Why Employee Surveys—And How You Collect Them—Matter

Sign that says 'We hear you'

How to ask the right questions in the right way to find out what's really going on

In today’s tight labor market, keeping your finger on the pulse of your workforce is more critical than ever. It’s much cheaper to handle issues with your workplace environment and employee satisfaction rather than to deal with the cost and hassle of high turnover. Not to mention other expensive issues like lawsuits or infractions. Surveying employees consistently and being responsive to what they say should be standard business practice—but doing it right is key.

Survey Consistently

Using employee surveys allows companies to find and tackle small issues before they become big problems. Surveys also help your employees to feel valued and supported. When you invite employees to engage in the company conversation, they are more likely to take ownership of the goals and initiatives that result. According to a Harvard Business Review article about the effectiveness of employee surveys, you can even influence behavior based on the issues you draw attention to. But to be effective, you have to be careful about how you implement surveys, and how you use them.

Tell employees ahead about the survey. Explain why you want their feedback and what you will do with the responses. Relay how you will gather information, how it will be analyzed, how you will react to it, and why it matters. Also, make sure employees know that individual responses will be confidential.

Make It Anonymous—Really

If you want employees to feel confident and comfortable giving honest feedback, make your surveys anonymous. This is critical if you seek feedback on sensitive issues such as management, harassment and employee conflict. If employees distrust the anonymity of a survey, they are more likely to respond dishonestly, by giving answers they think managers want to hear, instead of stating the truth. Or worse, they may not respond at all—and the group that doesn’t respond may be those who have the most critical things to say.

This will be especially true if, in the past, employees have seen managers react with denial or defensiveness to problems highlighted in a survey. If management has tried to ferret out respondents by demanding additional explanation or being critical of results, employees will keep quiet in the future.

It’s important to thoroughly assess the survey tool used. There are plenty of free survey options available, but are they truly anonymous? Even if they claim to be, many will use tracking to collect information on respondents, and they may even sell it to third-party marketers. With the current climate of information hacks and the feeling of employees that their employer is like Big Brother, able to track their every move, employees will naturally distrust the anonymity of that type of survey software.

A better solution is to use a third-party administrator or a separate online feedback platform. For example, Suggestion Ox allows employers to create a survey on a separate platform, then send employees an address to access the survey from any device they choose. The results can be shared on a private page, and can even include responses so employees will know where you stand. It also allows companies to organize responses and take action—which is the key to it all.

Focus on Follow Up

Once collected, be sure employees see that responses are used in a constructive way. Acknowledge any issues highlighted and own responsibility for taking action to resolve them. It’s this positive feedback loop that encourages employees to participate in future surveys—and to be part of the solution as problems are addressed.

Employee surveys let your workforce know you’re listening and that you care. And as a doctor’s checkup can avoid a major medical issue, consistently checking the pulse of your workforce can avoid a costly business breakdown.

Suggestion Ox has turbocharged the suggestion box. Over 60,000 companies, associations and government agencies use their anonymous online suggestion box to gather actionable employee feedback, gain customer insights or empower whistleblowing and reporting.

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