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Gary Cattermole

The Survey Initiative


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Inclusive surveys: bedrock of engagement?


In the past the staff survey has come under attack as some organisations have cobbled together a set of questions, sent them out via Mail Chimp and sat upon the results. Fortunately the industry has moved on since then, but there’s still work to be done to ensure your survey is fully inclusive and gives you the information you need to move your business forward.

First up a survey needs a set of aims and objectives: you need to be clear why you’re running the survey.

If you’ve gone through a period of redundancies or have rapidly expanded, you’ll need questions that relate to where your business is at.

Before the survey has been compiled it’s also a good idea to talk to your staff and get an understanding of what’s really going on. If certain trends are coming out of their feedback make sure this becomes part of your staff survey – all feedback will really help you focus on the issues that are important to your organisation. 

Many large organisations decide to survey a sample of their employees rather than the entire workforce.

The scourge of sampling

A common problem we come across in many large organisations is that they will decide to survey a sample of their employees rather than the entire workforce. It’s often seen as a cost-saving measure to survey say 10,000 employees out of a 130,000 strong-workforce.

Whilst, statistically, it may be an effective way to run a survey – many organisations overlook the more subtle aspects of sampling.

There are the nuances of ensuring you have enough responses, not just from your total population but also from its constituent parts (locations, sites, departments and teams for example), to ensure that when you are analysing the data at a more local level is still significant and reliable. 

There is a substantial amount of work involved in ensuring that your sample size is accurate (and don’t forget to factor in sample size to cover non-completions) and the need to be sure that the amount of time and resource outweighs the option of running a census survey.

What is often overlooked is the potential psychological effect sampling can have on your people.

It can give some people a feeling of “why wasn’t I included” and conversely others thinking “but why do they want to see what I say”.

One of major benefits of making your survey available to all employees is one of inclusivity – you are sending a strong positive message that you value everyone’s input and that you want everyone to take part.

Lost in translation

It really is good practise to ensure your survey is translated into as many languages as needed to suit the needs of your employees.

Sure, your international language might be English but there is a huge difference between spoken English and reading and writing it. 

When an organisation is global, be sure to also take into account cultural differences. Reflect these differences too in your analysis so that your overall results are not skewed.

For example: in some countries respect for your manager is seen as a prerequisite to employment, however in other territories employees are unlikely to be so deferential.

Sometimes multinationals can also trip up at the last hurdle. The survey may have been translated into 30 languages, but as they’re mostly an English-speaking company, they’ll make silly errors and send out the invitation for staff to take part in English.

This may not be too much of a problem for managerial office-based staff but for those working on the production line in say China for instance it’s really not helpful. 

Analyse the data

Don’t just look at the headline results it may not give a clear picture of what is really going on in your organisation.

Hone in on specifics to ensure all feedback is totally understood

For example: new recruits/those that have been with the business for up to three years are on a high in their employee lifecycle. If you’ve taken on lots of new people, compare their views to those that have worked in the business a long time.

If you just looked at engagement figures they may be overall high, but there could be sub-groups that are very low and need attention with your action planning. 

Include all employees with the results

Once all of the data has been analysed the results need to be shared with all employees.

Sharing of the data is normally presented to the board first and then shared between teams by the team leader.

However it is vital for the results to also be available to employees to look at a later stage, or if they were out of the office when the meeting took place etc. This can be done by adding news stories to your blogs, creating a feedback corporate video, or an open door policy with their manager.

Ideally companies should do all of these things to ensure information about the survey is accessible to employees whenever and wherever they need it.

The survey is just the first step…

The results of your survey must be used for action planning.

Ensure you include your employees in this process.

Include members of staff from every level and every department and territory as their buy-in, fresh ideas and support will provide you with the best way forward for your business.

Their support and enthusiasm will also assist in getting the backing of all employees to help drive the business forward and iron out any problem areas. 

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Gary Cattermole


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