Employee Surveys - Valuable tool for HR Professionals
The employee survey is an effective tool available to HR Professionals for organization diagnosis. Especially when you are not sure where to start, while designing blueprint, and articulating development initiatives for improvements. Mr. Ralph Christensen, advocate the same point in his book 'Roadmap to Strategic HR', 2006 (Access the organization's readiness for change). As doctor carry out different tests prior to treatment, to diagnose the problem. Similarly, we can use the survey as a tool for diagnosing problems prevailing within an organization.
Employee surveys also facilitate fact-based decision making. In the advent of 'Big data', and decision making based on 'HR Analytics', significance of the Employee surveys had increased to a great extent. ( 'Big Data in HR' report by Josh Bersin, Principal Analyst, Bersin & Associates - April 2012 ). Rapid changes in the external environment such as mergers, acquisitions etc. have also contributed to increased importance of the views / opinions of employees, more than ever before. Needless to say that, employee surveys had always been an integral part of the Organization Development (OD) initiatives. Primarily focusing on improving organization climate, employee morale, effectiveness, and productivity.
Enough evidence is available in different books regarding the use of Employee Surveys by eminent leaders for improving organization effectiveness. For example, Jack Welch, GE, ( Annual Surveys - 'Winning' 2005 & 'The Jack Welch Lexicon of Leadership' by Jeffrey A. Krames, 2002) Thomas Watson Jr. IBM, ( Monthly opinion surveys - 'In Search of Excellence') Steve Ballmer, Microsoft, ( 'How to Think Like The World's Greatest High-Tech Titans', by Erika Brown, 2001 ). Similar reference is available in the book 'The Future of HRM' (2005 by Michael Losey, Sue Meisinger, and Dave Ulrich) with examples of companies such as Yahoo (p. 185) UPS (p. 192) & Nokia (p. 372).
Support from Top Management is very important for success of survey initiative. In fact, it does contribute to increase the significance of any HR initiative for that matter. ( 'Roadmap to Strategic HR', 2006). Especially for securing buy-in from other departments and increasing employee participation in the process.
Besides paper-based surveys, which has been commonly used practice, following methods can also be considered depending upon resource availability.
- Email Surveys.
- Interactive Telephone Surveys - using touch tone response.
- Web-based Surveys.
- Mobile App for a quick response.
In line with the recent technology trends, a number of smartphone users are growing rapidly. In a mobile world where we are constantly on-the-go. Instant access to information helps us to make better decisions. We can stay connected with our employees; get immediate feedback and insight on critical initiatives to expedite the decision-making process. Hence a mobile app which can run on all platforms; (i.e. Android, iPhone, Windows, & Blackberry) would be a smart choice, for getting instant employee feedback. Ensure its availability in all App stores, from where employees can easily access the app and provide feedback according to their convenience.
I ] Survey Objective & Plan: First step for conducting a survey is to finalize survey objective & plan while securing buy-in from respective participants i.e. HR & IT Team. The important question to answer at this point is why are we carrying out the survey exercise? What are we trying to measure and analyze? It is also important to finalize Survey Plan i.e. Type of the survey, method, survey duration, schedule, target population. Simultaneously identify different tasks and fix responsibilities.
II ] Design Survey Questionnaire / Form: No survey can achieve success without a well-designed questionnaire. This is a very important step in the survey process. The design of a survey form depends on the nature of the information we are trying to gather i.e. Qualitative Information; Quantitative Information. Make sure that the language used to frame the question is simple and easy to understand. It is suggested to avoid ambiguous questions. If we managed to frame questions with positive words, it would help us to easily calculate employee satisfaction index. Decide appropriate answer scales to be used for quantitative close ended questions. This can be for yes/ no question, Five-point Likert scale or a custom scale. Avoid designing lengthy questionnaire. The questionnaire should be like a women's skirt. Short enough to rouse the interest, but long enough to cover the essentials.
III ] Pilot Test: It is always safe to carry out pilot testing of the survey questionnaire on selected sample. It gives us an opportunity to rectify the form before administering it on the target population. This also helps us to establish authenticity of the questionnaire.
IV ] Administering Questionnaire: Circulate form to target population as per schedule according to survey method i.e. by email, courier, circulation of the app. Ensure on time delivery of forms to the recipients and then follow up for their response. It is suggested to maintain anonymity for frank and candid response. The convenience of the respondents should be given priority throughout the process. Once the response is received from the participants, it is suggested to send them a 'Thank you' note / email, acknowledging their contribution if possible. Apart from courtesy, it also helps us to improve survey response.
V ] Data Collection & Analysis: The quantitative responses should be tabulated in an appropriate manner for further analysis. Proper care and attention must be given to safeguard the accuracy of results. It is recommended to use appropriate software for analysis i.e. MS Excel, SPSS etc. According to my observation, Microsoft Excel is convenient and can be used by anyone for basic analysis. However, other software can be used for advanced calculations and analysis.
VI ] Finalize Report: Unbiased results must be included in the report based on the concrete facts. While presenting the report avoid using technical details, and convey the findings in a simple understandable manner using appropriate graphs and charts. Recommendations must be supported with relevant facts and data. Simultaneously prepare actionables with an appropriate time frame for implementation, along with responsibilities ( i.e. who will take action on which recommendations). These are the proposed initiatives to be implemented for improvements. In fact, the real job begins after successful completion of the survey. HR professionals should be committed to effectively implement the recommendations.
VII ] Repeat Survey: It is important to carry out the subsequent survey to analyze, and review improvements. Some companies carry out monthly / yearly surveys. However in my opinion, twice a year is much more suitable since it gives us enough time to implement recommendations. The repeat survey provides us precise facts about improvements as reflected by development in the Satisfaction Index. Specific questions can be amended in the repeat survey based on the review.
VIII ] Survey Vendor: Some companies prefer to hire vendors, consultants to carry out employee surveys. They bring in expert know-how, and state of the art technology, for administering surveys. The vendors also provide assistance throughout the process for successful completion of the process. It saves time and efforts, for the companies, and without getting involved in the nuts and bolts of the process, easily get ready made solution. Another important benefit of hiring vendors is that it offers benchmark comparison against an authentic global database. And we can compare our results against our competitors. Some well-known vendors are:
- Employee Effectiveness Survey - HAY GROUP
- Employee Engagement Survey - KENEXA (Kenexa Mobile Survey App)
Decisions taken based on the facts and data are always better than the decisions taken based on instincts. At least you have sound basis for your Judgment.
In conclusion, I would like to sum it up with a quotation by Mr. Jack Welch:
"In annual surveys over a decade, employees would tell us that we were a company that increasingly lived its values. That made people even more committed to living them too. And as our employee satisfaction results improved, so did our financial results".
... Jack Welch, GE, Winning, 2005