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What Are Employee Surveys?

What Are Employee Surveys?

Employee surveys are the best method of getting feedback from large numbers of employees at the same time. The purpose is to get insight on job satisfaction, company culture, perceptions of leadership, and other aspects of how employees perceive the company.

Encouraging feedback can be difficult if employees aren’t comfortable voicing their concerns. However, reassuring employees that their responses are appreciated and have a real impact will reduce turnover and help to improve company culture.

Why are Employee Surveys Important?

Employee surveys are important because they help management understand how employees feel about the company and uncover employees’ concerns. Addressing these can encourage greater employee engagement.

How to Improve Employee Survey Response Rates

Well-crafted surveys that encourage people to engage will see more responses. To make a good survey, keep in mind how it’s created, when it’s conducted and how the company addresses feedback. Although this will take some trial and error, making improvements based on survey results will show that your company cares for their employees and can help increase response rates.

Keep It Anonymous

The issue that worries employees most is retribution for negative feedback. Even if the intention is to be constructive, management could take their feedback negatively, resulting in the employee losing their job or suffering other consequences.

For employers, receiving this honest feedback should be a top priority. Reassuring your team that reviews are anonymous helps reduce tension, because it ensures that responses will not be traced. Even if you feel that your employees trust you, there will likely be an uptick in responses if surveys are anonymous.

A potential complicating factor for anonymity is that it’s necessary to know where the company stands on issues such as race, religion, gender, etc., but not necessary to know how each respondent personally identifies. If you ask a question about how the company treats those groups, make sure it is worded in such a way that does not make employees feel like their responses will be traced to them.

Keep Questions Sensitive

This goes hand in hand with anonymity and any other kind of internal communication – be careful not to ask for sensitive information. This does depend on the company and employee population – some things may be appropriate for certain populations. Be more careful than you might expect here, you do not want to lose responses halfway through due to one insensitive question.

There is a fine line between questions that are  appropriate and questions that aren’t. For example, it is important to know whether your employees feel about diversity and if you’re a welcoming place to work. It is not appropriate to ask questions that make people identify themselves in very personal ways.

Keep It Simple

When conducting an annual survey, there will be many things you’d like to ask about. This can potentially lead to an over-complicated and bloated survey that even the most engaged employees won’t complete.

While there is no rule on how long is too long for a survey, note that SurveyMonkey found the longer a survey is, the less time respondents spend on each question, with surveys of under 20 questions performing best.

Another option is keeping it as simple as possible by asking only one question more frequently. This is known as a pulse survey – a short survey that repeats periodically. The advantages of a pulse survey over a more general survey are that it’s significantly shorter and simpler, and it gets a more detailed look at a specific issue. If used effectively, a number of pulse surveys could lead to similar results as one larger annual survey. They can also be used to track data over time at a more granular level.

Make Objectives Known

When sending the survey to your employees, make sure your objectives are clear. Tell them what the survey is for, approximately how long it should take, and when they should expect to hear results. This transparency shows that you’re serious about addressing concerns, and will help avoid low response rates, allowing you to implement changes and meet your goals.

Incentivize Responses

Offering cash or gift cards in return for survey responses can increase your responses according to a SurveyMonkey study. Offering the chance to win gift cards or a free team lunch can be more affordable alternatives to cash incentives. Remember to emphasize that winners are chosen based on participation and not the content of survey responses.

However, there is a delicate balance here. An issue that SurveyMonkey found is that incentives can skew responses in some significant ways. You may get responses from more people, but some who are only in it for the incentive may give it little thought, potentially throwing off your results at the end. 

Show the Impact

Another way to increase responses is to have a meaningful conversation about the feedback. Doing so shows employees that not only do you read their replies, but that the responses matter and can make a difference. At Barometer, we set aside a company-wide meeting to discuss the results, both the good and bad, and thank everyone for participating. This helps us keep team members engaged and show that our company appreciates their feedback. While having a town hall with all employees is not possible at all companies, showing that management is listening and being proactive is something any company can do.

Going Beyond Surveys

Overall, performing feedback surveys can help you gain more insight into employee satisfaction at your company. Although some employees may feel less inclined in sharing their thoughts, following these steps can be the start of improving your employee response rates. 

Surveys are one of the best methods for collecting feedback, however there are a multitude of ways of going about it. Many companies also incorporate individual conversations with each of their employees to discover issues in greater depth and on a personal level. At Barometer, we also analyze Glassdoor and Indeed reviews to collect employee feedback provided through those sites. However you go about it, this feedback is invaluable to improving your employee response rates.

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Published by Tom Aberman February 11, 2020
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