Employees want their voice to be heard, and surveys are the best way to get honest feedback from your team. In fact, 58% of employees wish their organization conducted employee engagement surveys more often. But before you get started, you need to consider how to best design and manage your organization’s surveys. This guide gives you everything you need to create a winning employee survey process from delivery to action.
What employee surveys can measure
Employee surveys can provide insight into all the major drivers of the employee experience. Here are a few of the most important.
Engaged employees are an organization’s most valuable resource. Organizations that rank in the top 25% for employee engagement see 23% higher profitability, 81% lower absenteeism, and between 18% and 43% less turnover. That’s why you need to keep tabs on engagement levels in real time using employee surveys and act quickly to prevent disengagement from taking root.
Recognition is one of the most powerful tools available to organizations that want a happier, more successful workforce. The more recently someone is recognized, the higher their engagement is likely to be. Tracking the success of your organization’s recognition program lets you demonstrate tangible results to leadership and make adjustments to maximize the program’s impact.
There are many aspects of a great organizational culture, and you need to measure them all. From buying into your company values to trusting in leadership, problems with one part of your culture can affect others in short order. By tracking employee sentiment through frequent surveys, you can rest assured that your team members will stay aligned with the culture you want to build.
How to deliver employee surveys
The first decision you have to make when it comes to employee surveys — and the most important — is how you’re going to create and deliver them. You could retain a consulting firm and pay them to conduct and analyze an annual survey. Or you could use an online survey tool to design and implement one yourself.
Neither of these approaches are ideal. An annual engagement survey, whether administered by yourself or a third party — the latter at significant expense — only captures a single moment in time. Recency bias will cause employees to focus on what’s happened a short time ago, not a full view of the last 12 months.
Even if they do provide insights that reflect their experiences over the past year, by the time you’ve analyzed the results, it will be too late to take action on most issues. In a typical cycle, HR will deploy a survey in December, receive results in April, and implement new policies or programs based on the results by perhaps September — a full 10 months after the survey was given. All the while, employees assume nothing is being done. Failing to act promptly on survey results is worse than not asking for employee feedback in the first place.
Creating your own survey, even if delivered more frequently, has problems of its own. It requires immense effort and research to build effective surveys from scratch, and your managers will still lack the guidance they need to take effective action on the results.
Instead of reinventing the wheel or paying for ineffective solutions, look for an employee survey platform backed by years of research and experience. Through a combination of pulse surveys — a limited series of questions sent on at least a quarterly basis — and an always-on feedback channel for employees to take advantage of, modern survey solutions let you gather feedback in real time, identify and track trends, and quickly take action to nip problems in the bud. And the best platforms are even supported by a team of experts to help you during the transition and afterwards.
Designing employee surveys
Here are some guidelines for designing employee surveys that you can put into action yourself or see firsthand by using an employee survey solution.
Use the Likert scale
The easier you make answering your question, the more employees will respond, and there’s nothing more straightforward than the Likert scale — a 5-point scale that ranges from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” It’s a simple way to produce data that’s easily measurable and provides more context than binary yes/no or true/false questions. You can even use handy visual representations of each part of the scale so employees can quickly identify which answer best aligns with their feelings.
Include some open-ended questions
In addition to binary questions and those using the Likert scale, include some questions that are open-ended and allow employees to express what they feel in their own words. These might touch on areas the employee would like to see addressed in future surveys or ways the team member’s experience could be improved. You can provide the option to leave comments on other questions as well, which often provide useful context when analyzing survey results.
Ask short questions aligned with your goals
Regardless of how you format your questions, keep them to the point and aligned with the goals of your survey. If you’re trying to measure the success of your recognition program, ask questions connected to the KPIs you measure success by. If you’ve noticed that burnout is running rampant in your company, stay focused on all the factors that can contribute to it. Lean surveys that get directly to what you want to know at the moment are more digestible for employees and more useful for your company.
