Employee Surveys Do Work: The Do’s and Don’ts for Getting It Right

Are you getting the most out of your employee survey?  Are you overcoming survey fatigue and low response rates?  Do you know what your survey results are really telling you?

Maintaining highly engaged employees at all levels in an organization is an important factor in achieving a competitive advantage. High employee turnover is a sure sign a business is headed for trouble. So, in a nutshell, surveying your employees does matter.

The insights gained from surveying ensure that your company is able to attract and retain the best talent vital to your company’s success! The best surveys are written in clear language and have unbiased questions. Following are some key do’s and don’ts to help you get the most out of your employee survey.

Don’t…Survey everyone just because they are there
A company-wide survey that tries to be all things to all people, and asks the same questions every year, will not yield the most accurate insights. Targeted one-time surveys of specific units, processes, or roles will always produce deeper insights into the critical, current issues for those groups.

Don’t…Assign equal importance to all survey questions

For a survey to deliver actionable insights, you must first know which factors matter most and why. For example, salary, growth opportunities, supervisor support, and open communication—will have the biggest impact on employee engagement and retention.

Don’t…Conduct a survey unless your leadership is committed to listening and acting on the feedback
If you ask your employees what they think and then do nothing with the results, you will foster cynicism and skepticism with your employees. In fact, you’ll be worse off than if you didn’t conduct a survey at all.

Don’t…Try to change opinions
Communicating employee survey results isn’t a time to persuade employees to change their opinions, but rather a time for humility. You need to open up communication about results to find out what changes need to take place in the company first.

Don’t…Sacrifice confidentiality
Employee engagement survey responses should be confidential. When reviewing employee survey results, the conversation should never turn into speculations about who said what. This diminishes the credibility and integrity of a confidential survey process.


Do…Set the stage
If you are conducting a follow-up survey, promote specific actions, successes and progress made since the last survey.

Do…Have the expertise to design the questionnaire
Ensure that the questions are relevant to the group taking part in the survey. Engaging an external provider, or utilizing a online survey tool such as SoGoSurvey, can support you with this as well as provide assurance that the responses given will remain confidential and anonymous.

Do…Have a communication plan
Communicate the results promptly. The longer the gap between the survey and feedback the greater the risk of inactivity. So, share the results and what steps the business proposes to take as quickly as you can.

Do…Communicate the good, the bad and the ugly

Include an executive overview that summarizes and simplifies the information, clearly detailing the headlines and key messages. Be sure to include the more challenging results as well as the positive outcomes – present all the facts, warts and all. Remember, there are some things that just can’t be changed, but you can build trust among employees by explaining the reasons why.

Do…Create a Post-Survey Action Plan
After your survey results have been collected it is important to follow up with action that will generate positive outcomes for your company. Management needs to act on the opportunities for improvement within the company. This will send the message that they are listening to your employee engagement survey feedback and believe it is valuable. One idea is for managers to include a “survey action plan” agenda item during their department meetings for a minimum of six months to provide a conduit for employee feedback.

Do…Embrace Change

After a survey, the tendency is to over-promise and under-deliver. If you succumb to this well-intended impulse, you run the risk of creating a skeptical work culture: “They told us they would do this but nothing has changed!” When creating a post survey action plan keep it simple and hold managers accountable for implementing and monitoring their department’s action plans.

Be ready to embrace change from the bottom up. Identifying areas of improvement is just the first step; managers need to act on the feedback.

Do…Be open, honest and objective
Being open and honest is vital. Don’t attempt to position results as better or worse than they are. Talk openly about the results. How you communicate survey results sets the tone for receiving continued employee feedback and their ideas for improvement—being open builds trust. Do your best to play the role of an impartial observer; communicate the findings without intermingling personal opinions.

Do…Be clear
Employee survey results can be difficult to understand. Be as clear and concise as possible when sharing the results with employees. Avoid jargon and commentary that will create confusion.

And finally, remember, follow up and follow through is the key to successful implementation—and how your employees will judge the success of your survey efforts.