So, you want to know more about your employees. Why not just run a simple employee survey, right?! Unfortunately, this is the haphazard approach has been adopted by many companies and is why 78% of companies using employee surveys fails to see improvement. Any survey produces data, but quality data comes when you use employee surveys strategically. So, before asking your employees to take a survey, consider the problem you intend to solve using survey results. Comparing five of the most popular types of employee surveys used today, which one best serves your company’s needs?
1. Onboarding (New Hire) Survey
Purpose: Onboarding surveys are designed to examine an employee’s experience from the time they apply for a position through the time the employee completes the “new hire” phase which is different for every company. Often surveys are done at various integrals following their first day with the company such as weekly, or monthly.
Types of companies that can benefit from this survey: Generally, companies are most interested in surveying their new hire process when they are scaling rapidly, seeing a significant drop in engagement amongst new hires, or new hires are turning over at a higher-than-normal rate. By effectively using an onboarding survey, companies gain insight to what they are doing right and wrong when hiring and onboarding employees.
Tip: A company will typically use survey results to answer the following, “are we hiring the wrong people OR are we hiring the right people yet failing to meet new hire expectations as their employer?”. While more often than not, the answer is “both” – through analyzing survey data they can identify what side of the equation they are struggling with most, hiring or onboarding.
2. 360 Degree Survey
Purpose: The 360-degree feedback survey is designed to solicit anonymous feedback regarding an employee’s performance from all levels within the company (supervisor, peer, and subordinate).
Types of companies that can benefit from this survey: 360-degree surveys are generally best suited for larger companies as launching and managing this type of survey is complex. When conducted successfully, results from this survey can provide a holistic view of an employee’s performance. 360-degree surveys place an equal level of importance on lateral, subordinate and supervisor feedback whereas traditional reviews tend to view an employee’s performance with a top-down approach, taking only the supervisor’s perception into consideration. Therefore, a company that places importance on working collaboratively at all levels within the organization will likely feel 360-degree surveys are of great value to their success.
Tip: If you wish to launch a 360-degree survey, consider engaging an expert. Feedback from 360-degree surveys has been criticized as unactionable and irrelevant to improving a company’s productivity. Quality questions (proving to be valid and reliable), random sampling, and strategic coaching are key to using this tool effectively.
3. Pulse Survey
Purpose: The pulse survey is a simple and relatively short survey designed to get insight to the overall health of a company, often conducted more regularly than other surveys (so as to identify fluctuations in employee satisfaction or perceptions on aspects of the company).
Types of companies that can benefit from this survey: Companies looking to gain quick and valuable insight into employee perceptions for the purpose of implementing strategic changes will benefit from this type of survey. Because identifying trends is key to this process however, only those companies willing to share survey results with employees (to some extent), committed to addressing workplace issues (as identified in survey results), and conducting surveys on an ongoing basis should engage in this type of survey.
Tip: Prior to announcing or launching a pulse survey in the workplace, leadership must determine their commitment to addressing workplace issued identified by the survey, how they will share the results with employees, and the frequency they will conduct pulse surveys. While employee morale will typically improve immediately following a pulse survey’s launch, they just as quickly deteriorate (or even worsen) if the company fails to engage employees in the action plan following the survey. Keep in mind, survey trends are more important than any one set of survey results when it comes to pulse surveys.
4. Employee Engagement Survey
Purpose: Employee engagement surveys are designed to assess the level of which employees understand and care about their work as it relates to the company’s success.
Types of companies that can benefit from this survey: A trending concept since the 1990s, employee engagement is believed by many companies and scholars to be key to creating and sustaining a high-performing business. Employee engagement is especially critical to companies with a relatively flat organizational structure, comprised of a large Millennial population, and/or are in highly competitive industries.
Tip: Keep in mind that changing employee beliefs and notions about work is a very robust and complex process. While a good employee survey will provide insight into an employee’s understanding of how his/her work matters to the overall company’s success, your plan to change the employee-company relationship needs to recognize the manner in which your company informs, supports, and recognizes employees of their importance. It is fair to assume your employees had some ideas and expectations of work before coming to your company. Since hiring them however, you’ve either perpetuated or defied these ideas – both of which have different pros and cons, depending on their preconceived notions. You can have a mission statement, vision statement, values, handbook, policies and procedures, but all of these are just words on paper until you act on them which will ultimately dictate the level of which your employees feel engaged in their work. Review each way you, as a company, interact with employees and look to make it as meaningful of interaction as possible.
