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The Basics of a Meaningful Employee Satisfaction Survey

The Basics of a Meaningful Employee Satisfaction Survey

By: Robert J. Herbold

Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. , from What’s Holding You Back? 10 Bold Steps that Define Gutsy Leaders, by Bob Herbold. Copyright (c) 2011 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.  All rights reserved.

When it comes to employee engagement, every company should design an employee satisfaction survey that captures some of the characteristics of its industry, the way the company is organized and any other issues that are uniquely important.

Regardless of your company’s culture, its industry or unique characteristics, however, there are seven basic categories that ought to be included. For each of the following seven categories, I provide two to four statements that will help you gauge the state of things within your company.

For each of these statements, my experience is that a simple 5-point scale works best. Specifically, you ask the employee to read each statement and then rate it as follows: strongly agree (5), agree (4), neutral (3), disagree (2), or strongly disagree (1).

Although you may want to word the questions differently depending on the nature of your organization, it’s important to cover these basics.

1. Your Job
My responsibilities are clear.
I have the authority to carry out the responsibility assigned to me.
I like my job.
When I do very good work, it is recognized.

2. Your Boss
I have confidence in my boss.
My boss provides clear goals for me to work toward.
I get helpful feedback from my boss on a regular basis.

3. Your Development
During the past year, I have significantly enhanced my skills.
I see lots of opportunities for me to grow at this company.
My manager has a sincere interest in my career.

4. Your Group/Peers
My work group works toward clear goals.
There is good cooperation between my work group and other groups.

5. Your Compensation
My salary is fair and competitive.
My total compensation is fair and competitive.
The company has good benefits.

6. The Company Strategy and Leaders
I believe the company is headed in the right direction.
I get regular updates on the direction of the company and how it is doing.
I have confidence in the leadership of the VP of my division.

7. Longevity
I feel respected and valued.
Working for this company is a good deal.
I will probably be working for this company three years from now.

Once again, although these questions isolate the basics and would provide excellent fundamental information on the health of the organization, you may wish to add other questions on specific aspects of your organization’s performance that you want to measure.

Many employee surveys end up with fifty or sixty different categories, but what you have to keep in mind is that you want the employee to be able to complete the survey in a reasonable amount of time. Long surveys can be dangerous because the individual becomes impatient with the process. Hence, as with most things in life, brevity is highly valued.

Ensuring Quality Execution of the Employee Survey
Here are a few tips for managing the employee survey to make sure it’s executed regularly and well. Again, experience suggests that it is very easy to let the employee survey process atrophy over time. It requires strong executive leadership to make sure the following points get higher priority:

  • Give one person responsibility. It’s best to put one senior HR person in charge of the employee survey project. That individual should be held accountable not only for conducting the survey well but for summarizing the key findings from it and making sure that the organization is utilizing its results.
  • Freeze the wording of questions. It is important to phrase the survey questions with care. There should be no ambiguity. For anyone reading a question, the intent should be crystal clear. Most important, once wording is decided on, it should not be changed from year to year. Changing the wording can significantly change the way a question is interpreted, so the resulting data will not be comparable from year to year. If you change the wording, your ability to observe trends over time will be spoiled. Market research professionals know this well, and you should have whoever is in charge of your employee survey make sure that he or she is tapping some market research expertise in putting the survey together and in maintaining it year to year. (There is no problem with adding a few questions each year that address particular issues, but you should not add a lot, or you are changing the nature of the survey.
  • Aim for 100 percent participation. You must find a way to guarantee participation, but because it is critical that you receive open and frank responses, you also need to assure employees that their responses will remain anonymous. Here, information technology can help, allowing surveys to be submitted so that the system will know if the survey has been completed, while keeping the identity of the individual’s response entirely confidential. Your employees need to be satisfied that their identity is being totally protected.