Learning from Employee Surveys

Employee satisfaction surveys can be an eye-opening source of information for managers and business owners. Employees have a unique perspective on how a business works. In a sense, they are the ones who are closest to the action. They perform the day-to-day tasks and often have more contact with customers than anyone in management. They can offer valuable insights into what’s working well, what isn’t, and what can be done to make a business more efficient and profitable. All you have to do is ask.

First Things First
Before you decide to conduct an employee survey, you need to be prepared to do two things.
First, you need to be willing to accept criticism. It is inevitable that some employees will make negative comments about the business. It’s easy to dismiss their statements as sour grapes and focus instead on the nice things people say. But negative comments are an excellent source of information about potential problems. Even if you believe these comments represent unjustified criticism, you can learn a lot from them about employee satisfaction.

Second, you need to be prepared to act on the results of the survey. You shouldn’t ask for employees’ opinions about an issue if you don’t intend to do anything about it. One of the main reasons that employees are reluctant to take part in surveys is that they feel their opinions have been ignored in the past.

How Important Is Confidentiality?
Should your survey be confidential? It depends on what you hope to accomplish. Employers sometimes conduct focus groups to get a general sense of what employees think about a particular issue. Employees have no expectation of confidentiality in these sessions, so they are most appropriate if you are dealing with an issue that people are comfortable discussing. On the other hand, if you really want to know how employees feel about sensitive issues that are close to their hearts, your survey must be confidential.

If you decide to take this route, make sure that employees know the survey is confidential. Then stick to your promise and make no attempt to discover who said what on the survey. Be careful not to include questions that can indirectly identify respondents, such as, “How long have you been in your present position?”

The Online Advantage
There are several advantages to conducting an employee survey online. It’s easier and less expensive to prepare and distribute the survey. Many employees find it faster and more efficient to complete a survey online. And the results of an online survey are easier to compile and analyze. Companies such as Mineful offer templates and sample questions that make online surveys even easier.

What to Ask
Employee satisfaction surveys typically focus on these areas:

  • Employee compensation
  • Health benefits
  • Having adequate resources to work effectively
  • Retirement benefits
  • Opportunities for professional growth
  • Communication with management and other staff members

In creating your survey, you may decide to devote special attention to areas that seem to be “hot button issues” for many employees.

Additional Benefits
Employee satisfaction surveys can contribute to employee retention because they allow you to learn what employees care about. Job satisfaction means different things to different people. Surveys can help you discover what you can do to boost morale and make employees more satisfied with their work. Just the fact that you are taking the trouble to conduct a survey is an indication to employees that you value them and their contributions to the business.

Surveys can also be a source of valuable suggestions. By asking some open-ended questions, you can give employees a direct channel to management that they can use to propose new ideas for the business.

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