Internet survey tools are great, aren’t they? You log in, create a couple of questions, grab the link and then send an email out to your target group. Want to know what type of food should be served at the upcoming company picnic? Send a survey link and tally up the results. Want to know if there is interest in an alternative shift schedule? Survey! (Hint: No one wants you to mess with their shift schedule.)
And then, of course, comes the occasional managerial request for a “pulse check.” This is where some employee somewhere in the organization suddenly sees himself as a polling expert and determines that he knows how to ask questions and just what questions to ask to measure if the employees are engaged.
Don’t allow one more survey, anonymous or otherwise, to be issued to your employees without first considering the following:
1. What is it you really want to know, and is a survey really the best tool to get it?
If you want to know about engagement, then engage your employees in some dialog about their work. Ask them about what they like, and what don’t they like. Ask them if they could have any other job in the community, what that would be. Ask them about their favorite manager, past of present. Talk you your employees, and let them know that you sincerely value their opinions.
Complete our HR & Recruiting Buyer Survey. Enter to win one of five $25 Visa gift cards. Click here.
2. Since the last time you surveyed or talked with them, what actions did you take?
Did the last pulse check tell you that people were unhappy with mandatory overtime? Did you respond in any way? Did you engage them on a system to more effectively manage surge work? Or did you just look at that and convince yourself they all like overtime? Did one area of your organization give their manager low grades and another get praise? Did you swap their roles to even things out? (Oh, I hope not…) If you are going to ask your employees about their environment, you need to be prepared to do something in response. Otherwise any future attempt to collect data by any method is going to have diminishing reliability.
3. Do you really know how to administer a survey?
All too often this job ends up in the hands of a well-meaning intern or someone who knows nothing about wording questions and offering intelligent options for answers. You know those customer service surveys that say “answer from 1 to 10, where 10 is absolutely and 1 is absolutely not”? That’s not going to give you meaningful data, just a greater distribution of answers. If you are going to delegate data collection, then you need to get someone who understands survey processes, not just someone who has a SurveyMonkey account.
Most importantly, don’t use employee surveys to confirm what you already know. Or construct one to re-affirm your bias about why people like their jobs. If the wrong answer comes out, you will say it was flawed, and if the right answer comes out, you will determine that you were right all along.