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Things to know about employee surveys

The current business environment is an overwhelmingly dynamic one. There are changes around every corner and only those who manage to be flexible enough to accommodate whatever comes their way make it to the top.

One of the greatest challenges organizations face has to do with employee satisfaction and retention. For a long time, employee satisfaction surveys have been the primary tool used by leaders to get a glimpse of the feedback people had to offer.

Deployed on an annual basis, these surveys did have some success in gathering relevant data and giving HR specialists pertinent ideas about what was working and what needed to be improved.

The reality of the present day, however, is that one year is too long to wait for employee feedback. With turnover rates getting higher and higher, it is imperative to be constantly on top of workforce wishes and demands.

More frequent and shorter surveys are the answer

The annual employee satisfaction survey with its numerous questions broken down into categories is obsolete by now. People don’t feel their time is worth going through all of it and if they had been stewing in some grievance for a couple of months they are probably on their way to a new job by the time they get asked about their opinions.

Companies need to focus on continually listening and offering employees multitudinous opportunities to share their input. Surveys have to be frequent and friendly – made up of relevant questions but no more than ten at a time.

It’s also a good idea to use scales and give people multiple options. Open questions are great but not everybody feels comfortable freestyling so having the possibility to simply click on what feels closest to home will increase the chances of the survey being filled.

Incentives are always appreciated

Even though the desired outcome of any employee satisfaction survey is to ultimately increase the aforementioned satisfaction, it still helps if people feel they have something to gain by simply answering the questions. Processing the results and coming up with a course of action will surely take some time and we live in a time when instant gratification has become the norm.

Since the more people fill in the survey, the more accurate the findings will be, it is in the interest of all parties to increase the respondent numbers. The ‘prizes’ don’t have to be overly significant in value, just enough to make people feel that their time and input are deemed valuable.

If most employees are pertaining to the younger generation some gamification mechanics can be employed to make taking the survey more appealing.

Read more: Taking gamification in training to the next level

A good survey serves its purpose

Moving along to less ‘fun and games’, there are a few things that need to be thought of (and through) before deploying an employee satisfaction survey.

First and foremost, it needs to be aligned with the company objectives – both the business and people ones.

Secondly, the results need to be actionable. Getting insights is one thing but leaders should be able to make something of these, to genuinely act starting from the responses.

Furthermore, context needs to be considered. Employee surveys are not supposed to be stand-alone HR analytics but must complement and enhance all the other data available in order to help build a comprehensive image of the organization at a certain date.

When starting to create the questions, all the above need to be checked: alignment, actionability and pliancy.

Read more: 3 Best practices for L&D surveys that can be applied right away

You need to develop a survey strategy

I have mentioned before that in this day and age surveys need to be a lot more frequent than they used to. And although it’s good if HR specialists are capable of acting quickly when a situation calls for it, it is even better to have a concise plan and simply adapt that one when things change.

Here is how the backbone of such a program should look like:

  • Get a good understanding of business goals and talent management strategy and tools. Surveys are meant to help organizations retain already existing high performing employees and attract new people who will help with attaining future objectives.
  • Make sure the listening strategy is in sync with organizational people analytics already in place. It’s important to take into account all available information in order to make truly informed and relevant decisions.
  • Optimize user experience and optimize survey technology. I’m sure that pen and paper are no longer used to conduct surveys but even if the platform used dates to more than a few years back it may seem obsolete and unattractive to users. And the people who have to work with the results also stand to benefit from up to date machine-driven analytics.
  • Be ready to constantly test and refine. Few things come out perfect right from the start. And even if you do create the best survey at one point, the business world changes at rapid speed so alterations will have to be made.

Final thoughts

Today’s online environment seems an awful lot like the dystopian society of Orwell’s 1984. People, even digital natives, are increasingly worried about how much machines seem to know about us. Organizations are certainly tapping into the potential of online collected data but the best way to learn about employees and to show them they are important and heard are the good old-fashioned surveys with a modern face.

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