At an insurance company I once worked with, the management used to proudly proclaim that their business was a great place to work. They sent out annual employee satisfaction surveys and got high marks from all of the employees who participated. Despite that, whenever I went to the break room and listened, almost all of the employees had complaints. On top of that, company turnover was high, even though employees were being paid well above the industry average.
So why was the company experiencing such high turnover when their survey results told them their employees were happy? Because the results they saw didn’t represent the employee base as a whole. While the company sent the surveys to everyone, only about 30% of their workforce responded, and the rest ignored the surveys entirely. As a result, they weren’t getting an accurate representation from the responses they received.
This company isn’t alone. While many companies tout high employee satisfaction on surveys, about 79% of independently polled employees report they’re not happy at work.
Now, we’re not suggesting you give up on these surveys entirely. Employee satisfaction surveys can be a great resource when you want to assess the culture at your company. In fact, when Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina wanted to improve their company culture, one of the first things they did was conduct employee culture surveys. When they learned that the company had room for improvement in trust and engagement, the company acted. As a result, they managed to significantly improve employee satisfaction results in a relatively short period of time.
When it comes to seeing the kind of results BCBS of North Carolina saw, it’s important to ensure you’re getting accurate results. If employees aren’t honest in their surveys, or if you aren’t getting responses from everyone, the results aren’t really worth the paper they’re written on. In fact, there’s a good chance your employees are only saying what they think you want to hear. So how can you fix that?
No Response Is the Worst Response
One of the first steps to ensure the accuracy of your results is to boost your employee response rates. In the first example, the insurance company wasn’t unique in their low response rates. Typically, only about 30% to 40% of employees will respond to surveys at all, but in order to accurately gauge results, employers generally need a response rate of at least 68%.
Why aren’t employees responding to these surveys? Chances are, it’s because they think that their responses won’t matter and the company is unlikely to make any changes based on the answers they receive. A lot of employees see these practices as simple check-off items that won’t have any tangible results. Consequently, they won’t respond at all, or they’ll blindly click “highly satisfied” for a few minutes in order to finish the survey quickly.
The first step to encouraging participation is to make sure your employees know that their answers do matter. That means you need to do more than simply attach a link to an email and send it out en masse. Instead, you should discuss the survey with the employees in person, well before it’s sent out. Share the goals of the survey with them and exactly what you hope to get out of it. In order for employees to care about surveys, they need to know that management cares just as much. Just by explaining that these surveys are important for making changes, you may see your response rates skyrocket.
In addition, give them a set time in their daily schedule to complete it, rather than simply directing them to do it “whenever they get a chance.” By providing them with time during work hours to complete it, you underline the importance of the survey and show employees that you intend to take their answers seriously.
Get the Truth from Your Employees
The next step in maximizing the benefits of these employee surveys is ensuring that you’re getting real, honest responses. This means taking a look at the results to determine if the employees are being constructive, or if they’re simply going through the motions.
Here are a few signs that your employees aren’t truly engaging with the surveys:
Now, why aren’t employees honest in their answers? This might be because they don’t think the survey matters or their answers will make any difference. However, they might also fear reprisal for the survey responses, even if they’re told the answers are anonymous. About 25% of employees don’t trust their supervisors, so it’s very likely that at least some of your employees don’t believe the survey is truly anonymous.
To avoid this potential pitfall, the survey should not be administered by anyone to whom the employee answers directly. Choose a proctor from a different department, or go with a completely independent company. Employees are far more likely to be completely honest if they trust that their responses will remain anonymous. If direct managers are put in charge of collecting or collating survey results, employees may feel exposed.
Focus on the Positive
Finally, when the survey is over and the results are tabulated, your company should have a closing meeting to discuss the survey and any action the company is planning as part of the results. This again proves to the participants that you truly care about the results and will use them to improve the company culture. When employees can see the connection between their answers and the improvements you make, they’ll be far more motivated to participate and be constructive when you conduct future surveys.
When discussing the results of the survey, devote some time to the positive responses. While it may feel like you should focus on the places where the company can improve, If you dwell too much on employee dissatisfaction, the meeting could take on an accusatory air. Instead, talk both about what you’re doing well and where you still need to improve.
Employee culture surveys are an important part of keeping morale and production high in a company. If you’re looking for a way to assess that culture, then our culture connection can be an ideal option to improve your connection with your employees.
Surveys are vital to take a better look at how your company works, in everything from proper processes to employee satisfaction, and are a great way to measure success. At Applied Vision Works, we’re proud to offerculture surveys as a service, helping organizations figure out not just who they are, but how to become who they want to be. Contact us today for an independent, third-party survey of your organization.