Sales-oriented companies spend huge amounts of money to understand the thought process of customers and prospects. This meaningful data communicates how well or poorly they are satisfying the customer’s needs. The same rationale applies when engaging employees to obtain their undiluted feedback, ideas, and concerns. To assess employee’s needs and input, you must make the same conscious effort that you do with customers. Customers typically don’t state what they are thinking unless you specifically ask them and make the feedback process part of your operations.
There are a variety of tools available to engage employees through regular surveys so that you can acquire their feedback. Be sure to adhere to the following guidelines:
1. Think about the information you want and why you want it.
2. The questions you ask must be designed to create dialogue and not seek out a specific response or finding. Never use questions that are self-serving (e.g., “How would you rate my management? Great or outstanding?”).
3. Use questions that can easily be responded to such as true or false, multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and numerical self-rating. Avoid using essay or open-ended questions as they are rarely answered.
4. Address the intent of your survey upfront and explain the impact employee answers will have. Employees are suspicious of any survey that does not provide a context and rationale. Always inform employees early on of an upcoming survey and of its importance to the success of their organization.
5. Encourage employees to respond honestly and constantly reassure them that their responses will remain anonymous. Guaranteed anonymity is crucial because the average employee believes that if they ‘tell the truth’ there will be negative repercussions.
6. Allow employees a specific and limited amount of time for this survey to be completed. This gentle pressure works to help employees respond timely.
7. The survey should take no more than 10 minutes for the average employee to complete.
8. Employees must be able to respond to the survey from either their office or home computer. Quite often, employees will email the link to their home computer to avoid the easy to identify company email address.
9. After all of the survey results are compiled, provide employees with a summary of the findings without making any comments or assigning a meaning to the results. When employees see that you publish the good together with the bad, they begin to realize the importance of the survey.
10. Within a short amount of time after the survey is complete, announce the improvements that will be implemented as a result of the feedback. Following through on these changes is necessary because if nothing positive results from the survey, your leadership credibility will be lost.
11. Publicly thank employees for responding, even if the response rating was low.
12. Reissue the same or similar survey every six months.
13. Do not get dismayed if the first employee survey becomes a garbage dump. If this is the first time you have surveyed employees, there may be a lot of negative feedback or grievance sharing. Because employees lack a way to openly express how they feel, the initial survey might serve as a way for them to express their concerns. If the results are negative, remember that the only way to go is up!
First Time Surveys
The results from the initial survey will be your baseline and give you a target for improvement. Be sure to place the results from this first survey and subsequent ones on your internal management scorecard (containing metrics you use to monitor the company’s health). This first survey provides a small window into how employees are feeling about your company, its management, and the prevailing culture.
A telling metric in the survey is the comparison of your employee census with the number of responses, called your participation rate.
A low participation rate informs you that employees are suspicious and fearful or are unhappy with the organization or culture.
A medium participation rate (40-60%) tells you that you have many engaged and caring employees but you must work harder to improve the level of engagement.
A higher than standard participation rate (over 60%) for a first-time survey lets you know that employees are engaged and willing to share their opinions.
Of the seven tactics necessary to create a feedback methodology, this is the easiest to accomplish.