Are there ways you could make your business more efficient, more attractive or more profitable? You may think everything is under control, but getting your employees’ input will give you a fuller picture of what's working well and what areas of your organization might benefit from change. Best-in-class employers use employee opinion surveys to generate these positive changes from within.
Why Conduct Employee Surveys?
A survey is like a performance review for your organization. Knowing where you stand with employees enables you to identify areas for improvement. Surveys pinpoint staff priorities, showing you where you should focus your efforts.
If you already have ideas for change, it's important to test the waters prior to implementation by asking for feedback. You may be surprised by how your employees respond. You may learn there is a better approach or a more pressing issue that needs your attention.
If you're not aware of any areas of concern, a survey is essential. Surveys often reveal important issues you had no idea were a factor.
Whom Should you Survey?
Make an effort to survey all staff. It shows you value everyone's opinion, whether they are managers or front-line employees. More importantly, you’ll get a clearer picture of your organization's strengths and weaknesses by seeing it from all perspectives.
How Do you Do It?
Third-party providers design questionnaires, administer surveys (often electronically), and analyze results with statistically significant certainty. They don't cost a lot, and third-party administration can help improve results by emphasizing anonymity. Your organization may also benefit from doing a simple paper survey in-house.
When designing your questionnaire, you might ask “yes/no” or “true/false” questions, or ask participants to rank issues of importance. You may use a five-point sliding scale, or even eliminate the neutral choice, so that responses must indicate a positive or negative feeling. Be careful not to ask questions that guide respondents toward a particular answer.
Using the standardized answer choices described above will permit you to tally and analyze responses easily. It may also permit you to benchmark improvements over time. However, if your survey group is small, you may get more specific and constructive information by asking open-ended questions.
What Should you Ask?
Simply put, ask what you want to know. Think about what you want to learn and ask about those topics. Here are sample questions you might use regarding employee retention:
- What job responsibilities motivate and inspire you?
- Which management personnel motivate and inspire you?
- Do you feel comfortable approaching supervisors with concerns or suggestions?
- Do you believe you are compensated fairly within your industry?
- What are the most compelling reasons you choose to work here? (provide options or ask for input)?
- Would you recommend this company to others seeking employment?
- Would you recommend this company to someone interested in its services?
- Do you feel proud and connected to the company's activities?
For the sake of brevity, don't ask too much. Keep the survey to fewer than 30 questions.
For Best Results
Be up-front with staff about how important the survey is to you. Explain that it is not a “wish list,” but that you are genuinely interested in getting their input to improve the organization. Ask them to be candid and reasonable in their feedback, and assure them that responses are anonymous and confidential. Collect completed surveys in an envelope or sealed drop box, or via a central online repository if available.
Finally, you must commit to putting the survey results to work. With a well-designed questionnaire, responses should point toward specific outcomes. It's important to your business that you act on these insights. It also shows employees that completing the surveys was worthwhile. If you solicit survey participation but don't follow up on its results, staff will respond more negatively than if you'd never undertaken the survey effort. So, if you find that you cannot act on certain suggestions, make sure you communicate the reasons why to the survey participants.
In short, use surveys to inform your decision-making about effective changes—and then act on the information those surveys reveal.