The employee survey process is, historically, annoying. Employees might answer 80 questions on an online survey that takes almost an hour, they hit “submit,” and when they get a 404 page, they’re stuck wondering if their answers went through or if they even pushed the right button. On top of that, their employer might not even disclose the results of the survey or how they’ll be used.
This is not the way to go about performing employee surveys—one of the philosophies we have at BlackbookHR is that everything you do needs to consider the employee experience—a philosophy around here that we call being “employee-centric.” Here are some things to keep in mind about your employees’ perspective when planning an engagement survey:
Don’t Disrupt Them
When you require your employees to take an employee survey, you’re essentially asking them to do more work that’s not in their main job descriptions—they are taking time out of their day to provide you with information. This will only feel invasive and disruptive unless you consider their perspective carefully.
First, consider how your employees work: you’ll need to find ways to get the survey in front of them without distracting them or interrupting their work life in a burdensome way. A five-minute survey that is accessible from any platform or device is going to be much easier to manage than a 50-question paper form or online survey that forces them to click “next” after every question. Many organizations ignore the “user experience” as it relates to surveys—and that’s a huge mistake.
Then, to make the survey feel less like work and more like a tool that will help improve their experience at work, give the employees something of value when they complete the survey. This could be almost anything, as long as the employee sees it as valuable: it could be a sticker, an “I DID IT” award or a simple thank-you message.
But why not go a step further with a personal improvement report or a score sheet that shows how the employee’s responses compare to the department or organization? In my experience, I’ve found that employees are more likely to actually do something with that data if they have access to it. Often, I compare it to running your credit report: once employees know where they stand, it’s much easier for them to apply their efforts against things that will help them improve their scores.
Put a Priority on Communication
I wish all organizations were truly transparent; I love what companies like Buffer have done to create transparent cultures. Buffer has a “default to transparency” value and even a web page dedicated to sharing everything about the company including salaries, equity, revenue, emails and even books they are reading. The good news is that lots of companies are trying to move toward transparency, but they’re not all there yet. Communicating with employees before, during and after the survey process is so important, but organizations often don’t consider surveys to be public knowledge. They don’t issue a manifesto about employee surveys, and they should.
When we work with organizations that establish this kind of communication channel, we see significant increases in response rates and better overall engagement scores. We’ve learned that when you communicate with employees about any survey you’re giving them, you need to let them know three things:
- What you’re measuring. Simply throwing a survey at them and not telling them what you’re looking for will lead to confusion or wrong assumptions about what you’re trying to do.
- What you hope to achieve. Tell employees the point of the survey. For example, measuring engagement, you hope to get a benchmark for engagement efforts going forward.
- What the outcome looks like. Once you have the results, what’s the next step? Share the findings with employees to keep them in the process—then prepare to follow through on any action the findings indicate is needed.
One of our corporate goals at BlackboookHR is to bring companies through the survey process quickly and remove the “bloat” from the process. Sending out a survey in October and sharing results the next March isn’t useful. Technology has evolved in such a way that we can share analytics in real time—just look at Salesforce, Google and Hubspot. Sharing findings in a meaningful way and period of time keeps employees involved in the process and helps ensure their meaningful participation.
Trust Them and the Process
Finally, honor your employees’ perspective by trusting them. Doing employee surveys effectively takes a leap of faith by company leaders. Not only are you asking questions without knowing the answers; you’re also making the commitment to act on those unknown answers. This is the only way, however, to get useful data that you can act on effectively.
An employee survey is all about employees, so keep them in mind before you send one out. Doing so will make it more effective, give you a clearer path for action and keep you from annoying your most important people—your employees.