Well planned and well executed employee surveys that facilitate the effective use of the information they gather can be worth their weight in gold. However, as Gary Cattermole, Director at The Survey Initiative explains, you need to ensure your survey is fit for purpose because there is also huge scope for disenfranchisement and frustration, if you get it wrong.
1. Identify the survey’s purpose
An effective survey can help you identify areas for action and allow you to monitor improvements once changes have been introduced.
Your first consideration when composing a survey is what you hope to gain from it. For example, if you hope to address employee engagement, you need to ensure that it will get to the bottom of what drives levels of high engagement in your organisation. This may sound simple but it is easy to get it wrong. Consider the different business areas within your organisation. Will the survey relate effectively to each of them? Have you taken into account that each division will most likely have different issues and areas of good performance?
You also need to ensure that you can identify areas of best practice within your organisation that others could learn from – will your feedback give you this level of insight?
2. Who will conduct the survey?
Unaware of and unaffected by internal politics, an external consultant is much better placed to provide an entirely independent and objective investigation and assessment of survey data. Employees are also more likely to be candid with an external consultant than they would be to someone who works within the same organisation.
An external consultant can also prove more cost effective than using your own staff. No profitable business has spare staff sitting around waiting for something to do, so all of your employees will be engaged elsewhere. An external consultant will help you by allowing your staff to continue to operate your business.
A further benefit to using an external consultant is that the process will be concluded more quickly, as external consultants are unfettered by the distraction of other business matters that need to be addressed during the process.
If you choose to conduct the survey using your own staff, it is wise to use someone with previous experience of conducting employee surveys. Your Human Resources (HR) department can often be the best option as they will know what insights they require, the different operational areas of the business and will also be widely considered neutral. If you are using an internal surveyor, consider how you intend to manage questions of confidentiality and anonymity.
3. Survey design
Try to stick to questions where simple responses can be given. Open-ended questions make data interpretation and statistical reporting harder. Ensure that the survey is simple to complete, easy to read and not too long. Do not give too many options for responses, as it will soon turn into a tick box exercise just to get through it. What you want is to engage your employees to really think about their replies.
Briefly state the purpose of the survey, give instructions on how to complete it, as well as an idea of how long it should take to complete and provide clear instructions on how to submit it.
At the end, thank them for their time and state when you hope to give them feedback.
4. Communicating the process
Clear and effective internal communication is crucial to achieving your desired outcomes. It is important that staff know why the survey is being conducted but tact and diplomacy need to be employed in large measures. For instance, if you are trying to establish ways to improve profitability, make sure your staff are not given the impression that their jobs are on the line, as that will just have them reaching for their CVs rather than contributing effectively to your survey.
Be open about what, why, how and when. Be sure to cover confidentiality and if applicable, anonymity.
5. Conducting the survey
Allocate a set amount of time to get the surveys completed. As a general rule of thumb, the shorter the questionnaire and higher the response rate – consider ensuring the survey takes no longer than 10 to 15 minutes to complete. In addition, don’t have your survey live for long periods – again there is a correlation between a short live period and a higher response rate. Can you complete your survey in a week, for example?
Send reminders during the survey period thanking those who have completed the survey and reminding others about the deadline. Always provide a link to the survey, if online, and send a further reminder a day before the deadline.
Again, this is often easier for an external consultant to control, as they know they are only with the organisation for a limited period of time, as do the employees, so deadlines tend to be met with less resistance.
If the survey is to be anonymous, allow a response mechanism that facilitates this – whether that be an external consultant who will not consider individual’s names to be relevant or a post box.
6. Compiling survey results
Keep track of data that has already been entered and when all the responses are back, double check for accuracy in data entry.
Store the data in a structured way to enable you, and others, to access the information both now and at a later date and transform the data into variables that makes it easier to carry out statistical analysis. For example, length of service that ranges from Less, than 12 months, Between 12 months and 3 years etc. rather than discrete numbers, or create a scale total that summarises responses to a set of questions.
7. Presenting the results and following through
Be sure to report your findings in a timely manner and communicate the data in a way that everyone can understand. A summary of the key findings using descriptive statistics will enable you to tell the story of your data, rather than bombarding people with percentages, bar graphs and pie charts.
Clearly illustrate highlighted strengths as well as weaknesses and do not openly criticise or lambast staff, instead convey that the data has identified areas for improvement and also areas of excellence.
Communicate how the data has been, or will be, used. If it will be used to introduce new measures, communicate what the next step of the process will involve, how long it will take and what the desired outcome is.
Finally, try to maintain the two-way communication that has been established between you and your staff – report back at regular intervals to inform staff on progress being made and welcome their feedback.
To find out more, visit www.surveyinitiative.co.uk