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Harnessing the Insights and Engagement of Employee Surveys

by Julie Miles / February 15, 2023

A business is not just a box that products come out of. It is a human structure made of teams, operations, relationships. Employee surveys are an important way to remain aware of what is going on inside your company, as well as inside each department and team. Done correctly, an employee survey can give you invaluable insights on matters ranging from team morale to paths for improvement. An employee survey can spotlight teams working superbly together or reveal dangerous practices in action. But first, you need to perfect your survey technique to access these critical insights.

There are employee engagement, performance, and experience surveys. Some surveys are sent out to evaluate how a recent program or change is going, some evaluate the internal function of a department. Pulse surveys allow you to get a regular read on the state of the company. A good survey will reveal the inner workings of your company, but a poorly implemented survey can bring back false or skewed answers – or no answers at all.

Today, we are diving into the key strategies that will allow you to harness the power of employee surveys and the insights they bring.

The Benefits of Employee Surveys

What do you gain from implementing one employee survey or creating a culture of routine employee surveys? It depends on the type of survey you implement and how your employees interact, but the benefits for an aptly used employee survey run deeper than just the surface-level answers to the questions.

What You Can Learn from the Results

The answers to every employee question provides unique insights, especially when you can amass all the answers into trend data and real insights. You may learn that there is a high stress level among your staff or that one department is significantly more satisfied than the others. You may discover that a new program is working especially well or especially poorly; that your at-home employees are getting the resources they need, or that your logistics team is not.

Building New Strategies Based on Insights

What you can do with survey insights is also profoundly valuable. Surveys often provide the perspective you need to make decisions about the future including how to improve programs, what initiatives need to be focused on next, which managers to promote, and which teams need additional training or resources.

Taking the Pulse on What Matters Most to Your Employees

Surveys are also critical when keeping the pulse of your employee engagement. What your employees care most about, what they love about the job, and what is lacking are key insights that can help you maintain a healthy workplace and provide support where it is needed.

Make Employees Feel Valued and Heard

The right kind of survey can make employees feel like the company is truly listening to their priorities and ideas. Employees often feel like just a cog in the greater machine, but seeing changes based on survey results is the ultimate sign that management is both taking notes and listening to the needs of every member of the team.

Increase Employee Engagement

Employee engagement has a powerful influence over your operations, from internal efficiency to your rate of attrition. Employees who feel engaged and an important part of the company give their all, remain loyal, and are even more willing to provide valuable insights during interviews, meetings, and further surveys.

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Key Tips to Creating an Effective Survey

Of course, sending out a survey isn’t as simple as just putting together a few questions and sending them around. There are good and bad survey techniques. A bad survey technique can make employees feel threatened or targeted, like every answer is just a demerit waiting to happen. Or the questions might be phrased in a way that pushes employees only to give positive answers, to give biased answers, or to give answers that do not really offer actionable insights.

A good survey is built on the science of decades of survey research. When you use survey creation best practices, you can increase participation, encourage more honest and complete answers, and come away with real insights on the inner workings of your business. Fortunately, survey best practices are easy to follow once you know them.

1) Make Sure Surveys Are Anonymous

First and foremost, make sure employees know that surveys are anonymous, and write surveys in a way that protects that anonymity. Without anonymity, you are unlikely to get honest negative answers, as no one wants to be seen as badmouthing the company, their boss, or their team – even if there are real problems that they would share in confidence. Earn that confidence by making survey anonymity absolute and not asking personally revealing questions.

2) Focus on Observable Behavior and Verifiable Facts

Ask questions that relate to objective, observable, and verifiable information. Instead of asking if leadership is helpful, ask if employees have all the resources they need, or if questions are answered promptly. Instead of asking if deliveries are on time, ask if they meet the timetable. This simple attention to verifiable detail can help avoid perception bias or personal feelings, focusing only on the metrics that matter – and facts you can prove through later investigation.

3) Favor Numerical Responses Over Words

It is almost always better to give your employees the option to answer on a numerical scale compared to subjective word answers. Agree/disagree questions can be rated on a scale of agreement. Frequency can be rated by day and week rather than often vs not often. This provides a clearer metric to compare answers and avoids subjective perspective on what is or is not strong agreement or frequent activity.

4) Provide A Central Neutral Option

It is usually best to provide survey answers with a central option that is completely neutral. If you ask for an assessment and the employee doesn’t have an opinion, they can answer in neutral. If you send out a company-wide survey and some of the questions don’t apply to everyone, they can respond with neutral. This helps employees feel secure in their answers and will help you by avoiding skewing the results compared to employees who have a clear answer or perspective on any particular questions.

5) Eliminate Sections and Keep Questions Uniform in Length

In the study of surveys, it has been found that the best way to get honest, unbiased answers is to avoid giving each question implied context. Sections, for example, can cause the survey taker to give similar answers for each group of questions when they might give more raw responses without category sections. Similarly, questions that have more words get more thoughtful answers. For uniform results, try to make all your questions about the same number of words and length to read.

6) Reword 1/3 of the Questions in the Negative

Another common bias is that people want to agree with the question, and give the “right answer.” Therefore, wording about one-third of questions in the negative can help your employees to think more carefully about whether they truly agree or disagree with each question and give more honest and unvarnished answers. For example, switching “The company provides me with the resources I need” to “The company does not provide me with the resources I need.” In this case, the employee will think twice about both the desired answer and the true answer for a more useful response overall.

7) Avoid Words with Strong Associations

Some wordings will push employees to answer in a certain way. For example, asking about “strong” leadership will typically favor male managerial styles, while asking about “detailed and precise” leadership shows no bias between male and female leaders. Use words that represent exactly what you want to know, and avoid cultural idioms that have layered meanings.

8) Place Optional Demographics At the End

Finally, do not ask for the optional demographic information until the end of an employee survey. Asking someone their gender/culture/union status/etc. at the beginning makes employees feel that their answers will be viewed with bias and many will refuse to answer. It is psychologically similar to asking about a candidate’s gender or culture at the beginning of an interview. However, after pouring time and honesty into a survey, employees feel that these demographic questions are more optional and will choose on their own to share or not with less fear that it will be used against them.

Expanding Your Survey Capabilities with isolved Share & Perform

Gaining the most benefit from your employee surveys relies on apt survey implementation. You not only want to adhere to best practices, but also distribute surveys in a way that is accessible, routine, and approachable for your entire team. With Platinum Group’s HCM platform, isolved, you can easily implement surveys using the outlined best practices through the Share and Perform module. 

This module will help you leverage employee data and insights by encouraging employees to participate in communication feeds and to stay aligned with their colleagues and projects. Use Share & Perform to leverage pulse surveys and poll your workforce to learn your overall state of operations along with what specific groups are thinking about particular situations, projects, initiatives, or performance.

Platinum Group is proud to be a source of honest employee communication that promotes both valuable insights and essential employee engagement. Contact us today to harness the power of employee surveys, guiding your leadership decisions and building a stronger connection with your entire workforce by listening to what they have to say.

Tags: Payroll & Human Resources Employee Engagement HR iSolved Payroll Employee Surveys

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Julie Miles

Julie Miles

Julie’s passion is to act as a liaison between the Platinum team, their wonderful clients, and the community, striving to tell their stories and make connections.



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