Surveys Are Good, But Just Not the Same as Listening to Employees

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Jul 9, 2014

It’s hard to improve employee engagement without having an accurate picture of where things stand in the first place.

Many managers rely on employee surveys to get a sense of how their workforce is doing, but a questionnaire alone isn’t enough to transform a team and inspire exceptional performance.

Increasing engagement requires a foundation of trust built through active listening and responsiveness. Therefore, it’s essential for surveys to provide workers with a voice and for managers to take the right action after the results come in.

Creating a better survey

The Society for Human Resource Management studied the evolution of employee surveys and how they contribute to engagement. The report indicated that the most advanced survey strategies take full advantage of technological resources, representing a great advancement from the five-point scale paper forms of old.

Web-based solutions can help managers better analyze and act upon survey responses.

In addition, companies have gotten smarter about the questions they ask, largely through capabilities of robust digital survey programs. The SHRM report indicated that earlier surveys were more descriptive in nature, such as revealing the percentage of workers satisfied with their jobs, and offered few actionable insights that helped leaders make decisions for their organizations.

To fuel better analytical capabilities with the right kind of data, surveys have to ask the right questions. The study suggested starting by thinking about the questions that managers hope to answer through the survey results.

Core objectives

This should be aimed at addressing core objectives, such as these examples provided in the report:

  • What impact does employee engagement have on critical employee behaviors and on our business?
  • What actions should we improve or sustain to maximize engagement?
  • How do the answers to these questions differ for critical workforce segments?
  • How do we engage leaders and managers in driving our engagement strategy?

Surveys can then be designed with questions that will solicit the type of information that can provide insight into these objectives.

For example, rather than asking employees to rate their job satisfaction on a scale from one to 10, companies can offer their workers more descriptive options, such as “I have more good days than bad” or “I feel energized when I participate in group discussions.”

Trust, communication fuels engagement

Forbes magazine emphasized that companies with the highest levels of employee engagement know what their employees are thinking. This kind of employee understanding is fueled by a range of active listening platforms, from effective surveys to social media platforms that offer workers the opportunity to share their ideas and join in on live discussions.

Creating an atmosphere that encourages greater openness and communication gives companies the chance to help their employees better understand the reason and value behind the tasks they perform and the projects they complete. It also helps to fuel collaboration as teams are brought closer together and kept on the same page.

Representatives from DHL, which was recently recognized as one of the best places to work in Dubai, explained to Gulf News how the company harnesses the power of its employees’ insights through “town hall meetings.” The fruits of this strategy include both idea generation and the formation of a culture of trust between supervisors and employees.

“They’re meant to talk about what the big picture is, where the company stands or what needs to be done. What’s important is each individual can help share some ideas on how to achieve our goals,” said Frank-Uwe Ungerer, UAE country manager at DHL Express.

He added; “It is essential that you create an environment of trust. Trust means people can speak up, share what they like, what they don’t like or what needs to be improved.”

A foundation to a powerful atmosphere

Surveys can be the foundation to a workplace atmosphere that welcomes innovation, responds to workers’ concerns and inspires passion about the company’s goals and mission. But the true power of the questionnaire comes after the data is collected and analyzed.

Read more from David Bator on his Blog: Beyond the Employee Survey