Employee engagement is big business. Companies spend over $700 million annually in employee engagement programs and a lot that is spent on measuring and tracking employee attitudes and behaviors. So, it is surprising, and disappointing, that some employee surveys either receive very low response rates or are not acted on by companies.
An employee survey is similar to a customer survey, but with some critical differences. The relationship between company and employee must be taken into consideration in the survey process. Here are ten important best practices to make sure that your employee survey delivers reliable and actionable results.
- Start with clear goals and objectives. By understanding up front what you want to get out of the survey, you stand a far better chance of getting that on the back-end. Ask: What does the organization want and need to get out of the survey? What actions might we take based on the results?
- Develop a communication plan. What you tell people about the survey is almost as important as the survey itself. Your communication plan should include what will be said, to whom, before, during and after the survey. You should also think about who should issue the communications. A message coming from the CEO, the Chief People Officer, and the Marketing Research Department will be received very differently by employees and will impact the success of your study.
- Build a team of survey champions. Sometimes, the most effective communications come from a grassroots effort. Identify those individuals in your organization who can rally the troops and encourage employees to complete the survey. This can go a long way in establishing the credibility of the employee survey process – and increase response rates.
- Maintain confidentiality. This is critical for the success of any employee survey. If employees fear retribution, they will not complete the survey, or they will not give honest feedback. Consider hiring a third-party survey research company to maintain the privacy of employee data. Moreover, be careful in developing reports – small sample sizes and verbatim quotes can sometimes lead inadvertently to compromising confidentiality.
- Data Collection: the right way at the right time. Think about the various situations your employees work in and develop ways for them to take the survey that are most convenient. If your employees are not working on a computer, provide a computer in the break room so that they can take the survey. Consider a mail survey if that would work better. Be flexible in your methodology because you want all employees to have the opportunity to give feedback.
- Make it easy. If the survey is too long, badly designed, or just doesn’t make sense, employees will be reluctant to complete it. Keep the survey short, keep wording simple, avoid jargon (and that may be hard in some companies!), and be sure the survey questions flow logically. Finally, many employees will take the survey on their phones, so be sure your survey is mobile-optimized.
- Fun but focused. There is no rule that employee surveys must be deadly serious, so don’t be afraid to have a little fun with your survey design. Additionally, make sure that every question delivers on the goals and objectives you set earlier. If it’s in the survey because it’s “nice to know,” take it out.
- Don’t be a slave to tracking. While it is important to track employee survey results over time, you should also evolve and change your questionnaire to include important current topics. Identify one or two key metrics to trend and maintain those strictly from wave to wave. New topics can be added at the end of the survey.
- Do something. Above all, take action on the results. Identify one or two strong deficiencies, develop a plan to address them, and then tell your employees what you are going to do and why. Finally, follow through!
- Learn from the process – every time. Make your survey process a living process. After the survey is complete, do a post-mortem analysis to determine what worked, what can be improved, and what you should not do in future studies. This will help you continually improve your survey while keeping it fresh and relevant.
Employee engagement programs are a strategic investment for your company. Make sure your employee survey produces the best possible results and insights to support and guide that investment by following these best practices.
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