Creating an Employee Survey That's Worth Your Time / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Introducing an employee survey for the first time can be daunting. There are many questions to answer before you even get to the...

Introducing an employee survey for the first time can be daunting. There are many questions to answer before you even get to the questions you want to ask your employees. Fundamentally, you'll need support from key stakeholders and ensure that all are clear on the survey's objectives. But a successful survey goes beyond these basic steps. Here are 4 essential guidelines to follow when creating an employee survey that's worth everyone's time (and money):

1. Choose the right survey tool

Consider what best suits your organization- taking into account your budgets, how sophisticated an approach you need and whether your employees are all computer literate and have access to a PC. Typically companies will either run an employee survey as a paper-based exercise or using an online tool (or a combination of both).

With an online survey, you have several options. SmartSurvey and SurveyGizmo are free survey software, which can be used to set up basic surveys that can be emailed to respondents (Tweet These Tools!). These are quick and simple to use, offering features like different question types and rating scales, multiple languages and the ability to export results to Excel.

Related:The Evolution of Workplace Psychology

For more sophisticated surveys -- for example, if you want different levels of questions for different employee groups, question filtering, custom reporting, analytic and action planning functions -- you'll need a more advanced tool. And this may not come cheap -- typically such tools cost tens of thousands of dollars.

2. Use attention-grabbing communications

Figure out how best to communicate with employees and don't lazily rely solely on email, wondering why you got low survey participation.

Be innovative: use notice boards, face-to-face presentations or focus groups, company intranet, videos, letters -- whatever it takes. Jukebox is a great, free online poster-making resource to save on design costs.

Make sure to emphasize the following: the survey's purpose, why employees should take part, when the survey runs, confidentiality assurances and what happens with the results.

3. Design a killer questionnaire

First things first, keep a couple of key design principles in mind:

  • Keep the survey as short as possible -- it should take no more than 10 or 15 minutes to complete (Tweet)
  • Make sure questions are actionable so it'll be easy to act on low scores.

Broadly, your survey should be made up of two distinct types of questions; standardized ones that can be benchmarked externally, and questions that are specific to your organization and can help shape your strategies and business plans. Below I've included a few examples of each:

Standardized questions:

I intend to be still working for the company in a year's time

I am willing to go the extra mile for the company

I feel that I am well managed

I am happy with my opportunities for career development

Organization-specific questions:

The one thing that would make working at [company name] better is

What do you love most about working for [company name]?

I believe that [company name] will become a better place to work within the next year

I understand why [Company name] has a strategic focus on excellent customer service

Related:9 HR Basics for Any Small Business

4. Turn results into action

To successfully turn survey results into action, you must involve teams in the process so that it becomes a collaborative, team-led activity- rather than something company-led.

This is a typical report template we use to communicate results and here are a few tips of what to include in a survey report and how to structure it:

  • A simple one-page overview of results giving headline facts such as participation rate, highest and lowest scoring questions and a benchmark comparison of their business area versus the company overall
  • More detailed analysis of every survey question showing a mean score, percentage agree and disagree and using a red-amber-green (or RAG status) to indicate which are above and below external benchmark level at other companies
  • A list of the 3-5 most important survey questions/themes for action planning based on areas that most strongly impact upon employee engagement.

Line managers hold the key in most organizations when it comes to turning results into action so offer plenty of support and make it easy for them to interpret results and identify key action areas.

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Author Bio: Ben Egan is a consultant specialising in communications strategies at UK-based HR consultancy and bespoke technology firm ETS are experts in employee engagement, development and performance appraisal working with major global businesses including PepsiCo, Tesco and RBS.

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