By Sam Dawson, Co-founder of Feedback Works
Sam has 20 years experience in employee engagement, culture and people measurement for some of the largest organisations in the world and is seen as one of the leading figures in employee experience. A business psychologist by background, he is a skilled facilitator, presenter, trainer and consultant who is dedicated to helping everyone feel heard. Sam likes to remind people he has belts in at least 3 different martial arts (but has forgotten practically all of his best moves). When he’s not being a Dad, husband and owner of a small fluffy white dog, he makes time for exercise, meditation, electronic music, and good food. But not necessarily in that order. Connect with Sam on LinkedIn.
Having been asked to write this blog has given me a real opportunity to boil down 25 years of experience in employee engagement and experience measurement into a few key nuggets.
I hope these are useful, I have answered the questions I get asked the most!
How should we start planning?
Well, don’t just survey for survey’s sake. Often surveys are run for their own good rather than linking to HR priorities, or the business strategy.
Making a survey strategic doesn’t have to be complicated. It can just be one or two things, for instance, is your strategy about customer impact, innovation, growth?
We can ask some simple questions that measure and report on those as concepts.
One of the ways I often help organisations think about planning is to help them start to think about all the stakeholders in the business.
From leadership to managers, down to employees, they’ll all have slightly different, or sometimes very different, needs from an employee survey.
We explore those needs and build a plan that works for everyone.
How do we get great buy-in to the survey process?
One of the big pitfalls, especially with great technology today, where we can survey anybody, about anything, at any time is survey fatigue.
By survey fatigue we mean employees being surveyed so much that they lose interest and engagement in the survey process. Particularly where employees can’t see any related action or change as a result of them participating in a survey.
I really like to think of this as ‘as lack of action fatigue’, rather than survey fatigue, because people are generally happy to be asked the ask their views, but they are likely to become quite cynical, quite quickly, if they don’t see any change.
Where employee surveys work really well is where there is clear action on the survey and ownership around action planning from everyone, and lots of great transparent communication. This leads to great response rates.
Businesses get great response rates when employees know that their voice makes a difference, and that the company is listening, and it’s going to take action.
When people believe they are genuinely being heard, this in turn has a ‘virtuous cycle’ effect, in that the survey process actually engages people further.
So, the more action people see being taken as a result of the surveys, the more engaged they feel, because they know that they’re making a difference.
In an effort to drive survey buy-in, try not to target response rates themselves. Rather, target actions and conversations as a result of the survey feedback.
Driving response rates too hard can lead to unwanted behaviours by managers (i.e. coercing employees to fill in the surveys etc.). Far better to design a trusted process from which response rates naturally flow.
If the survey is positioned well internally, mechanisms are in place for survey completion, and employees are confident of change, then it would be very reasonable to expect 65%+ for a solid first response rate.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you could push that to 75% and further too. With an embedded and trusted programme, some businesses hit 90%+.
What should we ask in our survey?
Surveys don’t need to be complicated or overly long. With about 30 questions, which might take less than 10 minutes to complete, we can get a really good view of how people feel, levels of engagement and any blind-spots that leaders might have.
A good survey will ask about a range of topics, from strategy, to leadership and management, to customers service and diversity and inclusion.
A good survey provider will have a proven survey nearly ready to go for you after a few tweaks to make it feel your own.
How often should we survey?
Just because we can survey all the time, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should. I was talking to an organisation earlier this week who wanted a survey every day.
Almost like a live poll of employee opinion and everyone would be asked to participate. When we talked it through a bit further and they weren’t quite sure what they were really going to do with the results.
At the end of the day, we agreed that they wanted to make sure that people felt that they had been heard every day.
But we had an interesting discussion, if there was no action resulting from that kind of monitoring, would people really feel more engaged and motivated? They decided to reflect on that approach.
What size of company is an employee survey right for?
Well, we could ask, is there a size of company where feedback doesn’t really matter?
Think about it this way. When we run surveys for large organisations of 1000’s of employees, if a manager has five or six people on their team, they’ll often get a report explaining what that team thinks about a variety of topics.
The cynic in me says, maybe these managers should know what that team’s views are without needing to have a detailed survey report. So, for very small businesses, perhaps a survey isn’t the answer.
However, what a survey does do for organisations of any size is set a really good benchmark and a baseline of how people are feeling. That enables them to track changes over time and plan actions really efficiently.
When an organization gets too large for the leadership to walk round and talk to everyone, for companies, say, of over 100 people, then the real power of a survey kicks in.
How can we make sure that the survey leads to change?
A really key thing here is around manager enablement and really equipping them to do something with their results.
That might be something really simple like guiding them through the results and helping them to understand how to interpret them.
It’s also about giving them some tools and techniques and best practice and having those great conversations with their teams. Some managers will find that really straightforward and others might find it quite difficult.
The more we can all make discussion and action of survey results ‘business as usual’ the more useful the data become.
Should we run a survey ourselves or look for help?
I do think a bad survey can do damage. If you have a badly designed survey, that’s not measuring anything useful, it raises expectations, and if nothing happens you actually have potential to damage employee engagement.
So, if you don’t have the internal expertise or resources to do it, I think it’s always worth seeking advice from external experts.
Even if it’s just to design a really good questionnaire that you then run with internally, I think it’s always useful to get advice.
Caboodle have partnered with Feedback Works, an innovative provider of employee surveys, to enable employers to get the best possible value and results from employee surveys with intelligence you can act on.
To find out more, get in touch today.