One of the best ways to keep abreast of the thoughts and opinions of your employees is to perform periodic surveys. If you are thinking about doing the first employee survey ever done in your company, here are a few tips to help you obtain information that will be easily measured, constructive, and provide you with ideas on how to improve the working environment.
- Organizing your survey into specific sections will accomplish two goals. First, you set the stage for the employee to be thinking in broad terms about a particular aspect of the company. As an example, if the employee reads that the upcoming set of questions has to do with the function of a specific department within the organization, he will begin to focus on what he knows about that department. If the next section has to do with the individual's perception of his immediate supervisor or manager, then it is easy to focus in on that particular aspect of the workplace. By taking a moment to ask questions in a logical sequence, the responses are more likely to truly reflect the opinion of the employee than if the questions skipped around.
- When it comes to the structure of the questions themselves, keep them concise and self-explanatory. Ambiguity will not help you to receive constructive responses to your questions. For instance, you will get a much more helpful response by asking, "Do you feel comfortable asking your supervisor a question related to an assigned task?" rather than, "Do your consider your supervisor to be a good communicator?"
- Along with making sure your questions are precise, make sure the optional responses are also exact. Generally, you will get much more useful data with questions that can be responded to with a simple yes or no, or at least a choice of three to four responses. By imposing limits on the possible responses, you create the ability to relate all the collected data and begin to identify patterns. Those patterns will help you identify areas where your employees consider the company to be strong as well as point to where employees tend to think the company needs to work harder.
- This does not mean that you should completely omit the chance for your employees to offer other comments. Any good employee survey will include a section where the employee is free to share comments about anything related to his position or the company in general. This section will be one that you will need to evaluate singly, rather than rolling into the overall assessment of the survey results. But often it can help you refine your questions for the next survey, or identify a potential morale-crushing situation before it becomes a real problem.
- Anonymity of the employee is another option that you want to provide as part of the survey. While some employees will want to provide their names, others will be more forthcoming if they have the option of remaining nameless. Allow both options, and reassure those who wish to share their names that the information will be kept in the strictest confidence.
Employee surveys can help keep the workplace productive and unified if the survey helps to identify potential areas of concern while still helping employees to understand that their thoughts do make a difference.