Tell me more… Do you know how happy your staff are?
A staff survey can unlock many insights into how your employees feel about their work, but it can be tricky to capture that data in a meaningful way so that you can actually do something about it. People Puzzles’ Nick Lawson-Williams explains how to make the most of staff engagement surveys.
Employee engagement is vital to a company’s success; companies with more engaged staff are associated with higher productivity, sales and profitability.
But improving employee engagement can be tricky if you’re not sure what is wrong in the first place. How do you find out what your employees are thinking?
A staff engagement survey is really the only way you can ascertain, in a meaningful and measurable way, what the issues are, and which of them you staff think are most important.
What sort of questions should I ask?
The questions you include really depends on the kind of company you have and what kind of culture exists. I have a template of around 40 broad-based questions that I can draw from, such as asking employees to rate what they think of the current leadership, what the communication is like, and how well they think their team works together.
When I go into companies and conduct a ‘fact find’ (a one- to two-day exercise to find out what the issues are) I will usually tailor those questions when it’s clear that my client is looking to dig in to specific issues.
The way in which responses are collected is as important as the questions themselves. Asking for numerical answers to rate performance in specific areas can help you present results in an informative way (see below for more on this).
How should I ask the questions?
An online survey for all staff members, backed up with some face-to-face interviews with key members of staff, can help you get the data you need. You won’t want to sit down with everyone if there is 100 or more staff; besides, online questionnaires take minimal time out of a person’s day. A 40-question survey usually takes around 20 minutes.
Armed with the online survey responses, I can then tailor my questions further when talking to the management team. If, for example, there’s an issue around leadership I can drill down in more detail in the face-to-face interviews. Once those are done I have a good set of data to work with.
What to do with the survey data
It’s important to put this data into a format that can easily be presented back to the management team. In the past there’s been a tendency to put together wordy reports but in my experience, clients want an engaging visual presentation.
Asking recipients to rate the current state versus where they would like it to be can help show where the gaps are. For example, if I asked staff to score leadership in the business on a scale of one to nine and found the average mark was three but the desired score was eight; that five-point gap not only highlights the cause for concern but also indicates how far they need to go. Colour-coding can help to prioritise the most urgent issues at a glance; colouring, for example, a five-point gap red, a two-point gap orange, and a zero gap green.
An active presentation gives an opportunity for the team to discuss issues in detail. My clients use my presentations to feed back to their own teams; giving them an opportunity to thank their team for contributing, show what they’ve found, and perhaps most importantly, outline what to do next. A written report is more likely to be tucked away in a drawer, unread.
Act on the results!
The worst thing you can do after a staff survey is….. nothing. Your team have trusted you with their feedback and it sets the expectation that you will listen and then act.
It is always sensible to start with quick wins: demonstrating to your staff that you are taking them seriously. That may mean a bit of flex around start and end times or getting a new coffee machine. If you get rid of the irritants people will start feeling happier straight away.
The longer-term wins take a bit more planning. Frustrations around lack of communication from the management, training opportunities or poor line managers are all challenges that need to be solved. A six to 12 month plan for change is a good starting point, and starts building trust with your team that you are care.
The best bit is that you can re-run the survey in a year to review your progress and the difference you have made. Just remember, there will be more niggles and frustrations then, so it is a constant journey of improvement!
Nick Lawson-Williams, HR Director.