An employee or customer survey is a highly visible project. Some companies are concerned about conducting surveys because they are unsure about meeting employee and customer expectations. This is easily handled with clear, open communication. Within that communication, management should make it clear that they are committed to the process and to reviewing the information it produces. But only management can prioritize the findings of the survey for the good of the company as a whole. Only management can decide which issues can be addressed this year and which need to wait due to budget, manpower, or other restrictions.
A plan of frequent, open communications regarding the survey process is a key element in making it successful. With proper communication, the survey process can bring people together, as common problems and solutions are brought to the forefront and action plans are made to make the company more successful.
People will talk about the survey formally and informally and you want to leverage this energy to maximize results. We suggest beginning with a company-wide announcement to build support and enthusiasm. Include basic information about the process. Include key dates that employees can calendar to minimize questions and confusion, and be sure to include statements of commitment from management that assure employees they want to hear what employees and customers have to say.
You may want to invent a nickname for the survey and use it when communicating information about the survey. Use terminology like “first annual” to reinforce the fact that management is committed to the process on an on-going basis. Some companies have kick-off meetings in large, central locations to begin the survey deployment.
Be creative! The process is serious and the data is critical, but there’s no harm in having fun with it. Make it part of your culture!
Communications Immediately After the Survey
Thank participants for their time and candor.
If your response rate was high, acknowledge that. If you reached any specific response rate goals, recognize those achievements.
Regardless of whether your survey results are generally good or bad, keep the tone of this message positive or at least neutral. Don’t focus on failures to reach targets or disappointments with the response rate or the results.
If the results are mostly negative, you may want to acknowledge that “there is a lot of work to be done,” but emphasize that you are eager to tackle the issues and excited about the positive changes that will be coming soon.
Sharing the Results with Employees
Be fair and honest in what you share. Don’t share only the positives, while omitting obvious problems. Employees know what the problems are. Acknowledging these problems openly will help you gain credibility and respect.
Don’t focus only on the problems, either. Seek some degree of balance.
If your results are overwhelmingly negative, and you can’t find very much positive to talk about, you probably need to simply acknowledge the seriousness of the problems. Employee morale and satisfaction are not going to decrease further as a result of recognizing what everybody already knows. This is your chance to turn the corner and set things moving in the right direction.
Communicating the Action Plan
Make sure the senior leadership team is on the same page and supportive of the action plan. Show employees a united front and convey your strength and competence as a leadership team.
Make sure that managers are not blindsided. Share the survey results and your action plan with all managers before communicating to all employees. This allows managers to be prepared for any questions that might arise. It can also help generate support and buy-in from managers.
The action plan should include some things that can be done quickly and that are easy for employees to observe. The action plan should also include some longer-term, more substantive plans that will have a deeper impact, but that will take longer to implement and achieve.
Establish a pattern of regular communication about senior leadership’s commitment to employee and customer satisfaction. Share progress toward goals, milestones reached, and other activities related to the action plan.
Ongoing communications can also help drive accountability. When employees are reminded of promises that were made and goals that were set, the people responsible for delivering on those promises are more likely to follow through.
When and How Often to Repeat
Finally, it will be time to repeat the survey to measure progress and also to assess whether any new problems have emerged. For many organizations, repeating an employee survey after one year makes the most sense. It usually takes about a year for a company to analyze employee survey results, implement an action plan, and for employees to observe the changes and shift their attitudes. Customer surveys may be more frequent depending upon how often valid data can be achieved and how quickly you can move change initiatives through the organization.
For companies that are undergoing significant changes (like a merger or a major restructuring), a follow-up survey can be conducted after three to six months.
More frequent employee and customer pulse surveys are recommended for organizations that can handle the logistics and that want to stay on top of emerging employee and customer engagement issues.