The top five do's and don'ts of employee surveys

The term employee experience is up there with ‘diversity and inclusion’ or ‘compensation and benefits’ as some of the most common buzz words in the HR industry.

And hey, we at HR Grapevine get it. You’ve done your research; you can pull a good sentence or two together off the top of your head when asked what employee experience means. However, the fact of the matter is that, these are buzz words because they’re incredibly important. Employee experience isn’t a gimmick – in fact, it’s the foundation of your entire business. Without a strong employee experience, you’ve got disengaged employees, no productivity, high turnover and, inevitably, a rubbish customer experience as a result.

In the current fierce talent market, emerging generations with wildly differing expectations coming into the workforce and a dramatic evolution of skills taking place, it’s safe to say that honing in on employee experience and getting it right is quite important.

And, for those who are contented in their current knowledge on the subject, you know well that HR is an industry that never sleeps. What may have been effective yesterday might not work today, and what constituted exemplary employee experience last week may be sorely dated next. You’re never too knowledgeable to stop learning.

However, this leaves us with a vast question to consider. How do you, the HR practitioner, know if your business is getting employee experience right? As you may have guessed from the title of this article, the answer is, the employee survey. Be warned, though, not all employee surveys are created equal. Whilst a strong survey will yield the answers you desire, others are ineffective and may do more damage than good. What are the differentiating factors between the two, I hear you ask? This is what we’re here to discuss.

Luckily for us, our friends at MHR just released a huge new report titled ‘Employee Experience: Digging Into The Numbers’, which not only reveals what good employee experience looks like, but also how to truly ace the employee survey.

So, for your convenience, here are five of the most vital learnings from the research, and how they translate into the best, and worst, of crafting employee surveys.

1. DO anonymize data

Let’s be honest, critically answering a survey sent by your company is an anxiety-inducing process. Whilst you want the truth, employees motivated by the need to retain their jobs likely won’t be giving a true picture in their responses. The simplest way to mitigate this is to anonymise the data and – perhaps more importantly, communicate that this data is anonymised. According to MHR’s research, the average response rate to surveys is only 60%, which is unsurprising considering 40% of businesses don’t anonymise their surveys. Yet, 30% fear feedback is not truthful! The answer to all of these issues is anonymization.

2. DO use software and trusted partners to support

A regular employee survey (and yes, they should be regular, see number three!) is a big undertaking. For the act of surveying your staff to not be performative in nature, and to get truly useful results, you need to consider the developing nature of your employee experience, and your workforce. It’s a lot of work to get it right, and then it’s a lot of work to sift through the data. It’s perhaps this reason why the average length of time to analyse the results of a survey, according to MHR, is a massive seven days. And, why 93% of organisations don’t have instant access to survey results. The solution is obvious, use a trusted partner with the right tools to make the process faster, easier and more effective.

3. DO run more frequently than once a year

This is a big one. Whilst the annual survey was once a staple of the business world, times have changed. We now realise that, in a fast-paced and changing climate, data from several months ago is already degrading fast in usefulness, let alone a year ago. According to MHR, a substantial 14% of organisations run an annual satisfaction survey, and just 45% run satisfaction surveys quarterly. It can take very little time for wellbeing among the workforce to change, so building a schedule of regular substantial surveys, complemented with a range of pulse surveys, is a winning formula for keeping your finger on the pulse.

4. DON’T forget to communicate results across the business

Some businesses will expect employees to spend substantial time filling out an in-depth employee survey, discuss at senior leadership level, and then put a pin in the whole process. It’s beggar’s belief that this same demographic is likely shocked when they receive a far lower completion rate on future surveys. In fact, according to MHR’s research, only 46% of organisations always communicate the results from surveys with staff. That’s significantly less than half of organisations who actually tell their people what will come of their insight. That’s worrying, to say the least. To ensure that the process is a reciprocal one, you must share the why of the survey, and the outcomes. What were the results, and what are you going to do about them? These are the things employees will be keen to know.

5. DON’T do too many surveys

It sounds counter-intuitive after scorning those who do employee surveys annually, however there is a distinct risk of survey fatigue among those who are expected to complete in-depth polls on a highly regular basis. And let’s be honest, if you’re sending out a new full survey once per month, you’re likely not acting on the findings, truly considering the analysis or communicating outcomes to staff, breaking several other of our golden rules. The frequency isn’t set in stone, it depends on your needs as a business and your level of employee engagement. However, be wary of the constant looming threat of survey fatigue and ensure that you’re supplementing more in-depth research with little and often pulse surveys. In this way, you can maintain a healthy and positive dialogue with your staff.

Ultimately, the secret to acing the whole process of the employee survey comes down to respecting your people. Respect their time, and don’t push for more insight than you need, or will be useful. Respect their insight, and act on what you discover, and respect them as the most vital lynchpin in this insight, and share the results with them, as well as your considered outcomes. If you follow these five golden rules, you’ll be mastering this fine art in no time.

And, of course, much of this insight is a direct result of MHR’s latest employee experience survey, which is a goldmine of vital information for you, the HR community. To read the whole report, click here.

To see what MHR's HR software can do for you, book your no-obligation expert demo now