Launching your first employee survey can seem like a daunting task. Most people tend to dive right into creating a survey. But for a survey to truly be effective, it needs to focus on your strategic priorities, communicated clearly and effectively, and, ultimately, acted on. Here’s a quick guide to get started:
1. Identify key areas of focus
First, consider your strategic priorities. Not sure what they are? Think about what issue or issues are keeping leadership up at night. Those are likely issues critical to the organization’s success, and should be reflected in your survey. Think about your business cycle, this may inform when you need data, and thus, when to survey.
2. Craft items that target these priority areas
There’s a tendency to want to include every possible question you could possibly think about – after all, feedback is good, right? Unfortunately, a survey that’s too long – and there’s no magic number when it comes to length – can be off-putting or overly burdensome to employees. Try to stick with the questions that are most important to know, and most likely to be acted upon. Typically, we tend to group questions into different dimensions, such as engagement, innovation, leadership, safety, and more.
3. Use open-ended items as needed
At OrgVitality, we’ll often suggest adding an open-ended text box to a specific question if someone answers in a particular way. It can be tempting to do this for every question – we all want that feedback! – but again, it’s too much and might cause employees to answer less thoughtfully if they notice, for example, that every time they mark something as unfavorable, it triggers a comment box. Often these open ends are best to understand critical items such as those on safety or ethics – topics that may be hard for employees to raise in another venue.
4. Create an authentic survey experience that is user-friendly
A survey that is too generic won’t resonate with employees, and they’ll be less likely to give honest, thoughtful feedback. When possible, choose a survey that is branded with your colors, logo, and images. Make sure you use words that resonate with employees; using “group” when your organization actually uses the word “team” might confuse employees, or at least make them think the survey isn’t accurate. And in order to get the highest response rate possible, make it easy for employees to take it on any device, anywhere, with pause and resume capabilities built in.
5. Communicate clearly, and frequently
There tends to be two main messages that employees need to hear. First, that their feedback is confidential and their individual answers will not be shared with the company. Secondly, they also need to know that their feedback matters. A note from a top leader, especially the CEO, can go a long way to ensure that this is an initiative that matters to the organization. Once the survey actually gets sent out, you will likely need to send reminders to encourage people to take the survey, and remind them when it closes. Typically, most surveys are open for two to three weeks.
6. Prepare for the hard work ahead.
The work of employee feedback doesn’t stop once that feedback is received; now is the time to understand the data, analyze it, and take action. This is often one of the most challenging places to start. Do you focus on the lowest scoring items? (Hint: Not always). Refer back to #1 on this list. What are the items that, if improved, will have the greatest impact on your organization’s long-term health, profitability, and overall success? That’s where you want to focus your efforts.
7. Consider your next survey.
For a survey to be effective, it can’t be one and done. We often see clients implementing shorter pulse surveys, where they gauge their improvement on a core set of items. At the very least, we suggest annual surveys, so you can see where you are improving. Often, action tools or nudge interventions throughout the year can help keep these priorities top of mind for busy managers.
Feeling overwhelmed? The experts at OrgVitality can help. Contact us for a free consultation with one of our consultants to see how we might be able to help.