For years, doing business was a little like shooting an arrow while squinting in the dark. You had a general idea of what you wanted to hit, and how, but you didn’t have all the information you needed to get a clear shot. Not anymore. One of the beautiful things about today’s technology is how we can track nearly everything. How many clicks we’re getting on a particular ad. Which products customers are most likely to recommend to their friends, and therefore the ones that have more virality built into them. All this information has made it much easier for companies to make more informed choices on external matters such as design, customer service and marketing.
But what about internal matters? We know now that company processes, culture and team satisfaction are incredibly important factors in a company’s success. We also know that it’s important to regularly check in with our team members using one on one meetings or daily or weekly reports. How about getting more insights?
Free online tools for work:
1. Fluxes.com — Free Project and Task Management Software
2. Status.net — Software for Effective Communication
- Why Use Employee Questionnaires? Part 1
- 7 Best Practices for Staff Questionnaires Part 2
- Should They Be Anonymous or Non-Anonymous? Part 3
- Samples of Employee Surveys Part 4
Why use employee questionnaires?
Like many other management tools, employee questionnaires can be used to target a number of company goals. Here are just a few ways you could use them:
To identify issues and fix hidden problems:
In his renowned business and management book Creativity Inc., Ed Catmull (President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation) devotes an entire chapter to what he calls ‘The Hidden’. Catmull notes that so many rising Silicon Valley companies end up taking a wrong turn and failing, even though the leaders are brilliant, capable, ambitious, and think they are making the right decisions.
He reasons that that means there are always hidden problems lurking in our companies, teams, or products that we simply cannot perceive at a management level. So good managers need to constantly be on the lookout for hidden problems that could be sinking the company. And one of the best ways to do this is through conducting regular team surveys.
To identify and build upon your company’s strengths:
At the end of the day, your company is defined by the value you bring to your customers, and how you do that differently to your competitors. Employee surveys can be a fantastic way to keep track of whether your current plans and strategies are aligning with your company’s core strengths at an operational level, or whether you need to take a step back and change tactics.
To identify improvements:
Team surveys can be a treasure trove of valuable and innovative ideas. This is because many of your employees are actually at the coalface and dealing with clients and suppliers every day. So they will have unique insights into ways the company can improve internally to be the best it can be.
To improve culture and employee engagement:
As we’ve seen in the past, cultural issues can cause obstacles for companies, even ones as powerful as Uber. That’s why it’s incredibly important to keep checking in on your employees’ happiness and team satisfaction with employee opinion surveys. More generally, if you’ve been using your employee questionnaires to identify issues and fix hidden problems, build on your strengths, and implement improvements, then you’ve already been listening to your employees and helping them feel valued and respected.
Aside from the fact that happy and motivated employees are more productive and awesome to work with, listening to your employees and actually taking action overcomes the main challenge of team surveys. People roll their eyes or drag their feet on completing employee opinion surveys because they think they’re a waste of time and nothing will change. Prove them wrong, and your employees’ happiness and engagement will skyrocket.
Whatever you’re aiming for, try to find a good balance between conducting regular employee questionnaires so you can keep track of progress, and not be overloading your employees or yourself with action items. So experiment. Perhaps try small, targeted employee surveys every two weeks, or conduct a larger quarterly team survey, or mix it up. When you’ve settled on what suits your company, the key becomes implementing them regularly and making them a part of your company’s day-to-day work. On Status, you can do this by setting up a recurring topic that will automatically and regularly remind your team members to submit their insights on particular questions.
Ready to start experimenting? Here’s a best practices guide to conducting employee surveys.
Effective Employee Questionnaires: 7 Best Practices
Establish your objective:
Before starting a survey, narrow down what you want to achieve. Are you looking to measure your employees’ current satisfaction? Or are you looking for ideas to improve your company’s customer service? The tighter your focus, the more you can tailor your questions to get the responses and information you’re looking for.
