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The Power of Employee Engagement Surveys

The one constant in business is change: employees are looking for growth, businesses merge, companies shrink and grow, leadership shifts.

Add that to all the “normal” changes in a global pandemic and we find ourselves at the perfect time to reassess and measure the degree to which our employees are engaged at work.

We are hearing a lot about the Great Resignation and the Turnover Tsunami – why not take this opportunity to get to the bottom of it all and ASK our employees what they want and expect from their employer.

Cue employee engagement surveys. Although these surveys are not a new tool, they do remain an excellent way to measure employee satisfaction and identify actionable areas of improvement. When building out your survey, there are three things to keep in mind: timing and format, the questions being asked, and the action plan based on the data received.

What’s the right timing?

NOW! Any time you don’t have a strong indication of how your employees feel is a good time to release a survey. Some considerations that might suggest a delay include a business’s busy season, vacations, and major changes in organization, corporate structure or goals. Big changes need some time to digest and simmer down before being asked about them.

What questions should be asked?

It’s important to measure, in some fashion, employees’ intent to remain at the job, interest in referring a friend into the organization, communication amongst the company, pride (and also trust) in the company, employees’ perspective on their pay and benefits, and motivation.

We want to ensure we’re asking questions that will help us take meaningful, positive action based on the answers. Questions that prompt responses like the following will do the trick:

  • I plan to be working here in a year
  • I would recommend the company as a great place to work
  • I trust my manager/leader/leadership team
  • I feel that the company’s leadership has positioned us for success
  • My manager inspires me
  • I feel a sense of belonging here

The best surveys provide both quantitative and qualitative data, so be sure to ask open-ended questions, such as:

  • How would you suggest improving communication across the organization?
  • Where would you like additional training?
  • What are you most proud of working at the company?
  • What is one thing you would change at the company?
  • Why did you join the company?
  • What makes you stay at the company?

Beware of:

  • Questions around work/life balance. Wait, don’t we have to ask that?! Well, only ask if you can truly make adjustments based on feedback. Line manufacturing, in-person roles, and emergency support don’t all have that luxury – don’t ask if you can’t pivot. You can ask about current workload or levels of stress, which often gets to the work/life balance issue.
  • Feedback. Ugh, feedback. People say they want it but are wired to be defensive. I’d position this question to ask about their level of trust in leadership. If employees trust their leaders, they can hear feedback better and are much more likely to take it to heart – if they don’t trust it, they may not.
  • Too many open-ended questions. Although these questions can give great perspective (as noted above) they can be hard to corral or analyze thematically. Carefully consider adding them without a great way to measure them. Just make sure you have the bandwidth or a great tool to help pull together like-minded responses. This can be a very manual exercise so consider only picking a few key questions for your first foray here.

What’s your action plan based on the responses?

You must thank the survey takers, acknowledge the feedback, and address the results.

Often, this tangles leadership up because they feel like they need to address and take action on every single thing. However, this isn’t the case. If a survey reveals that everyone wants free lunch, you don’t need to DO it, but you need to address it and say what you CAN do.

We don’t need to make decisions that may negatively impact the business, but we do need to communicate with employees that we heard them, explain why we can or can’t make a change (transparency is key!), and empathize with them.

In short, employee engagement surveys may help with diagnosing engagement issues, but they aren’t necessarily the prescription. There are some pitfalls.

Here are the top 3 things to avoid when kicking off a survey:

  1. Being vague – not explaining why we’re seeking employees’ feedback, and how important their transparency is can be a real red flag. Employees thrive when they can tie their role with the company’s mission – any level of nebulous communication is sure to ring oddly and almost certainly will hurt your participation rates.
  2. Using “big” words like culture, communication, and mission without specificity in the definition is a miss. Almost all surveys come out with at least one finding that “communication could be better” but without being able to drill down on that definition, leaders wind up guessing at the problem, and therefore, the solutions.
  3. No follow up – not only should we THANK people for their time, but we also owe them some reporting out. Be transparent and let them know what to expect as next steps.

Other ways to check in on employee engagement levels include focus groups moderated by a neutral party, shorter and more frequent pulse surveys throughout the year, and STAY (instead of the traditional exit) interviews. Together, they form a great strategy for ensuring that employees feel valued and heard!

Connect with a OneDigital Strategist to craft custom strategies, including surveys, to maximize employee engagement and develop greater loyalty within an organization.

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