5. Exit Interview Survey
Purpose: Perhaps one of the most commonly used and widely recognized surveys used in the workplace, exit interview surveys are used to identify company turnover trends – why people are leaving the company.
Types of companies that can benefit from this survey: Because the cost of turnover is considered to be so expensive (a study estimates 1.5-2x an employee’s annual salary), it is recommended that most companies conduct exit interviews when an employee leaves the company (voluntarily). Exit interviews are even more critical for companies in industries where there is a labor shortage (regionally such as teaching or nationally such as skilled trades or truck drivers), or when companies have a high turnover rate (for the company as a whole OR within one group such as department, tenure set, or demographic). Understanding why people choose to leave your company will help you hire, train, develop, and ultimately retain better. Conducting exit interviews is a company’s first step in the process.
Tip: While use of exit interviews is a common practice, most companies fail to do this well one reason – a lack of discussion. The number one response people give in an exit interview to the question (or some derivative of the question), “why did you choose to resign from the company is “more money”. Realize however that is a reason to accept a new job, not leave a job – for the sake of your company’s needs . Were they looking for a job? What prompted them to look? Or if they were not on the job hunt, and instead were actively recruited by the new company, why did they take or return the recruiter’s call? In most cases, candidates are unaware what the new job pays until they interview. If these questions don’t work and the person insists he/she was not actively looking for a new job, don’t hesitate to ask the hypothetical question – what if your company was willing to match their new compensation, would they stay? This question can work magic. This one question has allowed companies to retain some of their best employees for a fraction of what it costs to recruit, hire, and train a new employee. If you are unable (or unwilling) to match their new offer, it still gives you amazing insight into the other reasons they wish to leave. These are likely the reasons that played into their decision to leave your company. The position offer more money merely presented a manner of carrying out their decision to leave. Don’t be surprised though if these conversations take some by surprise. Quality exit interviews can be uncomfortable for the resigning employee and the company representative. Because of this a neutral party such as HR is generally the best person to conduct exit interviews, or engage a reputable third-party to perform exit interviews for the company. With valuable data collected from interactive, dialog heavy exit interviews, you start to see employee departures as learning opportunities – a mindset common among the best employers.
Regardless of what survey you intend to use, keep in mind these three tips:
- Don’t ask unless you plan to act. Asking an employee to share his/her opinion does two things – it engages them in the solution (holding them him/her accountable) and implies that you and/or the company value feedback as part of the continuous improvement process. When you fail to act, employees will often feel betrayed or as their opinions are unimportant, causing them to underperform and in some cases even act out against the employer. So, when you ask, make sure you’re asking with intentions to improve – not because it’s a “to-do” item on your list.
- Who is asking is often equally as important to what you are asking. Many leaders fail to realize how fearful employees are in giving honest, open feedback to company leadership. Unfortunately, retaliation is not as uncommon as we’d like in some workplaces. So, if you are new to the surveying process or recognize employees may be uncomfortable sharing their feelings or insights with the company directly, engage a third party. We all wish employees trusted us more, but trust is something that is earned. Being sensitive to employee feelings by providing them an extra layer of anonymity is not only a great step in earning their trust, but also the only way to ensure that the data you collect is true and useful. A censored survey only serves to inflate egos and ultimately serves no person or company for much else.
- How you ask can make a difference. Are your employees comfortable taking an online survey, OR is it better to use a paper survey. Do all employees have access to the same communication tools (ie Slack, email, intranet)? By failing to recognize what level employees are comfortable with technology, you may inadvertently be censoring your survey results. Have a communication plan for launching your survey – informing employees of when the survey is available, when it ends, how information will be used, where they can access/get their survey, whether or not the survey is anonymous, and information about the third-party administering the survey if you choose to engage a separate company. You will need to remind people to participate. Depending on the type of survey and reasoning behind the survey, you may even wish to partner with your marketing team to develop inspiring communications that will motivate employees to participate in the survey process.
Equipped with a purpose, relevant data, and the genuine intention to improve as an employer, surveys will be your key to shifting from a reactive, chaotic place of work, to a thoughtful, collaborative, proactive culture. What survey is standing between you and a better workplace?