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Employee Satisfaction Surveys that Work

If you want to have happier employees, you first need to find out what makes them feel unhappy or dissatisfied while at work. Many business owners and managers turn to employee satisfaction surveys to understand this dynamic. It does make sense that the best way to learn about what makes employees happy or unhappy is to ask them. Unfortunately, many companies fail to properly execute their employee surveys. A well executed employee satisfaction survey offers tremendous insight into a company’s culture. A poorly executed one or a failure to address issues raised in surveys can alienate employees and increase disengagement.

Why are employee satisfaction survey response rates low?

For an employee satisfaction survey to be successful, a response rate high enough to reach a representative sample on every demographic slice is key. Higher participation in employee surveys gives managers more varied and in-depth insight into what their workers want and need to be more satisfied, which gives them the ability to create more successful solutions to issues raised in the survey responses.

In a Forbes article dedicated to helping business owners understand consistently low rates of participation in employee surveys, research shows that many businesses see only a 30%-40% response rate to employee surveys.

Part of the reason for this is that many employees today have become accustomed to filling out the annual employee survey and then seeing very little action taken by their companies to address issues brought up in those surveys. This leads employees to believe that either their responses are not being read or that their happiness is actually not as highly valued by their employers as they are told. In fact, when employees see no results after participating in such surveys, the message they receive is that they are not valued at all.

Thus, when companies send out surveys with subject lines like “let your voice be heard”, they are not interpreted as encouraging by employees who feel that their voices will never be heard, no matter how loudly they yell. In such situations, surveys which are intended to enhance the employee experience serve to further disengage employees before they read the first question. The employees who choose to participate in the survey may not give responses which are constructive or helpful.

An effective survey allows employees to voice praise as well as frustrations in a manner that helps them feel heard and appreciated for their contributions. Actionable survey responses help management understand how to better foster a productive, positive, and successful work environment.

Once you have an employee satisfaction survey written and promoted in a manner that makes employees more apt to participate (and to do so honestly), the real work begins. As noted earlier, many employees are convinced that their managers and bosses don’t even read their survey responses. Unfortunately, this is often the truth.

According to a Forbes article entitled “Happy Employees Equals Happy Customers”, 27% of managers never reviewed the survey results at all. Fifty-two percent of managers read the results and took no action. You didn’t misread that—this means more than half of managers.

While it may seem that these managers simply don’t care what their workers want or need to feel more satisfied with their work lives, in truth many managers also feel over-stressed, unappreciated, and unheard by their managers. Furthermore, they may also not feel empowered to make the necessary changes to ensure that the employees who work under them feel satisfied, either because they lack access to resources or because they lack the support of their superiors.

To achieve a truly successful employee survey, it is necessary to develop results-driven solutions to make sure your employees feel valued and supported.

It’s no coincidence that there are always overlaps when comparing the lists of the most profitable companies with the lists of the best companies to work for. An article featured by USA Today called “Do Happy Workers Mean Higher Profits” shared this fact: “Publicly traded companies in the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list have gained an average 10.8% a year since 1998.” When employees feel valued at work and are satisfied with their jobs, they provide better customer service, they perform more strongly and are more productive, and turnover rates are much lower. This means that companies with happy employees aren’t wasting time and money on continuously training new workers, on class-action lawsuits, or on strikes. Wise and timely investments in employee satisfaction pay large and lasting dividends.

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