Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Employee Opinion Surveys: Make Them Work for You

One of the more common tools used by management in order to gain an understanding of employees is the employee opinion survey.  Such a survey can offer an employee the opportunity to freely comment on how he / she truly feels about his / her work and worth within the organization, and how management can improve the organization’s culture and increase employee engagement. While the upside potential of using surveys is high, there are naturally some concerns with employee opinion surveys, mainly focused on data interpretation and follow up.

Survey Advantages

A desired result from an employee survey is that senior management will be able to identify problems that can be assessed and addressed in a satisfactory manner. Depending on the type of opinion survey given, employees may feel comfortable speaking on serious concerns such as their working environment, failing work processes / procedures, department and organizational mood, and morale.

Conducting regular, yearly employee surveys also can give employees a sense of voice. Such open communication stimulates a collaborative work environment. When management initiates communication devices such as opinion surveys, employees feel as though their opinions matter, thus boosting employee morale and confidence. Management can also get a better understanding of the employees’ knowledge of their objectives and goals.

Survey Concerns

A major concern with using employee surveys is a negative response from management. Some managers may feel as though soliciting employee feedback is a sign of weakness, and thus dismiss anything negative in the survey results. This can occur especially with senior management, who has a ‘top down view’ versus the ‘bottom up view.’  When management reviews survey results without keeping an open mind, a “blame the messenger” attitude can occur if the results aren’t as positive as expected.

The most challenging concern with a survey process is inaction on the survey results. Employees may interpret this as a lack of concern, or even disrespect, if they do not see some form of management consideration of their feedback. In the employees’ eyes, management is responsible for responding to what has been said. To not address what was discovered in the survey can lead to lack of employee motivation, resulting in dismal output and decreased engagement.

Making Surveys Work for You

A key to making employee opinion surveys work is to take them seriously. This starts at the beginning when creating the survey. Ask your project team what type of information you want to gather from your employees. You want to design a survey that will accurately capture information you need to improve your organization’s culture.  In addition, explore how long the survey will be. Too long of a survey may result in insincere answers.  Too short, and you may miss key points that need to be explored. Furthermore, consider if you are encouraging your staff to provide their honest feedback.  Without guarantees of confidentiality and management responsiveness, employees will be hesitant to share anything less than positive.

Once you receive the survey results, whether positive or negative, accept the responses, create an action plan, and execute it. An old proverb that many hold sacred is “Action speaks louder than words.” So let your employees SEE that you are aware of their concerns and will be doing what can be done to address their concerns.

Employee opinion surveys are typically cost effective. Many organizations create their own, or outsource their surveys for confidentiality purposes. Using a third party administrator affords personal consultation on the survey results.  Astron Solutions offers such consulting services to assist organizations obtain the most from their employee opinion surveys.

Are you in tune with what concerns your employees?  When was the last time you asked them?  If it’s been more than a year, why not schedule to conduct one later this year? Astron Solutions can certainly assist!

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