By Dominique Schmid on 30.03.2021 | 9 minutes reading time
Who has the best idea of what your employees need to do good work? They do themselves! In our experience, companies do best when they start from this understanding, and when employees are included in the development process for the employee survey. If you’re wondering how to design your employee survey so that it leads to meaningful change, then you’ve come to the right place.
In six easy steps, this article explains how to conduct a successful employee survey. You’ll not only get some valuable tips, but also a helpful checklist. Let’s go!
1. Set a goal for the employee survey
Before digging into the details of the actual questions, make sure you have a clear vision for what goals you want the survey to accomplish.
This table gives you an overview of some possible goals for an employee survey.
|Keep your finger on the pulse of your workplace
|You want to find out how your employees are doing, and where they’re facing hurdles.
|You want to support your employees and give them the tools they need to master any crises that come up. As 2020 has shown us, potential crises are everywhere; they can include falling revenues, losing clients, or a global pandemic.
|Increase employee engagement
|You want to measure and promote employee engagement and satisfaction. More on the topic of increasing employee engagement.
|You want to support your employees through a transformation, whether that’s a reorganization, a change in leadership, or a merger. More on the topic of supporting transformations.
|You want to increase and reinforce the customer-centricity of the entire company—ensuring that all your employees are focusing on the customer. More on the topic of promoting customer-centricity.
|Implement company strategy
|You want your employees to embody the company vision, mission or strategic priorities. More on the topic of implementing a company strategy.
|You want to anchor your activities in core company values such as «honesty» or «reliability»—making sure that employees live these values on a daily basis. More on the topic of developing culture.
Expert tip: It’s best to formulate your goals as specifically as possible and define ahead of time how you’ll measure progress towards those goals. That way, after the survey, you can easily determine whether the goals have been achieved.
Download our free guide to formulate effective questions
2. Determine the employee survey setup
Before shifting your focus to the questions, you should determine how the employee survey will be set up. The setup includes the frequency (how often the survey will be asked), the duration (timeframe within which the survey can be completed) and the participants (group of employees who are invited to take the survey). In short: frequency, duration and participants.
The selection of participants depends on the goals of the survey. Depending on the goal, it may be smart to survey all employees (for company-wide topics) or just a subset of employees (for division-specific topics). We find that whenever possible it’s good to invite entire teams to take the survey, so that the teams themselves can discuss the survey results afterward.
At this point it also makes sense to think about what survey tool you will use. Will the teams actively work with the results and implement bottom-up improvements? Or is it better to take a top-down approach, in which the first step is to have the project team analyse the results and define metrics? Is anonymity necessary?
In our experience, the most valuable employee survey is one where the feedback can be viewed in real time.
That way, problems can be addressed immediately instead of a few months later when they’re no longer relevant.
You can find more on the advantages and disadvantages of anonymity in our article: Employee surveys have to be anonymous, right?.
3. Specify the topics and questions for the employee survey
After you’ve set clear goals and determined the setup for your employee survey, you can shift your focus to the survey topics. The topics should always relate to the overall goals of the survey.
For example, the goal of «increasing engagement» could include topics such as collaboration, leadership, job content and job satisfaction. You can then formulate appropriate questions for each of these topics.
Tip: There are many valuable sample questionnaires online—oftentimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. For example, if you have the goal of supporting transformations, you can keep this questionnaire on hand.
The number of questions in an employee survey is an important consideration. We usually recommend between two and four surveys per year, and our video explains why a few questions are probably enough.
We’ve also created this guide to help you ask the right questions on important topics. It contains our most important tips to help you formulate questions that lead to valuable insights.
4. Plan for the employee survey implementation
Now you’re faced with a choice: conduct the employee survey yourself, or let an external agency handle it. To make this decision a bit easier for you, we’ve made a table that outlines the advantages and disadvantages.
|Implementation by an external agency
And what if you’ve decided to use an external agency, but can’t decide which one? Then think about the following points and questions—they may help you out:
- Proximity: Does the external agency know your local culture? Do they have any experience from work with other clients in a similar field?
- Design: How do you collaborate when designing the survey?
- Communication: How do you collaborate when the results need to be communicated and incorporated into your work?
- HR field: Does the external agency have expertise in HR and advice on related topics?
- Modern approaches: Does the external agency use modern approaches such as short surveys?
Answer the following questions for yourself: Should employees be involved in the process? Do you want to work through the results from the bottom up? Is one of your goals to take the pulse of your workplace? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then our feedback tool, Pulse, might be a good fit for your company. Check it out.
Download our free checklist for your employee survey
5. Prepare to implement the employee survey
In order to get underway, the important stakeholders should be informed about the employee survey. Stakeholders can include HR leadership, management or employee representatives. Ideally, the stakeholders will be involved as soon as the concept for the employee survey is set. That way, you have something concrete to discuss, but there’s still time for you to react to feedback.
Feedback is a gift. You decide what you’ll do with it. You’re the experts. Stay true to yourselves and evaluate the feedback with respect to your ultimate goals.
Want to be sure that the employee reps are also on your side? You’ll find what you’re looking for in our article: Three tips for turning your employee reps into allies.
Once the important stakeholders are on board, you can pass along the relevant information to the employees themselves.
We’ve put together this list so that you won’t overlook any of the most important points when communicating with the employees:
- Audience: Communications are directed at both employees and managers. If possible, inform the two groups separately and use an appropriate approach for each.
- Goals: The goals of the employee survey are clearly stated.
- Sequence: The sequence of events and the time commitment are clear to the employees.
- Task assignment: The tasks and roles for the employees and managers are clearly delineated (the clearer you are when assigning tasks, the higher the chance of success).
- Communication: There is sufficient communication (this point is often overlooked) and it occurs at the right times (e.g. a few days ahead, reminders throughout the survey period and support when working through the results afterwards).
Now all that’s left is to load the employee survey into the chosen tool, or give the external agency the green light. Then the survey can begin!
6. Start the employee survey
Communications—such as the introductory info and the invitation emails to employees—are what set the employee survey in motion. During the survey, it is always important to guide the teams and keep your ears open for questions.
One more small but important tip to wrap things up: after the survey has been implemented, the employees and teams should work with the results. Follow-up communication is a very important part of the employee survey; it helps the employees feel valued.
Note: Measuring is not the same as learning and improving.
The survey results must be analysed and discussed in detail, so that they can create a new knowledge base throughout the company. Only then can you define and implement meaningful and effective improvements. For concrete guidance on how teams can discuss their results, see our guide.
Everything at a glance
As you can see, the planning, creation and implementation of an employee survey isn’t rocket science. However, there are still several factors that can prove to be stumbling blocks if you don’t plan for them. In particular, the formulation of questions for the employee survey requires both knowledge and experience.
We compiled all the important points in the checklist for your employee survey so that nothing is forgotten during the planning, implementation and discussion of the results.
In our guide to employee survey questionnaires, we go into more detail about how to formulate questions. You may want to keep it on hand in case you need more help in this area.