How to make the most of an employee survey

Gathering data is one thing — interpreting and acting on feedback in a meaningful fashion is quite another.

How to run an employee survey

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase: “The values enshrined on the company’s walls aren’t always the values you find in the company halls.”

That may be even more true in the Age of COVID-19, with so many disengaged, exhausted, burned-out remote workers.

So, how do you find out what’s really going on inside the heads of your employees? A well-timed, well-written employee survey can yield significant insight into how to move your organization forward.

Of course, you need to ask the right questions to get the right information. And don’t ask questions about areas of contention that the leadership team has no intention of acting upon. That can erode trust later if no action is taken. You do not want employees saying, “I’m not going to take the survey because nothing ever changes around here anyway.”

Once you obtain information from your employees, you need to interpret it properly. At this stage, it is crucial to communicate the results of the survey so that employees know that they were, indeed, heard.

Next, formulate an action plan to act upon what you learned. This is an ideal situation to involve employees in formulating a plan to address the issues they voiced in the survey. Failure to involve employees could result in an erosion of trust or an expectation that management is going to fix everything.

Once the action plan begins to be implemented, it is crucial to communicate the steps being taken so that employees know that positive results are happening as a result of what was learned in the survey. This is a unique opportunity to build trust between leadership and rank-and-file employees.

This final stage is the make-it-or-break-it stage for communication. It’s an opportunity to build trust by showing the actions being taken or its an opportunity to erode trust. Make sure employees know that actions are being taken as a direct result of the survey results. Unfortunately, too often, actions are taken but companies fail to communicate them well, and employees are left feeling that little or nothing was accomplished through the survey. As a result, employee engagement in the company drops below what it was before employees took the survey and they are reluctant to participate in future surveys. In other words, poorly communicated survey results can actually do more harm than good.

But when communicated well, an employee survey provides the opportunity to increase trust in leadership and engagement in the company’s mission and vision. Do it right, and get insightful information and a reputation boost to boot.

Just follow these six steps as you proceed:

  • Write smart, thought-provoking questions, and put together a well-designed survey.
  • Craft a communication campaign to increase participation and enhance employee perception.
  • Provide a third-party secure server that ensures integrity and confidentiality.
  • Conduct focus groups to get from what to why.
  • Analyze the results to see what it statistically valid and how it compares with other companies.
  • Prepare a report that clearly explains the data and recommends specific action steps.

Paul Barton is a public speaking expert based in Arizona. Read more on his blog.

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