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FAQ: Employee Survey

How can an employee survey help me gauge the strength of our company culture?

An employee survey is an important indicator of employee engagement and loyalty, a couple of the many factors at play in company culture. As such, it provides insight into potential employee turnover and the ability to attract top employee candidates through recommendations from existing employees.

Company culture effects productivity and output. A toxic culture leads to low productivity, frequent errors, and low engagement with customers and peers, directly impacting the bottom line. Companies frequently see an increase in customer satisfaction, innovation, and product quality when they take the right steps to improve their company culture.

Company culture is a complex topic to interpret correctly because it is affected by so many factors. For example, employees may not cite organizational issues or poor supervision as top reasons for company culture issues, but these factors may be the root cause of a more clearly expressed dissatisfaction with benefits, compensation, work/life balance, and working relationships. Only a properly designed and interpreted employee survey can provide insight into the complex interplay of factors at work in company culture.

How can I use the results of an employee survey to increase profits?

An employee survey is an excellent tool for any company looking to increase profits. When employees feel that the company cares about them and listens to their concerns, satisfaction, engagement, and productivity improve.

Satisfied employees are more engaged. Highly engaged employees are more productive and provide better customer service. Better customer service results in more orders, so revenue will increase. Engaged employees are more concerned about the quality and quantity of their output, so companies see fewer errors and less scrap and rework. Reducing product issues helps to keep costs low, improving profitability.

An employee survey may also pinpoint safety issues or process problems. Eliminating these factors increases productivity and improves employee satisfaction and engagement even further.

How do NBRI's employee engagement surveys differ from others?

The team at NBRI consists of research experts with Ph.D.’s in psychology that have extensive training and experience in the design and interpretation of employee engagement surveys.

NBRI knows how to structure questions to ensure unbiased responses and how to order the questions so that the first questions don’t affect responses to later questions. We also understand the best methods for deploying an employee engagement survey based on the composition and location of your workforce, and our platform provides actionable insights from the results.

NBRI has worked with thousands of companies on surveys, but we consider ourselves more than a survey research firm. We are active partners with all of our clients. We provide guidance and advice to help you improve your financial performance.

How long does it take to conduct an employee survey?

Here’s a sample timeline for an online survey deployed in a single language:

Weeks 1 & 2 – Survey Development and Design

You should plan to devote at least a couple of weeks to developing an effective survey. Goals must be established and agreed upon, the questions must be finalized, and then the survey must be designed with your logo, an opening paragraph, instructions, etc.

Weeks 3 & 4 – Survey Deployment

The mechanics of deploying the survey to gather employee survey responses can be complicated, especially if you have multiple deployment methods and multiple languages. You’ll want to leave your online survey in deployment for at least a couple of weeks to give time to send announcement emails, invitation emails, reminder emails, and finally, thank you emails.

Weeks 5 & 6 – Reporting & Analysis

Generating descriptive data and comment reports and then analyzing and interpreting the data may require a couple of weeks.

Week 7 – Presentation of Results & Action Planning Kickoff

Finally, time must be allocated to presenting the results to management and kicking off action plans to improve performance.

The next step is conducting the survey again on a regular basis to determine the effectiveness of your action planning and developing new action plans for further improvement. It’s a continuous process that pays huge dividends in productivity and bottom line profits.

How many questions should an employee survey have?

The length of an employee survey varies depending on the topics covered and the audience. You want to be sure that while you’re collecting data that you have enough survey questions to provide the necessary insight. In general, 40-60 questions is a good number for an employee survey, but they must be the right questions and asked in a way that they do not bias the responses to the negative or positive.

What are questions to avoid putting on an employee survey?

The biggest pitfall when creating an employee survey is asking for information you do not need to know. Examples include asking for demographic information such as age, ethnicity, and gender that are not pertinent to the study. Demographic information can lead companies into trouble if people perceive that their demographic answers make respondents identifiable, thereby affecting the confidentiality and anonymity of the survey.

Companies that tell employees that survey answers are confidential when they actually aren’t are asking for trouble. Using unique identifiers or very granular demographic questions makes it possible to know the identity of a particular respondent. If employees feel that the company has misled them or violated their trust, it has a detrimental effect on the integrity of future surveys. Example: It is very beneficial to your response rate to be able to send reminder emails for online surveys. But, you need to know who has and who has not responded to send reminder emails to the correct respondents. This and many other reasons are why some organizations hire an outside firm to conduct their employee surveys.

Asking for input on topics you cannot or will not fix is an invitation for trouble. Employees may feel that the company is dishonest when they know that their input is irrelevant.

There may be times in an employee survey when detailed demographic data or identifying respondents is necessary. In those cases, the company should make it clear to its employees the reason for the request.

What are the biggest mistakes to avoid when conducting an employee survey?

One of the most prevalent mistakes people make when designing an employee survey is creating questions that skew the results. Using absolute words such as “always” or “never” will skew responses to the negative. Also, including multiple concepts in a single question, called a double-barrel, is a frequent issue for inexperienced survey designers. Double-barrel questions produce useless data.

Some don’t know when a sample size is large enough to statistically represent the entire population or sub-sets of the population that may be of interest. They may base their conclusions on an inadequate sample, resulting in faulty results.

With an improperly designed employee survey, the results are not actionable or they may cause the survey team to take the wrong actions. This can cause deterioration in employee morale, satisfaction, and engagement and potentially worsen any underlying issues.

Without experience or the help of a survey platform to design a survey properly, the survey may be valueless and possibly cause more harm than good. An employee survey also benefits from benchmarking and assistance with action planning to help improve organizational performance.

