You’re aware that the company has to be constantly driven forward, that it needs to succeed and it cannot be dragged behind when the competition is striding into the future. There’s constant change in the workplace. So what to do? Well a staff survey is a start isn’t it? So a sort of checklist is put together, a few questions asked, some actions taken. Job done?

Many companies have done such a survey. Some believe doing the survey is an end in itself. Yet, the fact is a properly devised and effectively used employee engagement survey is one of the greatest management tools a company can have to reach the heart of what makes an organisation tick.

Much has been written about the demise of the staff survey but this is changing and there is a bright future ahead.

Devise the Right Survey

The fact is an Employee Survey is an essential tool to help organisations understand engagement.

A properly devised survey should fully take into account all the key stakeholders needs and requirements. The outputs from your survey should feed into the organisations aims and objectives, if not, support from your Leaders (and Senior Managers) will be limited and therefore organisational wide initiatives will not be fully supported. The survey must reflect your employees’ needs, it must cover the issues and topics that are important to them; otherwise why would they complete the survey? Finally, your middle managers must not be forgotten. They have the most to fear from a survey and they must also have input and be re-assured that they will be supported when results are produced.

Taking into account the above, the survey should look to broadly cover the key areas of employee engagement (although this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Trust – do employees believe that the communication from managers is open and honest?
  • Nature of the job – how interesting do employees find their work?
  • Performance appreciation – do employees understand how their work contributes to the organisation’s performance?
  • Career progression – are there clear opportunities for employees?
  • Corporate pride – do employees gain a sense of self-esteem from being part of the organisation?
  • Colleagues – do employees feel part of the team?
  • Employee development – is the employer adding to employees’ skills?
  • Employee-manager relationship – do employees value their relationship with their manager?

Question relating to the above can be broadly divided into three main areas. These are:

  • Blockers to engagement: Problems faced by employees, such as inadequate IT systems, poor policies and procedures, or excessive workloads.
  • Drivers of engagement: Motivating factors such as praise and recognition, good relationships with line managers, and opportunities to learn career-enhancing skills.
  • Outcomes of engagement: Beneficial attitudes such as employees pride in their work and organisation, willingness to recommend their employer, and desire to remain with the employer for the foreseeable future.

Interrogate the Data to Produce Action

Once a company has devised a survey that has asked the right questions the data must be properly understood and outcomes decided.  Outcomes are essential for employees taking part in the engagement process. By introducing an employee engagement process the expectation is that action will follow. If this does not happen, there is a very real danger that a company can unwittingly demotivate large numbers of its staff

It is important to share the data and perhaps devise focus groups to find out more. Following the survey, outcomes can include appointing Ambassadors to lead change from all levels within an organisation, staff incentives, finding and establishing different methods of communication and devising fresh, new ideas for involvement and rewards in consultation with staff.

Once the first phase is complete, a review should be undertaken with another staff survey that is focused on looking at the previous issues that were mentioned and any new topics that may have arisen.

‘Always On’ Surveys

Systems that provide ‘always on’ surveys to collect data in real time are now pitched as a replacement for the traditional engagement survey. The problem is that, while these systems collect lots of data (which can be a nightmare for managers to sift through), you still need to consider how to translate those results into action – the real driver of your employee engagement strategy – or risk the pitfalls of having a purely transactional survey.

Case Study: The Survey In Action

Devising the right survey has really worked for property management, development and regeneration company Places for People. The not-for-dividend organisation owns/manages over 84,000 properties and has a large workforce spread across the UK.

It felt that previous surveys it held were too rigid and the data was not sufficient for managers and staff to make a ‘real difference’. It decided to take a fresh approach and brought on board The Survey Initiative.

Meetings took place with the Executive team to agree the approach and then pre-survey focus groups took place with employees to really get to grips with what matters to staff and what they wanted to measure through an engagement survey. This promoted a greater interest in the survey with response rates shooting up from 62% in the last survey to an amazing 82%.

Following the survey, the company has embarked on a number of new measures to develop its employee engagement across the business. This includes creating a scheme where staff can job shadow in different parts of the business to improve cross functional working, mentor other employees and get to know what they do, to encourage more team working and recognition for job roles.

I believe the traditional employee survey that asks the right questions and delivers outcomes for the staff and the company has a strong future. There is no doubting that if managed properly this type of survey gives a powerful insight into the outlook of the workforce and the health of your business.

Gary Cattermole is a Director at award-winning staff survey and employee engagement specialists, The Survey Initiative.