HR surveys can be a powerful tool for Human Resources, but many employees have good reasons to be skeptical. When used correctly, routine surveys can identify problems and open up new channels for communication and accountability. Discover how to use HR surveys to strengthen the culture in your workplace.
How are employee surveys conducted?
Some HR departments keep a box accessible for employees to deposit complaints and comments anonymously, but a survey is a more active way to solicit employee input. Employee surveys collect feedback from workers, usually in response to specific questions. They can be submitted on paper or electronically, though like most of HR, online surveys are increasingly the norm.
Types of surveys
Surveys can poll workers on new proposals and recent changes. More general questions about employee satisfaction and motivation can serve as “climate surveys.”
Open-ended fill-in-the-blank questions can capture meaningful qualitative data, but rigid scales like “rate from one to five” make it easier to compare changes over time. Some of the most meaningful information may come from seeing how employee satisfaction changes over the years.
Timing and frequency
Different types of surveys should be used at different times.
- 360 reviews and regular meetings with team leaders can include a few short rating questions.
- Broader surveys about the overall company culture should be less frequent.
- When you offer training on new policies and procedures, that’s a good time to survey workers as well as test their comprehension of the training material.
- When new initiatives like a workplace giving program strive to improve the company culture, it’s good to compare employee survey results from before and a few months after the new program.
Why should HR conduct surveys?
You probably have one or two primary goals with surveys, like collecting feedback on a new policy, but try to plan ahead for the big picture. Properly managed surveys can accomplish several things at once for HR.
Give employees a voice
A few workers have zero qualms about complaining to HR routinely. The average employee, however, has few opportunities to express their concerns and anxieties within the company. Surveys can build trust and confidence in workers when you actually address their concerns.
When managers and senior staff are part of the problem, then workers may fear negative consequences for speaking out. Other workers may simply feel like their opinions aren’t valued.
Track and compare how employees are feeling
Motivation and engagement can undermine productivity, but subjective problems are hard to measure. Even when you believe that HR and management are being super transparent and supportive, the perspective of employees might be starkly different. Likewise, socials and events that are popular with employees may not have a long term effect on morale.
Identify issues and opportunities
Anonymous complaints might appear in a suggestion box, but some employees will only voice concerns when asked directly. Regular surveys allow you to check in with employees about their unique perspectives. Anonymous surveys allow you to hold leadership accountable.
- Are there bottlenecks and efficiency problems that need to be addressed?
- Have recent policies created unintended complications?
- Who is making sure that managers are doing their jobs effectively?
- Do you know which managers are causing more frustrations for their subordinates?
Over the past few decades, advances in software have made data integration essential for HR. Even when you only have a few workers to manage, quantitative surveys give you concrete data to judge the success or failure of new policies.
Set benchmarks for employee satisfaction and decide which aspects of your company culture to focus on improving. Surveys are powerful for predicting turnover when you simply ask employees about their plans. Skipping questions and avoiding questions can be a sign of disengagement, which might also lead to turnover.
Deciding which issues to target in routine surveys, you can shape the culture by reminding workers about core values of the company. Surveys are tools for starting a conversation with workers, but simply asking questions can be enough to begin changing the company culture.
Get employees to think more critically about how they communicate with their colleagues. Teamwork and engagement aren’t just passively received by employees–they need to actively participate in the culture they want to promote.
Tips for creating HR surveys
Starting surveys from scratch can feel awkward. Unlike in elementary school, you’ll need to do better than “check yes or no.” Keep these tips in mind when creating HR surveys:
Keep it short and simple
Don’t make surveys so long that they become a distraction from daily tasks. One or two open-ended questions are fine, but simple number-rating scales will provide useful data that’s easier to compare later. Too many questions and frequent surveys can lead to fatigue and rushed, inaccurate answers.
Involve employees in design and analysis
Surveys can open channels of communication before they even begin. Choose a couple of workers who can help you design the questions. Representatives from different departments can anticipate how employees might respond to different questions.
Explain the purpose of your survey (and make sure you’ve clearly defined the purpose for yourself). If results are surprising, then employee representatives may be able to explain the disconnect.
Choose the right questions to ask
Make sure the survey focuses on metrics that you can actually address from one outreach to the next, so workers don’t feel ignored. Think critically about your own bias and the mindset of employees.
- Are certain assumptions baked into your questions?
- Will employees be afraid of “outing” themselves or causing problems if they answer honestly?
- Are you prepared to take action to correct problems identified?
Ensure anonymity and confidentiality
Employees won’t be honest if they’re afraid of negative consequences. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to ensure anonymity when you administer surveys internally. Paper surveys can provide a limited degree of anonymity, but they are time-consuming to implement and impractical with remote or hybrid workforces.
Always follow-up and share results
Much like your suggestion box, you can’t be expected to act on every single response. Nevertheless, just sharing the results of surveys will help employees feel heard. Without providing too much detail, you can assure participants that you’re taking action based on employee feedback.
You may not want to provide specific averages on the answers to different questions, since workers might adjust their personal answers in response to the averages. Try to make real changes in response to survey feedback, and employees will appreciate the visible effort.
Discover how Netchex can help make HR surveys easier for your company:
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