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Why you’re doing employee surveys all wrong

27 Sept Youre doing surveys all wrong content

We’ve all had it: that sinking feeling when the employee survey lands in your inbox.

It might be a cry of “not another one”, exasperation at not being heard or that age-old dilemma of how honest you should really be.

Yet as employers, the employee survey is something we know we should be doing. After all, how else are we supposed to know how our employees really feel? Plus, it just feels like the right thing to do…

But are you getting what you need from your employee surveys? And if not, why not?

Employee surveys should be more than a tick-box activity. Done well, they’re a goldmine of data that can help you improve your employer brand, increase productivity and engagement, raise your retention rates and reduce hiring and onboarding costs.

So why aren’t they working for the vast majority of organisations?

Well, my guess is that most companies are getting one or all of the following wrong: Timing, Accessibility and Action.

Let’s have a look.

Timing: How long and how often?

The timing and frequency of surveys is a biggie. In terms of frequency, for example, there’s a sweet ‘Goldilocks’ spot with employee surveys – and it’s important that you hit it.

The fact is that most companies are either doing surveys too often or not enough – either they’re conducting them annually (which, given the fast pace of economic and social changes gives them next to zero useful data), or they’re pushing them out too often, wasting everyone’s time and creating a massive yawn-fest.

Yep, survey fatigue is real, people.

And then there’s the actual length of the survey. I think we all know that a survey the size of an epic novel isn’t going to engage most employees. So trim it down to ask only the most pertinent questions and focus on the stuff you can change.

TOP TIP: Only survey with the same frequency as you can act. In other words, if you’re not in a position to make changes based on your employee feedback every month, don’t ask for it.

Accessibility: Are you talking their language?

Ever encountered a question in a survey that made you think…”huh?” That’s a clear marker of a bad survey, and it will turn your people off. Using technical jargon, vague language or questions with a not-so-hidden agenda are also big no-nos.

You’ll also need to make sure it’s as easy as pie for your staff to complete the survey. Making it mobile friendly, giving them time to complete it during work time and ensuring it works on multiple devices will all avoid unnecessary stumbling blocks.

Oh, and if people think there’s even a chance the survey isn’t as anonymous as you make out, it’ll be a no from them.

TOP TIP: Before launching, test your survey with a small group of employees to identify – and bin – any confusing questions.

Action: Can you put your money where your mouth is?

There’s nothing more likely to make employees apathetic about surveys than thinking no one’s listening. Consider this: why should they take the time to complete it if they’re not seeing actions on their feedback?

The truth is, people don’t get tired of surveys. They get tired of nothing changing as a result. If your surveys are gathering dust at a greater rate than they’re gathering data, they’re more than just a waste of time – they’re actively harming your employer brand.

TOP TIP: Share with employees how their feedback last time resulted in changes – “You said this, so we did this” is about as powerful as you can get.

Worryingly, only around 16% of UK companies say they are making their employee retention strategy a priority. And yet these same companies say that staff turnover is an expense they can’t afford to make.

Taking the time to make employee surveys work for you rather than against you is the best thing you can do for your people today. Getting it right will not only engage your staff, but it will make rather than break your retention strategy.

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