Effectively administering and interpreting employee surveys

12 May

Administering employee surveys is one way to increase worker engagement.

Human resources professionals are constantly on the lookout for employee engagement ideas. Many companies use employee surveys to increase engagement, boost morale and find out what makes their workers tick. However, these metrics and statistics can be misleading and may even have the opposite effect if not administered properly. 

Do employee surveys work?
The question of whether employee surveys actually work is dependent upon the information a business hopes to glean and what actions are taken after results come in.

HR Zone noted that surveys are likely to be inconclusive or detrimental to employee engagement if no productive action is taken after responses are collected. This demonstrates a lack of genuine concern for employee thoughts and opinions. Even more detrimental is if a survey questions employees about pain points or areas in which workers need to improve and the employer takes no action. A survey implies a company wants to know how to increase productivity and happiness at work; when answers are blatantly ignored, workers feel as though they were led astray and lose trust in their organizations.

One way of measuring the success of a survey is response rate. As On The Same Page discussed in its Factors Influencing Employee Survey Response Rates report, the more employees who fill out the survey, the more accurate results will be. Again, this metric is largely dependent upon actions taken in the past after surveys. The report noted when a company with 800 employees administered a survey three separate times, response rates decreased dramatically due to lack of action on the part of the employer after obtaining results. The first survey returned responses from 87 percent of the company. The second, only 76 percent. By the third try, only 67 percent of employees replied. This shift occurs when businesses can't effectively interpret data or strategize effective responses.

To garner the most cohesive data and largest number of responses, businesses should consider the following tactics:

Timing
A larger number of employees will reply to a survey with a lengthy response period. However, it should be noted that the first three days will typically see the highest level of responses before dropping off dramatically. On the Same Page suggested leaving participation open for up to three weeks and sending out periodical reminders for stragglers in that time frame. 

Method
The most valuable method for administering surveys is in a large group setting. Getting workers together and handing out a survey to be completed in a specific time frame can yield a response rate between 80 percent and 90 percent. The next most effective method is email, which gives employees more flexibility and privacy.

Types of questions
HR Zone stated that to get the most productive responses from people, questions must center around the following areas:

  • Autonomy and personal development
  • Rewards and recognition
  • Motivation
  • Performance management
  • Trust and relationships
  • Well-being and involvement 

These are the only topics that will give solid insight into how workers are genuinely feeling about their positions at a company. 

Interaction
Businesses cannot expect employees to happily engage with a survey if team members don't know why it's being sent out, where the information will go or how it will affect their position. HR professionals must clearly communicate the reason for the survey and what the company hopes to do with the information. HR also should let employees know when to expect the questionnaire and follow up throughout the administration process to ensure people are responding accordingly. 

Action on all levels
The impact of taking action after administering a survey cannot be understated. Employees need to know supervisors and HR personnel on all levels are concerned with the thoughts contributed through the questionnaire. Even if there are only small changes that need to be made, upper- and mid-level management alike need to work together to make necessary changes. 

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