Decide on the appropriate questions:
One of the most common challenges in creating team surveys is trying to figure out what questions to ask employees. Many researchers recommend using open-ended questions so that you can gather more information, including “hidden” information. However, it’s also good to balance with quantitative questions so that you can gauge sentiment about an issue. When asking for suggestions or detailed answers, it helps to give people a number to work toward.
For example, if you ask for general suggestions on improvements, you might receive nothing. But if you ask for your employees’ three top suggestions, then having that number to aim for will make them more likely to respond. You may also want to tailor the number of questions to how often you’re planning to have the survey recur. If it’s once a year, then you may want several questions so you can have a richly detailed data set to work from. If it’s fortnightly or once a month, then employees will likely only take the time to fill in a quick survey with a few targeted questions.
Decide whether the feed or survey will be private or public and whether you want responses to be anonymous:
On Status, you can decide whether individual survey responses are only viewable by the individual team member and their manager or human resources, or if they are team-wide or even company-wide. This will depend on whether or not you want to encourage discussion of individual answers. It also goes to the question of whether or not you want the responses to be anonymous, which we will discuss more below.
Plan your communication:
The more employees who respond to the employee questionnaire, the higher the validity and reliability of the information. So make sure you plan how you will communicate to your company about your employee surveys and why it’s important to complete them.
On Status, if you create the survey as a recurring topic, then all your participants will get automatic recurring notifications of when to respond. You should also explain to your employees the objective of the survey and how you’re planning to use and share the results. This not only helps to set expectations on the actions that will be taken out of the employee survey, it will make them more likely to complete it and more engaged once they see the promised results.
It’s easy to forget to respond to an employee questionnaire amidst our day-to-day work, so think up fun ways to motivate your employees to participate. You could promise teams who get 100% completion rates that you’ll take them out to coffee, or make it a race between different departments as to who can reach 100% completion rates first, with the winning department getting a small prize and boasting rights.
On the administrative side, you should also make it clear to employees how they can ask for help if they have any questions, and who they should contact regarding the employee questionnaire. If you’re running an employee survey designed to produce ideas to improve the company, you can also improve engagement by encouraging individual employees to come up with action plans to ensure the improvements are made and asking them to lead those improvements.
Go through the results:
Take time forming a team and dedicate resources to going through the results and examining them closely for new insights. This can be a difficult task. Employee questionnaires are meant to force us to face inconvenient truths and issues that we haven’t considered. You will need to ensure your employees are trained on how to give feedback with the goal of helping other employees or the company to improve.
On the flipside, you will need to ensure that the team going through the results understands and respects that even if they disagree with the survey answers or results, it’s important enough to an employee that they have written it down, and therefore they should treat it as important feedback and act on it accordingly. That’s why it’s crucial to have independent third parties such as another department head or an HR member alongside direct managers handling survey results.
At the end of the day, if you don’t act in a visible way on the information you’ve learned from your employee questionnaire, then your employees will quickly learn that there’s no point filling them in. On top of that, you’ll also lose employee trust and engagement if they feel their responses aren’t valued or respected. So take feedback seriously, do what you can, and explain to employees the steps you’re taking and the reasons why.
Should you have anonymous or non-anonymous employee questionnaires?
Conventional HR says we should only run anonymous surveys because otherwise, employees will be too afraid to be honest. But recently, a debate has sprung up over whether this is actually the best approach. This is because anonymous employee surveys often have two main issues:
Anonymity favors the vocal minority:
One glance at comments on any online article shows that to some people, anonymity invites them to be incredibly negative. You’re not looking for that, you’re looking for constructive criticism that will help your company. This can also skew results, as this ‘vocal minority’ may be more likely to respond to the survey than someone who is perfectly content.
Lack of traceability:
You can’t follow up with individuals who have great ideas or have particular issues and need to be supported. This means you lose one of the great benefits of engaging your employees directly in improving your company.
