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Top Pillars of a Successful Employee Feedback Survey

employee taking a company survey


Employee engagement and loyalty are vital to any business’ success. And, these are fast becoming the behaviors that distinguish successful companies from those that fail. But if you’re not capturing employee feedback, be it from engagement surveys, employee satisfaction surveys, or opinion-type surveys, you’re missing out.

That’s because the information gleaned from these programs help management to identify and prioritize issues for action, monitor the effectiveness of change initiatives, establish merit-based performance objectives, and provide leadership metrics for product and service teams alike. This contributes to a highly motivated workforce that delivers superior products and services, resulting in greater customer satisfaction and improved revenue.

The following are five (out of ten) of my top pillars for effective survey design and survey implementation. In a previous post, I laid out the Top Ten Common Problems in Designing Effective Survey Questions, and these pillars are just as important, with the goal being to ensure that respondents’ answers to the survey questions are actionable and unbiased.

Correctly developing these will play a crucial role behind the scenes in reaching the organization objectives and garnering employee feedback sought by the organization. Also, be sure to check out my five additional pillars in my next post.

Establish clear goals and objectives for your employee survey

When beginning an employee feedback program with a client, I always begin by interviewing the top executives of the organization to get a solid understanding of their perception of the company culture, and their thoughts surrounding the objectives of the program. These objectives should be developed with front-line management input and clearly communicated to employees in order to demonstrate the importance of the process. In fact, there are a number of stakeholders that need to be considered:

• Senior management teams
• Front-line managers and supervisors
• The employees themselves

It is then important to clearly communicate this to all stakeholders to help increase the buy-in of employees. More buy-in means a greater commitment to the process. People are therefore more likely to give honest and open feedback which means better outcomes for your organization.

Without predefined long-term objectives that are distinctly linked to organization performance, the survey may fail to elicit the employee support and secure the detailed feedback required for success.

Allocate sufficient resources for your feedback program

In my early conversations with clients, the discussion of bandwidth of key stakeholders for the program comes up a lot. It is important to understand the amount of time and resources that will be required to develop and implement your employee survey and the subsequent follow-up actions. These resources should be determined at the start of the endeavor and be incorporated into the program timeline.

When this aspect is overlooked or neglected, the survey follow-up stage will lack the support required to be effective and can result in more employees becoming disengaged when they see that their feedback is ignored by management. In addition, while employees might be convinced to participate in the first survey, if they see no tangible evidence of change after that survey, they are not likely to make the effort to participate again in the future.

Demonstrate management commitment to acting on employee feedback

The employee feedback program will have greater credibility if employees believe that it is endorsed and supported by business leaders and senior management. Business leader and senior management commitment can reassure employees that their views will be taken into account and acted on in a timely manner.

When this commitment is lacking or not clearly communicated, employees may view the survey as a public relations exercise designed to project a “caring” management style for their client and prospective new hires, rather than a process for identifying and acting on actual employee concerns.

Define roles and responsibilities for the survey process

As you allocate resources, be sure to create a network of internal survey champions who are responsible for identifying the requirements for their part of the business and supporting follow-up actions. These champions absolutely need to believe in the value of the survey and given a clear description of their role requirements, with specific timelines, so that they can budget their time accordingly.

Similarly, front-line managers who will receive some of the (anonymous) employee survey feedback and will be required to follow up should be given clear instructions regarding their responsibilities. When this is not done, management is less likely to communicate survey results to employees or take action in response to the findings, and thus employees are less likely to have faith in the value of the survey process.

Develop a communication plan for your employee survey program

The survey communication plan is where the rubber hits the proverbial road for your employee feedback program. Communications can also have one of the most dramatic effects on your response rate to the survey.

Consider using language that reflects the culture and values instilled in the organization, as employees will identity more with the survey communications. A structured and comprehensive communications plan is critical to the success of the survey. You must have a clear awareness of what the project is trying to achieve, what is happening and when.

In the absence of a communication plan, employees may not recognize the importance of the process or see the connection between survey findings and subsequent follow-up actions. By outlining the process, it will express to employees that the feedback will be taken seriously. In turn, they’ll invest their time to complete the survey.

The benefits of employee feedback surveys

Employee surveys can be used to develop a strategy for creating a highly-motivated work environment and improving manager performance. Adopting the practices outlined above will engage both management and employees in the survey process and can serve as a catalyst for cultural change – creating an environment in which employees can have productive and open dialogue with their managers.

In part two of my post, I cover five additional pillars for success, including how to communicate the survey to employees, the ideal length of your survey, why your surveys should be anonymous and more. Read it here.