Surveys can be an important tool in gauging the engagement of employees. Allan Watkinson looks at some of the latest developments and how to make the most of employee surveys
Companies in general are becoming far
more demanding about employee
surveys, and this is a good thing.
Many now see their survey as an important
diagnostic tool integrated into their wider
change program or organisational strat
egy. As a result, they expect the survey to
be closely linked to things they can meas
ure that reflect business value such as pro
ductivity, profitability and staff retention.
They also want the results of the sur
vey to be focused and highly actionable.
Too many employee surveys measure a
large number of things, many of which are
not linked to business value or can’t be
actioned. Managers can realistically focus
only on a small handful of things at a time.
Another trend is an increasing desire to
link employee surveys with internal and
external customer surveys. This is allowing
organisations to be more confident that
their people are not only highly motivated,
but are also doing the things their cus
tomers value highly. This is bringing the
traditionally separate HR and marketing
functions together to form a powerful
alliance where the business improvements
Keys to success
As with most things in life, commonsense
goes a long way towards success. Here are
seven commonsense elements of success
ful employee surveys:
1. Understand why you’re doing the survey
and what you want to measure
2. Get the wording of the questions right.
Asking the right questions in the wrong
way may bias the results
3. Ensure you have senior sponsorship and
belief in the objectives.
Link the outcomes to business metrics
that have a personal implication for sen
4. Have a great communications plan to
create high awareness and expectation
5. Make it a program in its own right and
integrate it into other change initiatives.
6. Ensure the survey is quick and easy to
respond to. This will increase the rate and
validity of the response.
7. Focus people on taking action. What
we’ve found is that there is a very strong
correlation between action and things such
as employee engagement and confidence
in the leadership. One final bit of advice
though: if you don’t plan to take any action
as a result of the survey, then don’t run the
survey. The damage to morale and confi
dence in the leadership can be consider
Securing senior support
The key to getting the CEO and leadership
to take responsibility is to demonstrate the
link between the survey and business out
comes in which they have a personal stake.
The structure of the survey is also
important. It should be structured to pro
vide feedback at a leadership team level,
at an organisation-wide level, and at an
individual team level. This ensures that
everyone in the company gets information that they
can personally do something with, including the CEO
and the leadership team.
One powerful thing about an employee survey is
that it tells a version of “the truth” about what is
going on in an organisation, and that is a rare com
modity. Leaders are often challenged to know what
people are really thinking at the coalface, because
staff are generally reluctant to voice feedback directly
to senior management.
An anonymous survey can be a powerful way of
getting the CEO and the leadership team to take notice
– especially when the results are poor. One CEO I
worked with recently described the results as “hum
bling” and was embarrassed by how his leadership
team was perceived across the company. His imme
diate reaction after he got over the shock was to
address his team to take immediate action.
Not all CEOs believe bad news, however. It’s not
unusual for the leadership team to go into a period of
denial until they are convinced to dig a bit deeper,
sometimes through further qualitative work, and
realise that all is not rosy.
Allan Watkinson is a principal consultant and engagement manager for Gallup Consulting