Employee Communication Surveys

There are many benefits – and traps for the unwary – from conducting an employee communication survey in your organization.

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Employee Communication Survey Benefits

Surveying employees is an effective first step in fixing communication barriers in an organization. Even if there are no obvious problems, communication surveys can help get an organization to the next level of performance.

Benefits in conducting an employee communication survey and acting on the results include:

  • improved employee satisfaction
  • lower turnover
  • reduced absenteeism
  • less political infighting
  • greater levels of manager-worker trust
  • reduced defect rates
  • higher customer satisfaction

A well-run communication survey can give you these benefits. However, a poorly conducted communication survey can have the opposite effect. Surveys badly planned, rolled out and followed up can actually increase employee cynicism, resistance to change, employee turnover and absenteeism. And this impacts on customer satisfaction and your bottom line.

Employee Communication Survey Tips

We have seen many good intentioned human resources staffs and managers rush out a survey without thinking through the process and consequences. To help you avoid the pitfalls, here are some practical tips to consider before rolling out your next survey.

Question Types

Include in your survey questions that require limited tick-the-box responses, such as Yes/No and Strongly Agree/Agree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree. Including these questions will allow you to perform quantitative analyses that you can use to compare results between different demographics and to use as a benchmark for future surveys.

However, just as importantly, allow provision for free form comments. Everything that people will want to say will not fit into your pre-packaged boxes. A good idea is to run Focus Groups with a random sample of respondents after the survey forms have been collected and analyzed. These discussion groups are invaluable in performing a sanity check on your results so far and in teasing out issues that have surfaced in the written survey.

Anonymity

Guarantee unconditional anonymity for the people completing the survey and make this clear in the survey instructions. Some employees will either not complete the survey or give sanitized answers if they believe that their identity will be disclosed with their answers and comments.

Sample Size

Should you survey the whole organization/department or a select group? Preferably, survey all employees as this gives everyone a sense of being listened to. If the organization/department is excessively large or your budget is tight, draw a random sample from each of the demographic groups that you will be reporting on.

If your selection is not random, the communication survey results will not be representative and you will lose credibility with your client managers and employees. If a demographic group comprises 50 people or less, you will need to survey 100 percent of the people within that group.

Mode of Delivery

If the people completing the survey are small in number and at the one location, then hardcopy distribution will not be a problem. As the number of respondents increase and the locations become more dispersed, more consideration will need to be given to electronic distribution. Think about putting the survey on a local intranet or internet web server.

To make filling out the employee survey form easy for people, have it so that the form can be completed online. If this is not possible, either send the form by email or put it on an accessible server from which people can download it. If your survey respondents are not comfortable with technology, then be wary of online options and provide plenty of employee support if you decide to go down that road.

Inducements and Reminders

Survey participation rates are typically ten percent or less. You can dramatically improve on this completion rate by conducting some simple follow up. As you get closer to the communication survey cut-off date (of course, you will have publicized that date with your survey), send out an email reminder or have someone call the respondents personally. Advertising a prize to go to the first group of employees to complete the survey will also increase the participation rate.

Distribute Results

Once the employee feedback results are in and analyzed, distribute your findings first to your client managers and then to employees. Withholding results from employees will only breed cynicism and distrust and make your next survey all that more difficult to get a satisfactory response rate.

Break down your results into meaningful groups, such as by department, by region and years of service. Do not make every grouping large. Some segments need to be sufficiently small so that employees can identify with the group enough for a meaningful action plan to be developed.

Be prepared for some kickback from defensive managers. Frank employee feedback is both confronting and jarring, especially for those managers not used to it. Use your best facilitation skills to deliver the key messages, or use a professional facilitator to perform this sensitive task.

Follow Up and Rewards

A survey conducted with no plan for action is not only a waste of resources but will leave employees asking why they bothered to give feedback to managers on how they felt. Work with each manager to construct an action plan that they agree with. Remember, it is the manager who will be implementing the communication plan, not you. Get back with each manager three or six months later to review how they are progressing with their communication plan and report the results to the organization. As you see communication practices improve across the organization, make sure that managers get rewarded.

Expert Author: AIMM MAITD

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