5 Reasons You Need an Employee Survey

If you haven’t conducted an employee survey before, getting started can be rife with questions: What should it encompass? How do we avoid bias and get the most out of a survey? Will people actually participate and share their experience?

Plus, the most pressing question of all: Why even do an employee survey?

It’s helpful to understand what an employee survey does before diving into the why behind conducting it. The main function of the employee survey is to assess:

  • The level of employee engagement and what may drive it
  • How satisfied employees are with their compensation, benefits, and work environment
  • The effectiveness of management and leadership

These areas of investigation give a high-level sketch of the employee experience and identify places for further research or improvement. This can be extremely valuable information. Top organizations use surveys to drive meaningful business results every day. For example, International Truck and Engine Corporation used their employee surveys to pinpoint a communication issue within and between departments. When they worked to address it at a pilot site, communication scores rose by 9.5 percent and defects fell by 19 percent. That has serious implications for their bottom line, and we believe many businesses can benefit in similar ways from employee surveys.

Here are our 5 top reasons you should get on board and start asking employees about their experience at work:

  1. Get engagement right: Companies in the US realize over 85 percent of their value from the contributions of people, so getting employee engagement and performance correct is essential to business success.

While “employee engagement” sounds like an abstract term, its strategic benefits are well-understood. Engaged people are more satisfied and invested in the success of their organization, and they typically go on to be top performers. Engagement implies an emotional commitment on the employee’s behalf, which means they use their extra energy and attention at work rather than just “doing their job” and clocking out at the end of the day. Engagement also leads to greater innovation, lower turnover, and more productive people.

Surveys remain one of the best ways to measure this crucial metric, but naturally they only work if you do them.

  1. Increase communication: The feedback from an employee survey can be a catalyst for authentic dialogue and impactful change. Most people will feel more comfortable being honest in such a confidential forum as opposed to an interview or conversation. Surveys should also be designed to minimize bias, so the data gleaned from them is more open and candid.

At the outset, having an option to provide candid feedback will already help employees will feel more heard and valued. From there, leaders can build on the results of the survey to keep communication flowing and show they are reacting to employees’ needs.

  1. Improve retention: High turnover is a killer. Because replacing employees is so expensive, maintaining a high retention rate of skilled, engaged people can be life or death in some industries. As it turns out, employees with low engagement are four times more likely to quit than their high-scoring counterparts, so it’s good to know if you’re sitting on a ticking time bomb.

This paints a grim picture, but insights from employee surveys can be used to create an action plan to avoid the pitfalls of high turnover. Leaders can use surveys to identify issues earlier and understand what precise changes need to be made.

  1. Identify areas where things are working: On the other side, surveys can also be used to find and share institutional knowledge of best practices. There may be hidden pockets of high engagement or positive experience that other parts of the organization can learn from. By rewarding and lifting up good practices, leaders can ensure they take root across the business.

Another post-survey strategy is empowering managers and leaders in these high-scoring parts of the organization to teach their peers. This leads to many positive effects with low additional costs.

  1. Start using benchmarking to stay accountable: Tracking is essential to any change or improvement efforts within an organization. If you don’t know where you’re starting from, how can you know down the road that your time and energy yielded any movement? Employee surveys create a baseline of engagement, satisfaction, and effectiveness metrics to measure against and track over time. The initial picture may be rosy or not, but either way having a baseline is important to work from.

Baseline metrics can also be compared with industry data to understand competitiveness on this front. There may even be opportunities to stand out in your market: Are your issues in fact industry-wide problems that your organization could be a leader in solving?

As you delve into exploring the employee experience, keep in mind that surveys are not an opportunity to punish and should never be used for retribution. Uncovering issues during your investigation doesn’t mean it’s time to start finger-pointing. Playing the blame game using survey results undermines trust between all levels of an organization, and will impact your ability to get honest, actionable feedback moving forward.

On the contrary, surveys are a great business tool for learning and growth when leaders use them in a positive manner. They should move us towards delivering a positive work experience  for everyone. Employers have more control over this than they realize, and stand to reap the benefits when people are passionate and excited about their work.