critical. Don’t try to position results to be better or worse than they are. Talk openly about the results. How you talk about survey results sets the tone for receiving continued honest employee feedback and their ideas for improvement. Being open builds trust.

Do…be objective
Do your best to play the role of an impartial observer. Communicate the findings without interspersing personal opinions. If you are conducting an employee focus group, your personal opinions could sway employee opinion and steer the discussion off course. In addition, employees might be unlikely to share opinions if they’re dissenting from the perceived group leader.

Do…be clear
Employee survey results can be difficult to understand. Be as clear and concise as possible when you share the results with employees. Avoid jargon and commentary that will create confusion.

Do…be inviting
Invite employees to comment as you discuss survey results. Make employees feel as though you’re talking with them instead of at them. This will help foster an ongoing conversation.

Do…ask for questions
Always ask for questions. If you’re presenting the survey results during an employee focus group, ask for questions after each slide. If employees seem quiet, let them know you’ll be asking direct questions during the discussion.

jigsaw piecesDon’t… commit to another survey for 18 to 24 months
This can be a controversial suggestion but you need this amount of time to effectively act on the feedback from your last survey, and effectively execute your action plan. It will take time to see results, and if you conduct a follow up survey too soon, it is likely your company may not have enough time to digest and understand the changes from the previous survey. If you have the need to do a survey at the 12 month window, consider a pulse survey to quickly and inexpensively gauge trends.

And finally, remember, change is a dimmer switch, not a light switch. Follow up and follow through is the key to successful implementation—and how your employees will judge the success of your survey efforts.

If you would like to talk to us and learn more about Employee Surveys, please feel free to contact us on +44 (0) 1844 216290