Everyone Enjoys Working Here...I Think

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seanwalsh.jpgWouldn't it be nice if each and every one of your employees were 100% satisfied every minute of the day? Even though that thought seems so appetizing to managers across the world, we all know that 100% satisfaction is a very lofty goal to even begin to think about. Managers strive each and every day to make the workplace as inviting as possible, but there will always be someone who disapproves with the choices made by management. Some of these employees are quick to voice their opinions, while others may be a little hesitant and hold their comments to themselves. Managers need a way to access these opinions from the more reserved employees, enter Employee Opinion Surveys (EOS). Below, I will detail a few reasons 'why' and 'when' your organization should start to consider conducting an EOS.

 

WHY:

 

An Employee Opinion Survey is a fantastic method to gauge the 'temperature' of your employees, and see what areas of your organization need improvement. When conducting an EOS you are inviting your employees to share their opinions on what they think needs improvement, which can weed out any internal issues that may be invisible to you.

 

A common phrase that I have heard which applies to Employee Opinion Surveys is, "You can't fix something if you don't know it's broken." Managers may go through countless unsuccessful attempts to fully satisfy their employees by trying to fix the wrong things. Why not go straight to the source and ask employees what they think needs to be addressed?  Sometimes as a manager, you may not see what goes on while your back is turned, and an EOS gives employees a chance to speak their minds anonymously. With this process being completely confidential, the pressure of management knowing exactly who said what is relieved. Employees can feel more secure voicing their opinions which includes not just the good, but the bad and the ugly comments as well. An EOS can show your employees that you do truly care about them and their opinions, all while moving your organization in a positive direction.

 

WHEN:

 

Although an Employee Opinion Survey can be an effective tool to use in hundreds of different circumstances, I am going to provide a few of the more popular instances in which I've seen an EOS utilized:

 

  • One of the most popular reasons I have seen organizations conduct an EOS is due to the fact that they have either never done a survey before, or that it has been a while since their last one. Generally, it is recommended to conduct an Employee Opinion Survey every two to three years, but in some cases organizations do stretch it out to four or five. It is very important to keep it within a reasonable time frame so that you have the ability to compare data to each future survey. A lot can change within the course of five years (turnover, management changes, etc.), and that is why it is important and recommended to resurvey every two to three years.
  • Building off of my last point, a change in management is an excellent indicator that an Employee Opinion Survey may be beneficial to an organization. The key here is to wait a few months after the change in management has occurred. It is very important to hold off on surveying for a period of time, this way employees will have a chance to experience which issues the new management team has addressed and those it has created.  It also allows for the new management team to become familiar with the staff and develop a list of issues they plan to address in the future.
  • An additional time that I have seen an Employee Opinion Survey utilized most often, was after any sort of implementation within an organization. Whether it be a new IT system, set of guidelines, or new work schedule/hours, a survey is a very effective way to collect data on the recent implementation. Like I mentioned in the 'change in management' bullet point above, you will want to hold off on surveying for a period of time once the implementation has taken place. This will give employees a chance to experience the new implementation and form an opinion, rather than just providing an immediate reaction.
  • And it goes without saying, but only conduct an employee opinion survey when the senior leadership team is committed to receiving and acting on employee feedback.  This point sounds obvious, but conducting a survey and taking no action sends a much more negative message to employees than to not do a survey at all. 
HOW: Some employers choose to conduct an EOS on their own while others outsource some or all of the EOS administration to an outside third party. Using an outside survey resource adds credibility to the results and ensures employees that their anonymity will be protected. Using an outside source also allows you to compare your results to other companies which adds context.  Outside firms also bring the necessary technology, tools, questions, and processes to actually conduct the survey in a variety of formats.  Research also shows that surveys conducted via an external source produce higher response rates than those conducted internally. If you don't have the budget to use an outside firm, you'll need to find a survey tool that can collect data as well as summarize the results.  There are many tools on-line you can use to collect data, assuming all employees have access to a computer.  If many employees lack computer access, you can conduct a paper survey but the process is a lot more involved which can reduce levels of trust with employees. If you would like to conduct a survey internally, here are a few key pointers:
  • Anonymity is KEY. You want your employees to feel as comfortable as possible so that they will voice their honest opinions. Don't ask any questions that can directly identify an employee.
  • INVITE your employees to participate in a survey rather than require they complete it. Advertise that it is an opportunity for employees to voice their opinion and be heard in the workplace.
  • Remind your employees that this survey is not a test. There are no wrong answers and each opinion will be accounted for and taken seriously.
  • Emphasize that the survey is not a group event. You are looking for an individual opinion and perspective.
  • NEVER require employees to sign in/sign up to take a survey.
  • Do not allow management employees to be in the room during survey administration, even if it is just to take their own survey.  Even in the best work environments, their presence will chill some employees desire to share honestly. 
  • If you're using paper surveys, have a clear process for collecting the surveys.  One idea is to have a volunteer from each group take the surveys to the survey administrator.  Also make sure the person / department charged with tabulating the results is an unbiased trusted source like HR or Accounting.  This point sounds obvious, but we've seen some pretty disastrous results over the years when actually HR is the problem at the company and they are the ones tabulating the results. 

 

Do you feel that now is the time for an Employee Opinion Survey for your organization, or has been a while since your last survey? If so, please feel free to reach out to me directly so that we can add you to our EOS calendar! I can be reached directly at (919) 713-5250 or by email at sean.walsh@capital.org.

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