Write single-barreled items; that is, items that ask only one question at a time. A double-barreled item would be, “My manager is a strategic thinker and a good communicator.”
How to Know What to Measure
There is plenty of confusion regarding what employee surveys measure — is it satisfaction, commitment, loyalty, engagement? The truth is that these different labels are more a creation of survey vendors’ marketing departments than true distinctions relevant to practice. Oftentimes survey vendors rebrand their instruments without really changing the content. It is true that concepts such as engagement and “organizational citizenship behaviors” (i.e., going above and beyond the requirements of your job) have focused more on extra-role behaviors.¹ Measuring this outcome with a survey is useful; however, it does not replace the need to assess employee loyalty or satisfaction. So, in reality, a survey should measure engagement, loyalty, commitment, and satisfaction. Applied research has validated this idea that engagement is simply part of the measurement category — not some completely new concept — and a narrow focus on it can waste time and money. Do not get too caught up in what you call the survey. Instead, focus more on implementing a valid and practical survey. To get the most out of the survey process and become a trusted advisor, you will need to determine which employee attitudes are driving outcomes in your organization — and we will discuss how to do so.
How to Effectively Design & Execute an Employee Survey
The items included on any employee survey are obviously significant. Whether you use a survey vendor or write your own, follow the tips below for designing an effective employee survey.
How to Determine an Appropriate Response Rate
There isn’t a magic response rate number that every organization should achieve. However, keep in mind some guidelines. Assess how many responses you need to have a representative (i.e., valid) sample. The average response rate is usually 60 to 70 percent. A lower response rate will undercut the statistical validity and organizational credibility of the results. Imagine walking into a survey follow-up meeting and announcing the results and then telling everyone that only 10 percent of the employees completed the survey. The level of buy-in for the results will likely be low. You could make the survey mandatory, which might raise response rates but could lower peoples’ attitudes before they take the survey. Alternatively, you can motivate people to participate with, for example, raffle prizes — this tactic has shown to increase survey participation rates. However, the best ways to increase the response rate are to do the following:
How to Report Employee Survey Data & Present Results
You’ve deployed your employee survey and gotten the results back; now what? Let us simplify the process for you a bit. Learn who, what, when, where, how, and why in our guide.
How to Ensure Action
Giving feedback on the survey results and, most importantly, taking action on the results are critical ingredients to ensuring employees buy into action plans and participate in the next survey. (Check out the 5 keys to action planning that drives results.) You need to not only act on the results, but also communicate the fact that you are taking action. Many managers do act on their survey results but neglect to make it clear that, “I worked on this and fixed this because you asked me to on the survey.” Make sure that your managers are not shy about communicating the actions they are taking are as a result of their interpretation of the survey results.
What a Business-Focused Employee Survey Is and How to Build One
Our experiences have shown us that improving the approach organizations typically use to execute their employee surveys is necessary. Often, organizations will not articulate the potential opportunity to drive business outcomes by surveying the workforce and will instead only focus on ill-defined outcomes such as engagement (you’re missing the mark if you’re doing this!). We outline below the typical approach to employee survey implementation at large and small organizations around the globe. Maybe this is the approach you have taken. If so, your employee survey is in need of a facelift.
Bringing Analytics to Front-line Leaders
One of the great advantages of applying analytics to people data is the ability to show business impact at a high level. However, turning that level and depth of insight into actionable information for leaders on the front lines is challenging. We have developed an approach/tool that will make your employee survey more impactful. Our provides leaders with an easy-to-understand chart that summarizes their department or region’s survey data into specific areas that prioritize action.
The Strategic Survey HeatMap™ was created after numerous clients expressed their frustrations with their survey vendors for providing them with huge amounts of data and lengthy reports. The HeatMap approach has been used before; however, the analysis linking survey data to business outcomes and the inclusion of key drivers on the HeatMap (as we discuss in greater detail below) differentiates our approach. These clients further articulated that front-line leaders just did not have the time to pour over detailed results of 60 survey items with average scores, score distributions, benchmark scores, and colorful charts (i.e., vendors that just slice and dice data) and then make informed decisions on strengths, weaknesses, and priorities for action. This input resonated with us. We empathized not only with HR leaders who were trying to create meaningful employee surveys that could garner organizational buy-in but also with the front-line leaders who have a full plate every day of the week. The Strategic Survey HeatMap™ allows you to readily provide all leaders, at all levels, with a quick way of interpreting survey results and prioritizing exactly what they need to work on to drive business outcomes.
¹Latham, G. (2009). Becoming the evidence-based manager: Making the science of management work for you. Boston, MA: Davies Black/Society for Human Resource Management.