Surveying employees is an effective first step in fixing communication barriers in an organisation. Even if there are no obvious problems, communication surveys can help get an organisation to the next level of performance.
Benefits in conducting an employee communication survey and acting on the results include:
• improved employee satisfaction
• lower turnover
• reduced absenteeism
• less political infighting
• greater levels of manager-worker trust
• reduced defect rates
• higher customer satisfaction
A well-run communication survey can give you these benefits. However, a poorly conducted communication survey can have the opposite effect. Surveys badly planned, rolled-out and followed-up can actually increase employee cynicism and resistance to change. They can also increase employee turnover and absenteeism. This can negatively impact customer satisfaction and your bottom line.
Employee Communication Survey Tips
So, what do you need to consider before rolling out your survey? Here are some tips.
Include in your survey questions that require limited tick-the-box responses, such as Yes/No and Strongly Agree/Agree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree. Including these questions will allow
you to perform quantitative analyses that you can use to compare results between different demographics and to use as a benchmark for future surveys.
However, equally as important is the provision of free form space which affords employees the opportunity to elaborate on the feedback they have given elsewhere on the form and to discuss in detail anything that has not been covered in the other areas of the survey. A good idea is to run Focus Groups with a random sample of respondents after the survey forms have been
collected and analysed. These discussion groups are invaluable in performing a sanity check on your results so far and in teasing out issues that have surfaced in the written survey.
Guarantee absolute anonymity for the people completing the survey and make this clear in the survey instructions. Some employees will either not complete the survey or give sanitised answers if they believe that their identity will be disclosed with their answers and comments.
Should you survey the whole organisation/department or a select group? Preferably, survey all employees as this gives everyone a sense of being listened to. If the organisation/department is excessively large or budget is tight, draw a random sample from each of the demographic groups that you will be reporting on.
If your selection is not random, the communication survey results will not be representative and you will lose credibility with your employees. If a demographic group comprises 50 people or less, you will need to survey 100 percent of the people within that group.
Mode of delivery
If the people completing the survey are small in number and at a single location, then hardcopy distribution will not be a problem. As the number of respondents increases and the locations become more dispersed, more consideration will need to be given to electronic distribution. Think about putting the survey on a local intranet or internet web server.
To make filling out the employee survey form easy for people, have it so that the form can be completed online. If this is not possible, either send the form by email or put it on an accessible server from which people can download it. If your survey respondents are not comfortable
with technology, then be wary of online options and provide plenty of employee support if you decide to go down that road.
Inducements and Reminders
Survey participation rates do not tend to be particularly high, typically ten percent or less. You can dramatically improve on this completion rate by conducting some simple follow-up. As you get closer to the communication survey cut-off date (of course, you will have publicised that
date with your survey), send out an e-mail reminder or arrange for someone to call the respondents personally. Consider advertising a raffle for all survey participants - this will increase the participation rate (especially if it is a good prize).
Once the employee feedback results are in and analysed, distribute your findings first to your managers and then to employees. Withholding results from employees will only breed cynicism and distrust and will make getting a satisfactory response rate from your next survey all that more difficult.
Break down your results into meaningful groups, such as by department or by location/site. The reporting groupings need to be small enough that people can identify with the group enough for a meaningful action plan to be developed.
Be prepared for some kickback from defensive managers. Frank employee feedback is both confronting and jarring, especially for those managers not used to it. Use your best facilitation skills to deliver the key messages, or use a professional facilitator to perform this sensitive task.
Follow-up and Rewards
A survey conducted with no plan for action is not only a waste of resources but will leave employees asking why they bothered to give feedback to managers on how they felt. Work with each manager to construct an action plan that they agree with. Remember, it is the manager that will be implementing the communication plan, not you. Get back with each manager three
or six months later to review how they are progressing with their communication plan and report the results to the organisation. As you see communication practices improve across the organisation, make sure that managers get rewarded.
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