Employee surveys are tools used by organisations to gain feedback on, and measure a wide range of issues around employee engagement, employee morale, and performance. Usually answered anonymously, surveys are also used to gain a holistic picture of employees’ feelings on such areas as working conditions, supervisory impact, and motivation that regular channels of communication may not. Surveys are considered effective in this regard provided they are well-designed, effectively administered, have validity, and evoke changes and improvements.
Modern technology enables organisations of any size to conduct their own surveys, contract with a survey provider, or use a combination of both. Main-line survey providers have traditionally used similar survey question types and survey length over the course of years and throughout various industries. Comparison databases provide standard ranges on which certain factors can be placed, as well as correlations between coexisting factors. In contrast, on-line survey software has provided organisations with the tools to design and conduct their own surveys.
A critical factor in designing your own employee surveys is the wording of the question. Questions that are vague, use technical jargon, are relevant to only a segment of survey-takers, or use phrasing that is interpreted differently across audiences sabotage survey effectiveness. Multiple choice answers, likewise, are a concern when there are missing plausible choices, or when choices are too wordy or too numerous.
Employee surveys, like referendums, can be used to assess views on specific, usually one-off, topics. They can also be highly valuable in measuring progress and changing attitudes, but to do this effectively there must be consistency in both the content and manner of the questions asked.
Employee surveys need to be seen as transparent. Questions that only cover the employer’s perspective on a particular topic whilst omitting the employees’ perspective will dissuade people from participating and may well generate resentment.
In interpreting the results from employee surveys, it is important to take into account the levels of participation. If participation levels are low, what are those who did not participate actually telling you?