Employee feedback surveys are increasingly being used to guide management decisions. And it’s important to recognize that value obtained from an employee survey is a direct result of how well the survey process is designed and implemented.
This also means it is critically important that your survey achieves a high level of participation to ensure the feedback accurately reflects the majority opinion of employees.
When response rates are low, there may not be sufficient data to explore sentiment with specific regions or locations, hindering action planning and follow-up. Moreover, a low response rate sends an ominous message that the organization’s employees are disengaged, and feel they lack a collective voice in communicating their concerns to the business leaders. These concerns diminish the return that an organization receives on its considerable investment.
In my previous post, I shared five of my top pillars for effective employee feedback survey design and survey implementation, including the importance of establishing clear goals and objectives, ensuring you have the appropriate resources, and showcasing management commitment.
Here’s five additional considerations:
Author specific survey instructions for improved employee participation
To reinforce the earlier communications, it is a good idea to start your employee survey with an introduction that also explains the purpose of the feedback program. The instructions should set forth the objectives outlined by the leadership team, which is to identify the key challenges within the organization and the actions required to dismantle any roadblocks in communication between teams, groups and departments.
The general rule for writing good survey instructions parallels that of writing good survey questions – the ideal instructions should include these attributes:
- Explain the objectives and type of anonymous feedback the organization is intending to extract
- Provide an estimate of how long the survey might take
- Instructions on how to move through the survey
- The terminology should be clear and have the same meaning to all respondents taking the survey
- Explains how respondents will benefit from the discretionary time expended to complete the survey
If the instructions are unclear, it can lead to employee confusion in how to respond to the questions, leading to corruption of the data. To ensure the intent is conveyed clearly, have several people who have not previously seen the survey take it and see how long it takes them to complete the survey. This will go a long way to ensure employees understand the overall objective and that their feedback is important to the organization.
Pay attention to the length of your employee survey
Developing a short, yet sophisticated survey will often give you far better feedback than a survey that is 30 or 40 questions in length. Respondents are much less likely to answer a long survey than a short one, and often pay less attention to surveys which seem long and monotonous.
When crafting your survey questionnaire, it’s important to include open-ended questions. Open-ended questions ask respondents to respond to a question in their own terms and still maintain, if not improve the depth and quality of the feedback received. As a general rule, a 15-question survey with 4 open-ended questions takes about 2-5 minutes to complete. Be sure to indicate in the instructions how long it should take to complete the survey.
Developing a lengthy employee survey could cause fatigue and increase the probability that employees will only compete the survey once, thereby reducing response rates for the future. Keeping the survey shorter and focusing on key areas that employees can easily provide feedback on, may avoid high variances in response rates between employee surveys.
Offer employees anonymity
In the case of employee surveys, the best practice approach is to have all responses anonymous.
Promoting anonymity can improve results and the detail of the open-ended feedback that is provided. Language both in the communications plan and the survey instructions will reinforce this understanding, especially if the survey is being sent by email. An example of anonymity language that can be included in an employee feedback survey is, “please be candid in answering these questions – rest assured no one can be identified from their responses as all survey data will be held in strict confidence. Your candor will guide us in identifying the most critical areas for us to focus.”
Even though the feedback is anonymous, it has the potential to impact and improve performance across all areas of the company. Communicating effectively, building trust, and clearly demonstrating that you take the listening / responding / action steps seriously will clearly generate significant engagement among employees.
Collect employee feedback data the right way, at the right time
Employee surveys are usually administered via email. The survey generally should be administered at a time when it will pose a minimal disruption to the business and when a maximum number of employees are available for participation. Similarly, avoid surveys at times when management and employee relations may be tense–for example, during contract negotiation, industrial action, or downsizing initiative.
Equally important, the survey results should be scheduled so that the findings are available in time to be included in key business plans or initiatives. This will help to position the feedback as a business-planning tool and secure the necessary budget for follow-up actions. Poor scheduling for survey administration will invariably reduce support from employees or may result in the data analysis being available too late to influence budget or other business decisions.
Always follow up on employee feedback
The most effective way to build confidence in employees to complete the survey and provide detailed feedback is for the organization to take clear and visible action based on survey results.
One of the biggest mistakes is to try to take on everything described in the feedback at once. Try to select a realistic number of areas to target for follow-up action, to allow stakeholders to concentrate and focus resources on issues that will have the greatest impact. Failure to take action will create employee apathy toward surveys and targeting too many issues will diffuse the effectiveness of follow-up actions.
Ensuring successful employee satisfaction surveys
Remember that the ease with which surveys can be issued should not undermine the importance and quality of your overall design, administration, and execution of the survey. Satrix Solutions can help you to develop a program that produces quality, high response rates, and actionable results.