Employee survey techniques have developed significantly over the past few years, with web based technologies it is easier and cheaper than ever to collect and manage data.
In the past, any HR driven initiative was seen as tactical and of little real benefit to the organization as a whole. Now many enlightened organizations see HR and employee surveys as a powerful business improvement tool.
Customers now have a greater range of choices than ever and are becoming increasingly better informed . This in turn means that many have very high expectations and, if they feel they are being “short changed” in any way, they take the initiative and switch their allegiance. This reduction in consumer loyalty can create difficulties in retaining existing customers, causing organizations to increase the amount they spend on engaging new customers.
Consumer choice has also brought greater competitiveness to the market and in many situations it is difficult for an organization to differentiate itself from the competition in terms of production range, quality and price. As a result, the main differentiator for organizations has to be the quality of service that the customer receives. This may well result in people buying from you because they engage with specific individuals and the service/ attitude they offer.
When was the last time you went out to a restaurant for a special meal. Regardless of the quality of the food and the price, if the service was poor, you forget how good the food was and you will probably not visit that restaurant again.
Following on this same principle, there is a significant amount of survey demonstrating that employees have the greatest single impact on customer service. In the eyes of the customer, the employee they interact directly with is “the face” of that organization and heavily influences how they feel about the organization.
It is vital for every interaction to be a positive one, not just for the customer, but for the employee as well. If the customer is happy, they spend more money , which naturally improves the organization’s overall business performance. Likewise, higher employee satisfaction levels can come about as customer satisfaction and business performance levels increase because of the pride and kudos that come from working for a successful company.
Research shows that the most successful organizations have satisfied, motivated, flexible, committed and well-trained employees who believe that they are able to personally contribute to the success of the organization, in turn they are more likely to be supportive of the organization’s products, strategy and goals.
The most successful organizations get the most from their employees because they consider them to “their greatest asset” and they are prepared to invest in them in the same way as they invest in technology, product/brand development and customer segmentation. This means considering employees as a key stakeholder group in the same way as customers, shareholders and other corporate “investments. This leads to a critical need to understand and proactively manage the impact that any change will have on your employees in order to protect the investment made in them. In many cases your business IS your people.
One approach is to proactively use employee survey to understand what the key motivators and dissatisfiers are for them. The critical link between employee satisfaction and organizational performance has been clearly established in many independent and academic studies, people practices were found to have a significant impact on improvements not only in employee satisfaction, but also in the organization’s productivity and financial performance.
Different Types of Employee Survey Programmes
Annual climate and employee satisfaction surveys are by far the most popular kind of employee survey activity. However, the following types of survey programs are also gaining in popularity:
- Combining employee and customer satisfaction studies.
- Procedure/policy evaluation.
- Alignment of employees behind new product development.
- Alignment of employees behind organizational rebranding and repositioning efforts.
- Managing employees through organizational change programs (e.g. merger, acquisition/downsizing, etc.).
- Internal customer service evaluations.
- Internal communications evaluations.
- Evaluation and design of different benefits schemes.
Defining Employee Survey Goals and Objectives
Before starting on a staff survey process, it is vital to define a set of objectives for the survey. Without these objectives, the survey program will lack focus and it will be difficult to raise enthusiasm for the survey among your key influencers and decision-makers.
All employee survey programs need to be seen as a company-wide initiative that is driven by managers and employees from across the whole organization and not something that is solely initiated and managed just within HR.
It is therefore vital that any defined objectives for a survey are business related. In this way, improvements resulting from the survey can be seen as improving customer service and overall business performance.
Deciding on the Appropriate Survey Methodology
Defining objectives at the outset will help to determine the methodology because, to meet the desired objectives, you will need to consider the following:
- Are all employees affected and should all employees need to be involved?
- Will changes and improvement action be required at different levels across the organization?
- How will managers and employees be engaged in the improvement process?
- How will awareness of the survey, its results and improvements be raised and managed among employees?
- How will the progress of improvement actions be reviewed, monitored and communicated over time?
Quantitative and qualitative research methods can both be highly effective in employee surveys. It is essential, though, to ensure that the correct methodology is used for the type of survey being conducted.
Qualitative research is most appropriate when:
- The research involves relatively small groups of people,
- You are looking to pursue a subject in real detail,
- You are looking for the flexibility to move between subjects dependent on how participants respond,
- You are attempting to determine strength of feeling on a certain subject,
- You are trying to understand root causes of a feeling rather than just the symptoms of issues,
- You are trying to seek the connections between issues,
- You are surveying particularly complex issues.
Face-to-face individual interviews and focus groups are the most common forms of qualitative techniques used in employee research.
Quantitative research is most appropriate when:
- Large numbers of people need to be included,
- The survey needs to cover a large number of different subjects,
- It is important to have robust numerical data,
- You need to have measurable comparison data between different groups,
- You want to be able to compare performance against other external organizations,
- You want to identify correlation with other survey data (e.g. customer satisfaction data),
Employee satisfaction surveys are the most common form of quantitative research.
There are occasions when both methodologies can be effectively combined. For example, in an employee satisfaction survey, you may decide to use focus groups before designing the survey in order to determine the survey content and/or pilot questionnaire. Then you may also want to use qualitative research after the survey data has been collected to better understand the meaning behind the quantitative results.
Employee Satisfaction Surveys
It is worthwhile examining employee satisfaction surveys in more detail given that they are the most popular type of employee survey.
Census or Sample
Having defined your survey objectives, the next thing to consider is whether there is a need to survey all employees (“census”) or just a subset of them (“sample”).
Evidence overwhelmingly suggests that a census survey is most appropriate for employee satisfaction surveys. This is mainly due to the need to drive through improvement action planning at local levels which requires frontline managers to be provided with their own reports. By undertaking a sample survey, there may either be not enough responses to provide a report or the number of responses may represent too small a proportion of the whole employee population to be considered statistically robust.
Employee buy-in is critical to the success of the survey. If they believe that improvements will result from the survey, they are more likely to participate by completing it and will become actively involved in the follow-up improvement action planning process. This is another strong reason for a census approach rather than sample.
Communication is critical to getting this employee buy-in, particularly at the outset of the program and we recommend developing a communications plan that covers the following stages:
- Pre Survey
- During the Survey
- Post Survey
- Between Surveys
When developing the plan, there is a need to consider the different messages that you want to give to the different audiences and what are the most appropriate communication channels for reaching those audiences.
For example, it is important for first line managers and immediate supervisors to be positive role models for the survey so that when they interact with their staff, they demonstrate active encouragement of the survey, a commitment to administer it properly and to act on the results. This is important because employees are usually heavily influenced by their immediate supervisors or line managers. If they do not think that their manager/supervisor believes in the survey, then neither will they. The whole process is then derailed before it starts.
Part 2 continues this article