If there is one worst thing an organization can do, it’s ask people their opinion and do nothing with the information. If your company isn’t prepared to hear the feedback and react to it, don’t fake it by asking people their opinion.
And, this doesn’t just apply to employee opinion surveys…it’s any kind of survey.
That being said, if you’re interested in soliciting feedback – by all means, go for it. People love being asked and are usually more than willing to give you their 2-cents, 5-cents and in some cases a whole dollar! There are some things to keep in mind when you’re asking for feedback:
Think about the audience carefully. This is one of the most important decisions in a survey process. If you pick the wrong audience, everyone else will make assumptions and the results are doomed before the first question is asked. Carefully weigh if you need to ask the whole world or just a handful of folks. Also, examine the reverse. Should you survey just a sampling or let everyone have the opportunity to participate? Needless to say, it’s equally important not to manipulate the audience – as in only picking people who will answer a certain way.
Make sure your audience can answer the question. You run the risk of getting bad information if you ask people for their opinion and they don’t understand your goals. Example: You ask a group of people to help you select a speaker for your next conference. If the audience doesn’t understand the goals of the event…they aren’t equipped with the information to make a good selection.
Constructing a survey correctly is another key component to success. If you ask the wrong questions, you run the risk of getting funky answers that you don’t know how to react to.
Only ask what you can control. I never understood why companies ask employees if they feel they get paid enough on surveys. Seriously, who in their right mind is going to say, I make plenty of money, no merit increase necessary. Of course, the survey results would always show that employees want more money…and management somehow seems shocked at this result.
Don’t ask conflicting questions. I recently participated in a product survey. Several questions were dedicated to the cost of the product. You know, things like “Does the product cost too much?” Then there was a whole section dedicated to what enhancements you might want. I’d love to see the results of this survey…what happens if people say the product costs too much and then say these are all the enhancements they want? Doesn’t that basically set the organization up for failure? They can never satisfy either response without alienating the other.
Make it short. Let me direct this at every conference meeting planner out there…no one wants to answer 50 questions about the event. I understand conference planners want feedback. But there’s a point where you have to rely on what you saw and heard onsite. If you ate a soggy chicken sandwich, just assume the rest of us did too. Keep the questions to a minimum to encourage participation.
Take survey participants through the right series of questions. For example, let’s say you’re surveying a group of people about where to hold the company picnic. As part of that survey, you want to ask people if they attended last year’s picnic (seems logical). But if they didn’t, don’t ask them to comment on last year’s event. Otherwise, they’re giving you an opinion about something they didn’t attend. I know, I know…you’re saying, this is a no-brainer, right? But just recently, I got a survey from a professional association that did just that.
Surveys are a powerful tool to solicit information and encourage participation. A poorly constructed survey can do more harm than good. Take the time to clearly establish survey objectives and craft a well thought out plan. In my opinion, that’s the only path to survey success.1