How to… Conduct an employee survey

A questionnaire, paper based or delivered electronically to employees asking
for their views on diverse aspects of their working lives.

Why do it?

Surveying employees is a way of finding out what is happening in the
workplace. General information may cover morale of your workforce, how
motivated they feel and how much they understand the business and their
contribution to business success.

Surveys can identify specific problems – poor communication, problems with
remote management, even problems with office equipment or the fabric of the
workplace. Since these aspects impact negatively on employees’ working lives,
it is up to the organisation to take note and create initiatives that address
these issues.

Strategic employee surveys may also be carried out following change or
management initiatives to ascertain the effectiveness of such events.

How often?

This depends on the use of the survey, but there should be at least one a
year giving the ability to compare responses year-on-year, ensuring progress is
made with the issues identified.

This also provides useful material for organisation communications – the
company can tell its employees: "You told us you wanted this to happen and
so this is what we have done."

The Investors in People standard requires an annual employee survey – it is
a clear way of ensuring employees are valued and listened to by employers.

Can I do it myself?

Yes and no. "The big concern is always that people should be free to
tell you how they really feel," says Catherine Gilbert, UK corporate
services director at financial services consultancy DBM. "Using an
external or independent agency means you enhance the independent aspect of the

An external consultancy will also help write questions in a straightforward
way to illicit unbiased and honest answers. "Skewed questions can lead to
unrepresentative results," says Roy Davis, communications manager at SHL.

That said, in summer 2001, Unisys surveyed its 38,000 worldwide employees, via
the internet, received an 80 per cent response rate and processed the results
entirely in house.

How do I make one?

"When we design a survey we look for two types of information,"
says Richard North, managing director of COPC (Customer Operation Performance
Center). "First you want to get an overall view, and then you need details
from specific parts of the workplace." North warns against asking diverse
questions and using the results to work out an average measure of employee

"People may think negatively about certain things, but those things may
not play a major part in how they feel about the workplace," he continues.
"Through analysis you can identify elements you can address which will
have a major impact on satisfaction."

What should I expect?

"Make sure you can deal with the feedback," says Chris McGivern of
research consultancy EmployeSurveys Research & Consulting. "Try to
focus on one or two of the core issues you need to address. There will be lots
of things raised by the survey, but these should link back into specific

Bob Illingworth, HR director at Unisys, says: "The biggest measure of a
successful survey is employees recognising that their feedback has driven
change." Results from the company’s regular survey in the UK contributed
directly to the establishment of Vision ON – an initiative designed to give
staff more influence on their working lives.

Not acting on information collected will not only prove a disincentive for
employees, but will ensure that next time a survey is conducted, the response
rate will be lower.

Make sure you don’t carry out a survey when there are known significant
influences affecting employees. Richard North suggests avoiding periods of pay
talks, while Chris McGivern says few employees will want to give feedback on
the values they perceive exist in the organisation if the roof is leaking and
their computer keeps crashing.

Where can I get more information?

Designing and Using Organizational Surveys – A.H.Church

How to Conduct Organisational Surveys: A Step by Step Guide – Jack E
Edwards, Marie D Thomas, Paul Rosenfeld, Stephanie Booth-Kewley

Staff Opinion Surveys – a booklet from EmployeSurveys Research &
Consulting. The company provides full service for running and analysing surveys

Employee Attitude Surveys – IDS Studies Winter 2001: includes a list of 30
providers which can assist in employee attitude surveys.

Campbell Organisational Survey – survey tool and service created by The
Center for Creative Leadership

Verax – develops, distributes and can analyse questionnaires

Investors in People: – consultancy aimed at
quality and performance in call centre activities

If you only do five things

1 Make sure you act upon the
information you collect

2 Give employees a chance to say what they want to say

3 Ensure anonymity is perceived and upheld at all times

4 Carry out the survey at least once a year

5 Ask relevant questions

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