By Nils Reisen | 2 minutes reading time

What is the goal of employee surveys? It is to find out what is going well and where there are obstacles in the daily (cooperative) work. If you remove these, everyone in the company can do a good job. So much for the theory. In reality, however, you often stumble when you move from the survey results to noticeable improvements. What are the requirements for an effective employee survey?

From Nils Reisen

We found that the disillusionment with the existing group-wide employee survey was enormous. "I take part regularly, but nothing has ever happened" was a phrase we often heard. We did not think that much frustration was necessary. So, we asked ourselves: "What can we do to make it easier for everyone in the company to do a good job?”

After countless interviews, books, and articles on the subject, we came up with three key insights.

1. Everyone in the company must be able to work with the feedback

Employee feedback is best understood by colleagues in their immediate working environment. They can understand the feedback in context, identify root causes, and drive effective improvements.

Feedback must therefore be accessible to everyone in the company. And in a format that allows for further discussion. That way, improvements can be made anywhere in the organization. Directly where they are needed and without detour through the hierarchy. In other words: everyone must constantly measure, learn, and improve.

2. Text is more effective in leading action than numbers: the more free-text comments, the better

Employee feedback is usually obtained through surveys that focus on ratings rather than written comments. While quantitative data is easier to collect and evaluate, it provides little information about the reasons for the ratings given.

Free-text comments, on the other hand, are a valuable source for identifying causes. The more employees write, the more action-oriented the feedback. Especially important here: the comments must be formulated constructively. This can be achieved by cleverly designing the survey screen. You can read more about this in our next article.

3. The period between giving feedback and experiencing changes must be as short as possible

“Employees want to express their views in surveys and are frustrated if their opinions are not used.” Not a brand-new insight, but from an article by Klein and colleagues from 1971*. The faster the feedback is available, the faster it can have an effect. Changes in the company happen faster and faster and therefore the feedback from the employees has only a short “expiration date.”

Conclusion

An effective tool for regular employee surveys enables everyone in the company to provide constructive feedback and to work with the results promptly. The employees can simply ...

• Communicate what prevents them from doing good work
• Find out what is currently going well and what needs to be improved
• Define and implement measures that lead to noticeable improvements

This cycle of continuous reflection and adaptation makes it possible to keep employee commitment high.
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*Klein, S. M., Kraut, A. I., & Wolfson, A. (1971). Employee reactions to attitude survey feedback: A study of the impact of structure and process. Administrative Science Quarterly, 16(4), 497–514.

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