Recently, I developed an employee survey for a local charity. They had increased in size quite quickly and reached a size where the trustees and management team felt they should get to know what their employees were thinking.

The replies were excellent; honest, open minded, imaginative. It allowed the trustees to understand any concerns that the employees had about their work. Some of the ideas and concerns were obvious and well known, some were new and surprising.

But why use employee surveys to find this out? Well, sometimes, providing an opportunity to speak, in confidence or anonymously, allows people to say things they may feel uncomfortable about saying in a face to face meeting.

However, like anything, there are things to do and to avoid.

  • Make sure that people can fill them in anonymously and that there is a clear process that they can trust in.
  • Make the questions open, avoid leading people by using an example or a list.
  • Try not to second guess the issues by focussing questions on a given area – allow the employees freedom to express views about all elements of their work.
  • I prefer to ask for text-based answers rather than multiple choice, it allows the employees more space and time to construct their thoughts.

But, the MOST IMPORTANT TIP is to make sure that the employees feel their views have been listened to.

  • Feedback the key themes raised by the answers.
  • Produce recommendations based on the answers.
  • And if the answer to people’s requests is No, let them know why you are saying no.

Nothing destroys the credibility of managers and surveys more than when people feel they are talking into thin air and getting no feedback. Most employees understand that they cannot have everything they ask for, but they feel less aggrieved if they are told why they cannot have it.

The result of the survey I designed? Seven recommendations were put to the Board, six were accepted and one rejected. A letter was sent to each employee explaining the recommendations and why each one was accepted or rejected. I know this process worked because the management team have received a number of letters from staf saying “Thank you” for the inclusive way the survey was run and the clear communications that have been put in place.

Do you want to know what would make your staff happier and work harder? Maybe you should ask me to run an employee survey.