What's the Value of Employee Surveys?

Employee Surveys

This article was updated on July 19, 2018.

HR leaders often use employee surveys to help them determine which programs are working well and which ones aren't. But it can sometimes be a challenge to collect useful and honest feedback from employees in a way that helps HR leaders accurately gauge the employee experience. Workers may worry that their feedback could affect their position and therefore be hesitant to share exactly how they feel, while others may feel compelled to share false enthusiasm for programs and policies.

But authentic information is vital for HR leaders to make informed decisions about how employees feel about work, what is going on, and what people want and need. Creating a positive workplace requires understanding what is working well and what isn't. And that process starts from the start, even for new employees.

Ways to Collect Useful and Honest Feedback

Employee surveys are often used to gather feedback. While anonymous surveys may be effective to understand general employee sentiment, technology offers other options as well. For instance, some tools allow HR leaders to easily design short surveys to check in more frequently than the traditional annual survey. To encourage people to respond, consider offering a chance to win a perk or small prize, or pizza for the department with the highest response rate.

Traditionally, many organizations have used anonymous suggestion boxes to allow workers to share comments or questions without fear of retribution. The suggestion box now has digital incarnations as well, which allow anonymous comments. Some also offer the opportunity to communicate with managers on issues, with the employee having the option of identifying herself or staying anonymous.

Perhaps the most effective way to elicit feedback is through conversation in an atmosphere where individuals feel safe to share their true opinions. This could happen in everyday, water cooler discussions, town halls, or in individual feedback meetings with managers or HR professionals. Coaching managers and leaders on how to effectively ask for and respond to employee feedback is also essential in building trust and encouraging employees to come forward with both suggestions and concerns.

Ask open-ended questions such as, "What do you think customers think about our business?" or "What would you do differently if you were in charge?" Creating a culture of trust is an important building block for achieving accurate employee feedback. If your culture is based on openness and honor, your staff will be more willing to share their honest and valuable input.

Ensuring Accurate Responses

Real change comes from valid information — and retaining employees takes work. Verify your survey results by asking people if they agree that certain issues are problems, then ask for suggestions on how to address them. Listen and take ideas seriously. Then take action on that feedback to demonstrate that employee opinions matter. Report on how changes are coming along, giving credit to employees for initiating the change. When it makes a positive difference, celebrate.

Understanding, caring, and a willingness to listen and take action are the keys to building trust so that employees provide you with important and accurate information on what is and is not working.