A constant challenge for internal communicators is the inevitable question: Should we do an employee engagement survey? Of course you should, right? What could possibly go wrong when you’re asking your internal audience for feedback on how the company operates?
The reality is that employee engagement surveys can do more harm than good unless the HR and Communication teams have a clear expectation of what they hope to achieve by administering a survey. If the intention is simply to find out how employees are feeling about their salary, their managers or the company policies, and there is no anticipation of addressing any potential concerns that arise, then it’s better left undone. Perhaps some HR and communication professionals have become skeptical of engagement surveys for just that reason. They have witnessed the successful launch of an engagement survey only to watch company morale decline as employees wait months for results and follow-up, which sometimes never comes.
That doesn’t mean you should throw up your hands and avoid employee engagement surveys all-together. It does mean you have to be well prepared for all stages of the process.
- Ensure that senior leadership is completely on board with a survey and is fully prepared to act on the results, or at least some of them, and respond to employees as to why action is not being taken on some results.
- Decide if what you need is an engagement survey or a cultural assessment (measuring the behaviours and attention to company values) of the organization. Do you have a strong culture or are you aspiring to attain one? These considerations are key to the type of survey you select.
- Do you need a third-party provider or is this something that can be done internally? Please note, employees often have trust issues with surveys and are more receptive to third-party surveys. Again, this depends of the structure of the survey (for example, does the company provide specific responses on small teams that might breach confidentiality?)
- Do your research on survey providers. What types of questions do they ask? How expensive are they? How long do they take to compile results? How do they provide results? Are there varying price structures for different needs? Can they benchmark results with other companies? Does this matter?
- Ensure the launch is good timing for your company and doesn’t conflict with busy deadlines that may prevent employees from participating. And be aware that there is likely never a perfect time to do a survey.
- Utilize senior leadership to generate buy-in.
- Provide sufficient notice that the survey is coming and clearly communicate what the intentions are (why is the survey being conducted?) as well as what the benefits are to the employees.
- Utilize all internal communication vehicles to promote the survey: intranet, newsletter, email, social media, etc.
- Let employees know how long the survey is expected to take to complete so they can plan accordingly.
- Provide reminders from senior leadership and through communication vehicles.
- Provide assurances of confidentiality (and ensure there is, in fact, confidentiality).
- If your company has a large number of field employees, consider offering an on-site kiosk or sending an external consultant to interview employees. Paper copies are always handy, with an envelope addressed to the third-party company.
- Once the survey has closed, let employees know when they can expect results to be shared.
- Utilize senior leadership to share results and updates of areas that are going to be addressed.
- Be as open and transparent as possible when sharing results with employees.
- If the results are negative and there are numerous areas that need to be addressed, consider involving employees in a solutions group(s) to create a positive culture of collaboration and improvement.
- Consider future frequency of surveys for benchmarking/measurement going forward.
When conducted appropriately and for the right reasons, an employee engagement survey or a cultural assessment can provide valuable insights for an employer and can truly result in positive outcomes. Say yes to the inevitable question and go for it!
– Leanne Rekiel, ABC (Leanne Rekiel is a team lead and consultant with Communica. She volunteers for IABC/Calgary as the Director, Professional Standards, and this blog was previously published by IABC/Calgary.)