What are the different types of employee surveys?

You can administer an employee survey on paper, online, in person, or by telephone. Paper surveys are less popular than they once were because of the advent of online surveys and also because of the labor-intensive process required to scan the survey forms and transcribe any comments.

Telephone and in-person surveys are expensive and labor intensive, but they have a very high response rate. These methods may be best if the population size for the employee survey is very small making it very difficult to reach a representative sample.

Online surveys are very popular because of the ease of deployment and their low cost. Plus, online employee surveys usually enjoy a response rate of 75-80 percent or more.

What are the essentials of an effective employee engagement survey?

There are six essential elements of an effective employee engagement survey.

  1. Designing the questionnaire. This step is crucial to ensure that the questions don’t produce a biased response and that the scale elicits an opinion. Most surveys are doomed to produce flawed information because of errors in questionnaire design.
  2. Next, decide on a deployment method. You can conduct an effective survey using the internet, telephone, mail, or in-person interviews. The best choice depends on the characteristics of your population.
  3. Ensure you have valid data by calculating confidence levels and sampling error during survey deployment. You must gather enough responses for the survey results to be truly representative of the population under study.
  4. When reporting the results, calculate mean scores, rather than percentages, and provide industry benchmarks to aid in interpretation.
  5. Accurate interpretation is critical to ensure that the employee engagement survey results in insight that makes a positive difference in the performance of your business.
  6. Take targeted action to resolve identified issues.

An employee engagement survey that skips any of these steps will provide inaccurate results. Read our free e-book on how to conduct a survey for more detail on the essential elements of a survey.

What is the best deployment method for conducting an employee engagement survey?

The best deployment method for an employee engagement survey varies depending on several factors, including the location and demographics of the employees, the available budget, and the employees’ access to the Internet.

Paper is an expensive and time-consuming way to conduct a survey because of the labor involved. Typical response rates to paper surveys run 50 percent or less for employee surveys. This may be the only viable choice if employees do not have access to the internet or if there are language or other communication issues.

Telephone is an option for employee engagement surveys, but this is an expensive survey method and can present problems across multiple time zones or if employees speak different languages.

In-person surveys have the best response rate, but they are very expensive and time consuming to conduct.

Online surveys offer a balanced combination of low cost and high response rates. Typically, you can expect a 75-80 percent response rate for employee surveys.

Regardless of the deployment methodology you choose, it is important to conduct an employee engagement survey at regular intervals to gauge the effectiveness of your improvement initiatives.

What is the best time of year to conduct an employee survey?

Companies may conduct an employee survey at any time, but they should consider other current activities that may affect employees’ willingness or ability to respond as well as its own ability to implement actions from survey results.

Example: Sending an employee survey to sales reps in the last week of a fiscal period may not be a good idea. Productive reps will be too busy to respond, so results may only reflect the responses of poor performers. This skewed data may provide an inaccurate picture and cause the company to take ineffective actions.

The right time for an employee survey varies depending on the audience and the information you need to gather.

What is the difference between an employee survey and an employee satisfaction survey?

An employee survey focuses on a wide variety of topics, including company image, ethics, policies, values, vision, and more. An employee satisfaction survey, on the other hand, is a focused survey that hones in on specific issues that contribute to employee satisfaction. Issues such as autonomy, benefits, compensation, job training, organizational change, and work life balance concerns all contribute to employee satisfaction and may be topics for an employee satisfaction survey.

In addition, these surveys help gauge employee engagement, which has a major impact on customer satisfaction and product innovation. Improving employee engagement helps the company to become a leader in its market.

What type of information do I need before conducting an employee survey?

The most important factor in the success of an employee survey is having a clear idea of the survey’s objective. What specific business outcomes do you wish to achieve through the research?

You also need a basic understanding of the workforce before deploying an employee survey. Do most employees have access to email and the Internet? If so, then an online survey deployment may be appropriate with some smaller number of paper surveys. If not, then paper or telephone surveys or a combination may be your only choices.

Language is also a consideration. Do you need one language or multiple languages?

If it’s a global survey, you need to understand local and regional holiday schedules. Sending a survey to Europe in August or sending it anywhere during the Holy Days of the area’s primary religion will not produce the responses you need because employees may not be able to respond.

In general, make sure you set objectives for the research, make sure that the survey questions and responses are actionable, and make sure employees can receive and understand the survey.

What will I learn from conducting an employee engagement survey?

An employee engagement survey identifies factors that affect nearly every aspect of your business from productivity to quality and customer service. An employee engagement survey pinpoints departments or groups with low engagement.

Highly engaged employees provide better customer service, are more careful in producing product, have fewer accidents, and come up with more innovative ideas. Increasing employee engagement improves profitability through lower costs as well as through increasing revenue because customers place more orders and spend more money when they have a good experience with your employees.

Engaged employees are loyal, highly motivated, and exhibit lower turnover, saving on the cost of hiring and replacing people. Engaged employees are more passionate about products and services, so they are better at selling and servicing. Also, engaged employees continually think up new features or new ways to use existing products.

Which members of the company should take an employee engagement survey?

An employee engagement survey should be deployed to all employees, even members of the executive team. Using a wide sample provides a clear picture of engagement across the enterprise and may pinpoint pockets of growing discontent. Employees will not perceive a carefully designed employee engagement survey as a witch-hunt designed to identify individuals or root out malcontents if all employees take the survey and the company acts on the insight the survey provides.

Employee engagement has such a profound effect on a company’s profitability and customer relationships that it is important to measure on a regular schedule so you are able to address any issues as quickly as possible.

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