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7 Tips for Improving Your Workplace Through Employee Surveys

Employee satisfaction plays a big role in productivity, employee turnover and the quality of service your customers and clients receive. These seven tips can help you get the most out of employee feedback surveys.

1. Make Sure You Act on Feedback Received

You do not have to give your employees everything they ask for, but if you never make any changes based on feedback, employees will lose interest in your surveys and be demotivated to provide you with future feedback. If a large number of your employees are asking for easier access to their payroll information, consider providing an online pay stub. If they are saying commute times are an issue, consider adjusting work hours so that they can avoid traffic. Look for low hanging fruit and win-win situations where you can boost morale at a low cost or you can boost morale while also improving other aspects of your company.

2. Ask Questions About Observable Behavior

Instead of asking employees to rate how good they think leadership is at different aspects of their jobs, ask them to estimate something that is objectively measurable. For example, rather than asking how good employees think their manager is at resolving customer complaints, ask them to estimate what percentage of customer complaints leadership typically resolves. This avoids disputes over whether employees understand what constitutes subjective terms, such as "good," and gives you something you can objectively measure. If employees are reporting that they think leadership resolves only 80% of customer complaints and the actual number is 95%, you can investigate why employees are underestimating the effectiveness of leadership and how that affects morale.

3. Design Sections To Have a Similar Number of Items, Questions and Words

Research has shown that the more questions there are in a section, the higher the score for the section tends to be. Employees tend to give higher ratings to longer questions than short ones. Making sure all of the sections have equal numbers of questions of about the same length makes it easier to get a true reflection of employee opinions.

4. Avoid Terms With Strong Associations

The language you use should not evoke comparisons that contain inherent biases based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or other qualities. For example, the use of words such as, "bold," or "strong," often have strong associations with males and may cause artificially lower ratings for female managers.

5. Avoid Asking for Rankings

Questions that ask respondents to rank a list of choices from best to worst tend to be affected by biases. For example, respondents tend to remember the items listed first and last the most strongly and assign them higher rankings than the choices in the middle of the list. Ranking questions have also been found to have an impact on the responses to other questions on the survey, creating skewed results across the entire survey.

6. Make the Surveys Anonymous

Employees are much more likely to respond to surveys if they trust that the results are anonymous. Paper-based surveys may be more effective than those administered on computers because employees know that computer systems can be tracked to determine which specific machine, IP, or e-mail address a survey was transmitted from. When employees fear that anonymous surveys aren't really anonymous they may provide results that skew more positively than real results, which may make leadership feel good, but not provide you with any useful data.

7. Include Questions That Can Be Independently Verified

Including questions that have responses that can be verified independently can help you assess the validity of survey results. When you ask employees to provide answers that you can objectively measure and the results are substantially different from reality, you know you have an issue with the validity of the survey.

Employee surveys can be a very useful tool for measuring employee satisfaction and finding ways to improve your company's performance. However, surveys need to be designed in ways that avoid bias to be effective.

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