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Employee Surveys: Does your strategy measure up?

For some organizations, measuring employee opinion and sentiment via a survey (whether it be related to engagement, culture, experience, etc.) is a part of typical business practices. Creating a blueprint for how to implement the measurement strategy before, during, and after the survey is a process that comes as naturally as breathing. Other organizations struggle more with this process either due to inexperience or, more likely, the inability to develop a measurement strategy that aligns with their culture.

While surveying your workforce is essential, it is important to keep in mind that when it comes to measurement, one size rarely fits all. Rather than trying to follow abstract best practices, the measurement strategy needs to resonate in the context of your organization’s culture and priorities. Consider the following as you articulate your survey strategy:

  • Timing. This is about creating your survey calendar. Are you an annual-census survey type of organization? Perhaps biannual with pulse surveys in between? Maybe you want quarterly pulses all year long. To decide what rhythm is appropriate, think about your decision-making process and the organization’s ability to act and implement change based on survey results. There is no right or wrong answer to how often you collect employee opinion information, but whatever your timeline, the most important thing is to stick with it, regardless of what may be happening in your organization and the challenges you face.
  • Supporting. To ensure a response rate that provides a representative sample of your population, a robust communication strategy during the survey’s live period should be in place. Understanding the most frequently used communication platforms available in the organization, such as email, intranet video, newsletters, all-hands meetings, and social networking sites, ensures that your messaging meets employees where they are. Also, consider your organizational structure and who you need to get involved. Messaging from the executive leadership team and HR suffices in organizations with centralized decision-making processes, but highly decentralized organizations need to involve leaders of business units and departments in order to encourage participation.
  • Cascading. When the survey closes, there should be a strategic plan for the information you have collected and, most importantly, who in your manager and leadership team should have access to the data. You may choose to provide only the executive team with the survey results, involve middle managers, or cascade all the way down to frontline managers. Consider how much (or little) your organization values information sharing and transparency as well as the comfort level of the leadership team when determining the appropriate distribution of survey results. Regardless of who you share the information with, don’t forget that it’s only those populations that can be expected to act on results. You can’t hold leaders accountable for data they did not see.
  • Taking action. Soliciting employee opinion should not be an academic exercise intended to enlighten you on what it feels like to work in your organization. Rather, use the data to gain insights on how to maintain what your organization does well and improve what isn’t working. While taking action is a prerequisite for surveying your employee population, the action you take and how you choose to do so may vary. Action can’t be driven by survey data alone; there is no magic number that indicates what you need to focus on. Rather, reviewing the data in light of your organization’s values and strategic priorities will help you determine where to focus. You will also need to consider how you take action—Will there be one organization-wide approach and focus to act on, or will leaders have the latitude to implement actions that address local results? Part of the how is determined by the cascade you choose.

Considering these elements as you are determining your measurement strategy ensures that your approach to the employee survey resonates with your organization’s culture.

About the Authors

Colleen Casey
When I was about 8 years old, I made the obligatory pilgrimage of every born and bred New Jersey native to the Thomas Edison museum. The other children and I pummeled our patient tour guide with innumerable questions (mostly pertaining to whether or not Mr. Edison had died on the premises). Upon learning that Mr. Edison had not received much in the way of a formal education, I inquired “But how was he so smart if he never went to school?!” The simple and astute response of the guide – “He asked a lot of questions.” My career in public opinion and employee polling has led me to do just that – ask a lot of questions in order to better understand how others see the world and what shapes those perceptions. In my current role, I use the insights that I gain from engagement surveys to help our client organizations better understand how their employees view their work, their leaders and the organization’s culture in order to enable them to implement meaningful change based on employee feedback. I feel that my time spent studying sociology and living in France provided me with a unique opportunity to see the world through a different lens and understand how culture informs the way we view ourselves, the world around us, and the institutions that shape us. These academic and personal experiences have been highly valuable to me in my career, heightening my sensitivity and awareness of the necessity to bring a unique approach to client measurement strategies, an approach that aligns with and reflects their unique organizational culture.

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