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A survey is defined as “a method of asking many people a series of questions to gather information about what most people do or think about something” according to Merriam-Webster. Organizations use surveys all the time. From a customer perspective, companies ask customers for their views on products and services. They also ask about interactions (i.e., “How was your visit?”).
And of course, companies conduct employee surveys. Getting employee feedback is important but it’s equally important to have a survey philosophy or strategy because survey fatigue is alive and well. It happens a couple of ways.
First, people get too many surveys and as a result stop completing them. This results in a lower response rate which could make the sample size too small. A sample size that’s too small can increase the margin of error and cause poor conclusions to be drawn from the data.
Second, the survey is too long and people either drop off mid-survey or lose interest. Drop offs could impact sample size (see above). Losing interest could keep participants from providing detailed data. For example, remember central tendency bias? I think one of the reasons that people start answering questions in the middle of a rating scale is because they might be getting tired. They know that they need to do the survey, so they just give middle-range answers to get it over with.
Employee Surveys: The 7 Different Types
To make sure you’re getting good information from your employee surveys, think about the different types of surveys that you conduct and why you need them. You can use this information to create a survey strategy that reduces fatigue and increases the quality of feedback. Here are 7 of the most common types.
Candidate Experience: Organizations might want to survey job candidates to find out their impressions of the hiring experience. Don’t forget there’s a connection between the candidate experience and the bottom-line. This type of survey can be done electronically and anonymously. It might make sense to tell candidates in advance that everyone gets a survey, so they’re not surprised. Also, conducting a candidate survey can show candidates that the company values feedback. Something they might like to know before becoming an employee.
Learning & Development: Employees are traditionally asked about their views when attending a learning event. One of the most common methods is the Kirkpatrick Model. The first level of the model is “Reaction” and is a survey to gauge participant reaction to the training/learning. An example of a Level 1 – Reaction question might be “Was the training a good use of your time?” The other Levels of the Kirkpatrick model are Level 2 – Knowledge, Level 3 – Behavior, Level 4 – Results. While they aren’t typically surveys, they are worth mentioning because a Level 1 survey could lead to further evaluation.
New Hire: There are a couple of times when new hires are surveyed for feedback. First during the orientation program and this is often a Kirkpatrick Level 1 (above). Then organizations frequently conduct “check ins” with new employees. These can be done electronically. Or in person. The goal of a new hire survey is to make sure that the new employee is getting all the support they need to learn the job and the company. If there’s something that needs to be addressed, it happens right away.
Employee Engagement: Sometimes called employee opinion or employee satisfaction surveys, they’re often conducted annually. Or every other year. Depending on how employees access information, they could be electronic or pen/paper (with the ability to scan). The key to success with this type of survey comes in the debrief (aka presentation of survey results). It’s about getting everyone involved in the conversation and being prepared to act on the results.
Ad Hoc: I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are times when we just send out a quick survey about something. These types of ad hoc surveys can be helpful for quickly getting feedback – like where to have an event or what logo item employees want. But we do have to be careful that we’re not overloading someone’s email inbox and that we’re prepared to deal with the answer. For example, let’s say the company wants to give all the employees a logo item. You’ve heard from employees that they want Yeti mugs but the CEO says they want t-shirts. Someone suggests doing a survey – which shows everyone wants mugs. CEO overrides the survey and says to buy t-shirts. This can completely deflate employee expectations and hurt responses in future surveys.
Stay Surveys: I’m going to put stay interviews in this category because I believe it fits the definition. The purpose of a stay interview is to find out why employees like working for the organization. It answers the question “Why do you stay with the company?” This information can be beneficial in helping organizations understand what things not to change – because employees like them. And what the company can promote in their recruiting efforts. Organizations can include stay interview questions in their employee engagement survey. Managers can also ask stay interview questions during one-on-ones and collect responses.
Exit Surveys: If we are including stay interviews, then it only makes sense to include exit interviews. I’ve written about exit interviews before, so we don’t need to review all the details. Simply put, organizations can use exit interview data to understand why people leave the company. But it does take planning. Deciding who will conduct the interview (HR, Manager, or third-party), when (before or after the employee leaves), and how (in-person or online) are important decisions that have a big impact on the data you will receive. And like other surveys we’ve mentioned, it also means that the organization should be willing to act on the results.
Create an Employee Survey Strategy
Organizations can use surveys to learn valuable information that will help them hire, engage, and retain the best talent. But it takes thinking about surveys holistically. A haphazard approach will not yield good data to make decisions.
If you want to learn more about how to create a survey strategy, including generating survey participation and developing action plans, join me and the Criteria team for a webinar on “The Art and Science of Feedback: Using Surveys to Increase Engagement and Retention” on Tuesday, February 15, 2022 at 10a Pacific / 1p Eastern. The session will be recorded, so if you can’t join us, be sure to sign up to receive the recording.
With everything going on in today’s talent market, now is a perfect time to make sure your survey strategy is working…and working well.22