Keep it anonymous
Anonymous surveys are a must. If your employees know that leaders and HR will be able to connect them to their feedback, they’re not going to tell them things they don’t want to hear. With the security anonymity provides, employees can express themselves honestly and directly address their concerns without fear of retaliation. Practicing anonymity also includes giving employees a private place to complete surveys, so they know no one will be checking on their responses during the process.
Follow up automatically
Taking action on survey results is critical, but even the most rapid response is going to take some time to implement. Your employees need to know that you’ve heard them in the interim. That’s why an always-on feedback channel in the form of an intelligent HR chatbot is an integral part of any employee survey solution.
This automated tool can follow up with employees using friendly, simple questions to explore issues uncovered by the survey immediately. Employees then know that the organization is actively engaged with the issues that matter to them, and the company gets additional data to analyze.
Questions to ask
Still wondering what a good employee survey actually looks like? Here are some questions in key categories that reveal useful insights, phrased as statements employees can rank using the Likert scale:
- Recognition. You’re recognized for your contributions to the company.
- Culture. Our company has a healthy culture.
- Morale. You enjoy coming to work each day.
- Values. You’re inspired by our company’s mission and values.
- Career advancement. There’s a clear path for career growth available at our company.
- Leadership. Your manager is invested in the success of your team.
- Feedback. You feel comfortable providing honest feedback.
- Health and wellness. You have a healthy work-life balance.
- Team. You have a collaborative relationship with fellow team members.
- Open-ended. If you could change one thing about this organization, what would it be, and why?
Responding to employee surveys
If you don’t act on issues revealed by employee surveys, you’ll have wasted all the time and effort you spent on designing and delivering them. But analyzing survey data and deciding on how to respond is anything but simple. Here’s how you can quickly take concrete steps in the right direction.
You can’t afford analysis of survey results to take weeks or months. To accelerate the feedback loop, take advantage of an employee survey platform that comes with robust tools for digging into the data and helps you understand key findings at a glance:
- Heat maps are grids that let you visually identify areas where your organization is doing well — highlights — and areas where it needs to improve — hotspots. You can use heat maps to uncover actionable insights as soon as a survey round opens.
- Establishing benchmarks — whether based on industry-standard performance or against other teams or business units — is a great way to identify areas where certain groups are falling behind. Tracking your progress against benchmarks over time in your platform lets you easily measure progress towards your goals as well.
- Dashboards provide information on all your KPIs in one place, and they allow you to access other analytics tools and generate reports using an intuitive interface. You can even tailor them to suit various managers’ unique needs.
- Comments are a great source of contextual information, but sifting through them poses a challenge. Look for a solution that lets you sort through them by category and efficiently navigate between them.
Above all, ensure that managers play the leading role in reviewing the results of your survey. They’re the ones who can take action on a team level to implement changes. HR professionals should support them, giving them the tools and guidance they need to successfully navigate the survey process.
Selecting a one-size-fits-all response from an action library lets your managers check a box and move on, rather than actively engaging with the unique circumstances they face and taking steps to address them. Instead, all managers should share survey results with their team, discuss the insights they’ve gained, and then create a collaborative action plan to tackle any issues identified. Managers should then work with their team and other parties to carry out next steps, preferably in the form of quick, tangible actions — otherwise known as micro-actions — that can be implemented immediately.
The collaborative aspect is critical: every team member has their own needs and wants, so each should be consulted and given the chance to voice their thoughts on the best way forward. When you empower employees to take ownership of correcting the problems they see in the workplace, they’ll respond with increased engagement and a willingness to do what it takes to build the organization they want to see.
Make surveys easy with Achievers
If you want to get started with employee surveys — or if you’re looking for a better alternative to your current surveying methods — then check out Achievers Listen. It includes all the features and benefits discussed above, like pulse surveys, an always-on feedback channel, and a comprehensive suite of analytics tools, all with the goal of empowering managers to act on feedback together with their teams.
See the impact Achievers Listen can have on your organization today with a free demo.