For these reasons, we’re fans of direct, transparent, and non-anonymous feedback. We think that people will take more time and give more thought to their responses when they know they have to stand by their statements. We also think that the ability to go back to someone who’s reported an issue or offered a suggestion to give them more support or invite them to be part of the solution is too powerful to miss out on.
Ultimately, if employees are scared to state their mind in surveys, that’s more a cultural issue than a survey issue.
You can read more about how to improve internal communication here.
Employee Survey Types
So now you’re armed with a step-by-step guide and tips and best practices, what survey should you start off with? And what sort of questions should you ask your employees? Here are some ideas:
Employee Satisfaction Survey
As we discussed earlier, satisfied employees are more productive, participative, and are more likely to stick longer with the company. Moderate to high levels of dissatisfaction can also be the canary in the coal mine as to whether your company has a large cultural issue. So it’s important to regularly check in and address issues that are raised with job satisfaction questionnaires or attitude surveys. Here’s an example with sample employee survey questions.
Employee Pulse Survey
You can conduct a broad or targeted pulse survey if you want to check employees’ sentiments about particular issues. You can also periodically conduct a company pulse survey to raise any ‘hidden’ issues. Here’s an example with sample employee survey questions.
Organizational Culture Survey
Your company culture is a huge factor in how effective and innovative your team is, so you should regularly check in to see if everyone is aligned or if adjustments need to be made. Here’s an example with sample company culture questions.
New Hire or Employment Questionnaires
You can also target employee surveys to see if you can improve processes, like onboarding new hires or company training. Here’s an example with sample employee survey questions.
Employee Exit Surveys
Employees who are leaving are a rich source of valuable information, whether they are resigning, retiring, or have been fired. So take the opportunity to learn from anything they have to say. Here’s an example with sample employee survey questions.
The combination of data analytics and customer-centered design tools is making it easier than ever to track and develop our companies’ external processes. But don’t forget to reflect inwards as well and check in on your employees and company culture. There are so many ways that to target your questionnaires to get the information on how your company is tracking. The examples above are only the beginning.
So now that you’re armed with our best practices, it’s time to choose objectives and plan an employee survey.
How to use status.net for asking open-ended questions:
- Examples of open-ended questions you can ask: “What did you do today?” or “How did you contribute to the team’s goals this week?”. Or create your own open-ended questions.
- Each reply has a separate section for comments, which is used for additional questions and discussions.
- Peace of mind: No one forgets to answer because status.net sends timely reminders according to the recurrence schedule you chose.
- Collect all answers in one place for future reference thanks to powerful filtering and export features.
- Optionally, enrich reports with the latest information automatically added from web apps your team uses (such as project management tools, version control systems, support systems, financial applications, CRM, etc.) by connecting these apps to your status feed.
- Spend less time on meetings by making them more productive because everyone is on the same page at all times.Here is how to configure open-ended questions on status.net (this is just an example – you can create any questions you want):
How to configure:
- Create a feed and set up a recurrence.
- Configure who will write and read status updates by choosing the “Participants” tab and then clicking the “Cog” button near “Feed Participants” title.
- Set the status feed as “Team-wide” if you want all team members to view each other’s status updates.
- Alternatively, you can allow access to status updates for certain participants only (such as yourself if you’re a team lead). In this case, turn “Team-wide” mode OFF and restrict viewing by unchecking “View” properties for other participants. Team members with the “View” checkbox unchecked will only be able to view their own status updates.
- If you’re a manager and you don’t plan to share your status updates with your team, uncheck “Update” for yourself – in this case, you won’t receive reminders.
- The Recurrence setting configures how often participants receive email reminders to fill in their status updates. This feature is optional and can be turned off.
- You can add, remove, and assign new team members at any time.
Step 2: The text of the status update should be added to the “Update” field of status feed.
As soon as a new status update is added, participants with “View” rights can view it in real time when they log in to their accounts. They will also automatically receive emails with the full text of status updates.