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Employee satisfaction guaranteed

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John McTrusty, Director of QuestBack Scotland, discusses the ways in which businesses can act upon the results of employee surveys to ensure improved staff morale and commitment.


Poor employee morale and motivation can have a devastating effect on an organisation’s efficiency, performance, profitability and, ultimately, survival.

Many organisations carry out employee satisfaction surveys annually or more frequently. But how do they ensure that this is not just a “box ticking” exercise and will add real value to employees and the organisation? Many employees are suspicious of management motives in commissioning such surveys and some have a cynical view that nothing will change as a result of the survey.

Research from Gartner Group has shown that up to 95 percent of organisations collect feedback regularly from employees and customers but only five percent actually act upon it. It is essential that businesses bridge this gap between asking and acting, in order to ensure to ensure that employees develop a positive impression of the success of these exercises.

Why conduct employee surveys?
The goal of many organisations is to maximise the returns to shareholders. This is achieved through gaining greater market share and better customer satisfaction and by raising productivity and lowering costs. Employee satisfaction surveys can play a major part in achieving these goals, but only if done properly.

To be of real benefit to the organisation the aims and objectives of the survey must be clearly established. For example, it can be used to find out what actions will increase staff involvement, commitment and loyalty as well as find out how employee’s knowledge of customers and suppliers can be better utilised. In addition, it can highlight potential problem areas and opportunities for the future, flag up internal or external trends which could affect the organisation and could start or maintain a process of change.

Many areas can be impacted upon by employee surveys including management structure, leadership, organisation, working practices, conditions of employment, career structure, customer relations, products, services, competitors, suppliers and communications.

Such surveys are also good for improving staff motivation as they demonstrate that employers are listening to their employees. Taking action on the findings further demonstrates that employees’ views are valued and can pay dividends in terms of improved morale and commitment.

Acting on the Results
It is therefore vital that a feedback mechanism is put in place. It is perhaps better not to carry out a survey at all than to neglect feedback. Nothing is more morale destroying than asking employees to spend time completing a survey and nothing more is heard about it. Not only will this result in employee dissatisfaction but it will be more difficult to gain employee co-operation for such exercises in future. Employees will want to know the results of the survey, what the organisation plans to do as a result of the findings, and what the outcome of the actions has been.

Analysis

Analysis of the results of the survey should be drawn up and disseminated as soon as possible after the data has been compiled. If there is a long time lag between conducting the research and producing results, employees can lose interest and become impatient. If, on the other hand, results and conclusions are produced quickly, employees will feel their views are valued and worthwhile. Collecting the data electronically can help speed up this process, ensuring prompt results and instant feedback, with the results presented in an orderly and easy to understand manner.

Sometimes the analysis of the data renders it necessary to drill a bit deeper into the respondents’ answers to find out what issues or problems might be underlying an answer. This again demonstrates to the employee that you are taking into account what they say. To make this process easier, it is sensible to use an electronic survey that incorporates a “follow-up” functionality in its system, allowing more information to be gathered whilst ensuring anonymity. This helps go beyond “what the survey said” by gaining further and more meaningful insight by perhaps issuing further questions or by creating a dialogue with a section or an individual within your audience.

Communication
Firstly, it is vital to communicate as quickly as possible with those employees who have recorded high levels of dissatisfaction, isolating their issues and grievances for further investigation and resolution. You can then act quickly to change the problems in order to create higher employee engagement and increase retention.

Using the analysed data, you should alert staff of the findings that are relevant to their particular role or department. The method and content of this communication will vary within different organisations, but it should include an open and honest breakdown of the businesses strengths and areas for improvement. Along with the survey findings, an outline of what action the company plans to take to act upon the results should also be included if possible.

Action Plan
Once the survey results are distributed, a detailed action plan must be created to decide which areas are most important to the employees and how best to improve those areas. In larger organisations it may be effective to ask individual line managers to action improvement processes. Other companies may want to involve their employees in the process by making them part of focus groups to discuss how best to act upon the survey findings. This will also help to create employee trust in the organisation, and will produce meaningful outcomes. The resultant plans should be implemented quickly, and should be followed up regularly to monitor their effectiveness.

Benefits
If your survey has been well designed and thought out, properly implemented and the results acted upon quickly, you and your staff should be well on the road to experiencing some, if not all, of the following benefits:

  • Increased productivity

  • Reduced turnover

  • Reduced absenteeism

  • An understanding of training needs

  • Improved communication

  • Higher customer satisfaction

  • Identification of cost-saving opportunities

Overall, a well-run survey leads to a happy contented workforce, which leads to a more profitable organisation!

About the author:
John McTrusty is director of QuestBack Scotland Limited, a leading provider of tools for online surveys and feedback management. For further information please visit QuestBack or call 0141 637 6677.

3 Responses

  1. Feedback on John McTrusty’s article
    John McTrusty is absolutely right when he says that staff surveys have to be more than just a “tick box” exercise, but all too often that’s all they are. In fact, such surveys should be part of a whole suite of management tools aimed at engaging staff (such as regular individual support & supervision sessions, staff meetings, cross-team working, etc).

    Staff surveys are often “analysed” as individual pieces of work when, really, they should be viewed in the context of how well (or badly) the company and market are doing, changes (e.g. redundancies, recruitment, new order pressures, etc), and organisational culture.

    Phil Bagnall
    Monitoring Officer, VODA

  2. Don’t Do The Survey
    Surveys just turn off employees more. If morale is down, we know that the managers are creating it and no one does that on purpose. So one can only conclude that they don’t know how to create high morale.

    I suggest that you work to improve managerial actions so that any manager can get an 85 or better on the following test.

    This is a simple test of 10 questions. Rank yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best or almost always, 1 being the worst or almost never. Add up your points for each question.

    If you get close to 100 I would expect that your employees will be over 3 times more productive than if your score was 30 or less. They will also love to come to work.

    DOES THE MANAGER

    -provide regular and frequent opportunities for employees to voice complaints, suggestions and questions, provide reasonable and timely responses, and give employees what they say they need to do a better job?

    -elicit answers/responses from the team and get them to use their brainpower to solve problems?

    -listen to employees with 100% attention without distraction, without trying to figure out a response and with the use of follow-up questions to obtain missing details and suggested fixes?

    -refrain from giving orders since by their nature they demeaning and disrespectful and destroy innovation and commitment?

    -treat members better in terms of humility, respect, timely and high quality responses, forthrightness, trust, admission of error, etc than they are expected to treat customers and each other?

    -publicly recognize employees for their contributions and high performance and never take credit him/herself?

    -openly provide all company info to employees to the extent they need/desire?

    -use values and high standards of them in order to explain why certain actions are better than others?

    -use smiles and good humor with subordinates, not frowns or a blank face?

    -generate in employees a sense of ownership? How?

    Best regards, Ben Simonton
    Author “Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed”
    http://www.bensimonton.com

  3. Employee surveys
    All pretty good stuff this, but I would add that in New Zealand we recommend [almost insist] that those Employers with whom we work, provide feedback to all employees at the same time. The reason for this is that over the years it has been noted that those who have not expressed great dissatisfaction very often feel that those who moan the most get the best [first] attention. Given that oftentimes the better employees have discussed their problems with their Team Leaders long before the survey was conducted, they are the ones feeling as though they are slightly left on the sideline.

    Then it is up to the managers to deal concurrently with dissatisfaction, to try and fix issues; and equally deal with satisfaction to see how it can be built on.

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