Best Practice in Conducting Employee Engagement Surveys
On top of all the stress of our lockdown, the inclement weather is an added challenge for most of us. Going for local walks in the cold is really nice and it makes us appreciate the heat when we come back in.
But spare a thought for one device that is integral to the workings of our heating systems. Without a thermostat, we’d find it difficult to regulate the heat to the correct and comfortable temperature. In the days gone by, thermostats were a dial on the wall and we had to find the balance between two clicks to get it right. Now they are digital and if we want a constant room temperature of 21*, then the thermostat helps us with that.
That accuracy can also be attained in our quest to improve employee engagement. Engagement surveys serve a similar purpose for organisations in gauging the ‘temperature’ or the mood of teams. The core of this concept is that when your people are engaged with your company, they will be more productive, team morale will be higher, staff turnover and absenteeism will be lower and they’ll give better experiences to your customers. Ultimately all of that improves your culture and affects your financial results.
Springtime is a really good time to conduct such surveys. The new year presents a fresh start, and with Covid-19 hanging over us like a permanent rain-cloud, now is a good time to check the temperature. During C-19, I think it’s even more important. Home-working, anxieties about physical and mental health, finances, loneliness, future job prospects, should all be a concern for every employer.
Tips for conducting Employee Engagement Surveys
There are lots of technology companies offering this service with all sorts of bells, whistles and coloured charts. The platform for doing the survey is the easy part, so don’t be blinded by that. There are other more fundamental considerations to ponder.
1. Consider why you are doing a survey
Be clear on your purpose. Are you doing this to simply check the temperature, or do you want to use the results to make real changes? You need to be honest with your team. Don’t embark on this if you don’t plan to act on the results, whatever they might be. Otherwise cynicism will grow in your team and you won’t get buy-in for subsequent resurveys.
2. Ask the right questions
As tempting as it might be, don’t download a set of generic questions from Google. Your questions should be structured in a psychological flow and be relevant to your company, your culture and what you are trying to achieve. You should also ask for appropriate verbatim comments to help you make sense of the numerical scores. They add meat to the bones. I also favour a mix of emotional-type questions (e.g. “I enjoy coming to work”) and practical questions (e.g. “Workload distribution is fair”). The feedback on the practical questions in particular help to make improvements later. That gives you “cause and effect” insights.
3. Because confidentiality must be assured, make it anonymous
Even if you believe you have an open culture where people speak their minds already, well executed surveys always produce extra nuggets of unknown information. You have to reassure your respondents that their anonymity is guaranteed. That’s almost impossible if you administer it yourself internally.
4. Communicate well to ensure a high level of participation
To maximize participation rates, communicate clearly how the survey will work, reassure the team on confidentiality and be clear on the purpose (ref. point one above). If the communication is sent by the CEO or other senior person, it will have even more impact.
5. Allocate time during work hours for participants to complete the survey
This is a work-related matter so you want respondents to reflect carefully on the answers. Doing it on a train or at home risks too many distractions. If you are a company where not everyone has a desk, then allocate a dedicated room for the exercise, with PCs set up and agreed time slots.
6. Turn data into insights
Creating spreadhseets and coloured charts of the results is easy. Turning that data into bigger picture insights requires an objective and trained eye.
7. Agree corrective actions
When the results are in, present highlights to the whole organisation. They deserve to hear the results. Then convene a steering team to guide the corrective actions that are reasonable and fair.
8. Work with managers to execute the actions
If your team is big enough to slice and dice your results per department, then make the department head accountable for working with her/his team to agree local actions. Inaction will lead to cynicism.
9. Resurvey in an appropriate timeframe
At the very least, make this an annual occurrence. And whatever the scores are in the first survey, they give you a line in the sand. I’m always interested in the resurvey results to see how the scores have moved. In most cases where actions have been executed, the scores will increase and morale will improve.
Over the years, I have had some senior managers pushing back on the notion of doing surveys, as they believe they already know how their people feel. They say they have an open-door policy and therefore believe they are closely in touch with the mood already. But surveys go deeper than anecdotal conversations and day-to-day chatter. In every one of those cases, the managers were surprised with the results.
Others fear that there will be negativity about remuneration. That is seldom the case and even if it comes up, it’ll be just one question out of a potential bank of 30-40 questions. Other managers cringe at the fear of opening a can of worms. But if the worms are there, isn’t it better know about them? If you don’t deal with them, what impact will that have on your business?
Remember, your customers are expert at judging how engaged your employees are.