What it takes to get employees to answer your surveys
Understanding the customer is central to maximizing sales revenue, keeping your offering relevant and generally optimizing success.
So is understanding your own team.
But while surveys have a clear role in business performance by capturing and acting upon the authentic voice of the customer, organizations don’t always place the same value on listening to their employees.
Asking employee survey questions the right way
Many will have HR processes for regular staff appraisals and pay reviews. Others may also have ‘whistleblower’ policies and good, old-fashioned suggestion boxes.
Increasingly, we see the use of workplace collaboration platforms like Slack facilitating knowledge management and sharing of best practice, as well as social activities and light-hearted repartee.
All of this goes some way toward understanding employees and enabling so-called ‘workplace engagement’. But it can’t give you a point-in-time status check on employee satisfaction.
Pulse surveys versus long-form questionnaires
If you mandate the completion of a long-form employee survey as part of an annual HR review, then, congratulations, you guarantee a 100% response rate with lots of valuable data. But this approach also has many drawbacks:
- Taking the temperature of staff wellbeing once or twice a year is no way to keep track of hot risks that could thwart your business, or take advantage of pressing opportunities to improve team performance.
- The other issue with infrequent surveys is ‘the bad day effect’. Today, Nancy hates pretty much everything including her job and everyone she deals with. Next week, she has a far more positive perspective. The long-form survey can’t account for these fluctuations.
- Across an organization, staff reviews typically happen throughout the year to even-out the impact on the HR department and line managers. This means you never get a complete picture of everyone.
- Even if you do undertake a one-time mass-survey, the resource implication is huge both in terms of planning and overall distraction value.
- Long-form surveys are time-consuming to complete, and you’re footing the bill for staff to fill them out instead of doing work.
- Long-form surveys are even more time-consuming to analyze and draw conclusions from. By the time you do get a clear view of results, the findings could already be way out of date.
Faster, shorter surveys are becoming the norm in customer-facing scenarios, and it’s right to assume that adopting them in an employee setting will net similar advantages. For example:
- Injecting quick, one-question virtual surveys into emails and applications as part of logical employee workflows cuts distraction time down to 3–4 seconds and assures a high response rate.
- The approach also works in onsite settings, giving employees the opportunity to engage with quick tablet-based surveys to give feedback on – for example – their physical working environment.
- Employee survey questions don’t fatigue staff so they can be asked at relatively frequent intervals.
- Results and analysis can be tracked in real-time, allowing managers to understand tracking trends across the cohort, and target specific improvements.
- Any extreme responses can be set to alert an escalation process so that individual employees in crisis can receive the support they need.
- Quick pulse surveys can also be supplemented by long-form research, focus groups, etc., to provide a best-of-both-worlds approach.
It’s a team game
One of the greatest benefits of setting employee survey questions is understanding team dynamics and culture.
The latest book by business author Tom Peters focuses on the looming existential crisis affecting all employees: the potential for being replaced by an AI-driven machine.
In “The Excellence Dividend”, Peters argues for a proactive response from workers to execute what machines cannot accomplish – excellence – by being dedicated to one another as much as to their shared goal.
Humans, after all, have the gift of humanity, and can build powerful teams that transcend the value of individual autonomous ’drones’.
But understanding how to make the most out of people, and charting their progress toward creating a successful team environment, has a lot to do with simply working out how happy they are.
As philosopher Charles Handy famously opined, “A good team is a great place to be, exciting, stimulating, supportive, successful. A bad team is horrible, a sort of human prison.”
Questions that reveal what your employee teams are thinking
The trick with pulse questions is keeping them concise and simple. These surveys are so fast and easy to deploy that you can always drill down into more specific questions later.
You also need to make the answers measureable. Ideally, you’ll have a sliding scale of response that everyone understands. It doesn’t have to be 0-10. Instead, something far more visual such as a color chart or choice of facial expressions.
This is important to interpreting the data quickly and unambiguously. Sometimes, a closed yes/no question may be applicable.
Here are 5 employee survey questions you can apply right away:
How happy are you at work?
Straight to the point. This is a crucial top-line metric to track across all staff to show the prevailing level of employee satisfaction. This score may be driven by various factors, from pay and recognition to social relationships and variety of work.
How valued do you feel?
Another good macro-level metric, but also worth setting alerts for poor scores. This will enable line managers to take action where necessary.
How much are you enjoying your work?
This question looks similar to the ‘happy’ one above, but is in fact a more reliable indicator of productivity. Successive studies have shown that people who enjoy their work get more stuff done, as well as being more innovative, committed and nurturing to team members.
How much are you enjoying life at <<company>>?
Again, similar to the question above but this is less about work and more about the nature of the whole working environment / experience. This may be a more reliable indicator of how positive the organisation is for new employees.
How well is your team performing?
As well as a useful insight this is a potential jumping off point for more detailed questions targeted at members of particular teams. Generally speaking, people like to think their team should be performing well (that, after all, is what it is for).
Get a regular pulse on your team’s satisfaction
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