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Employee Satisfaction Surveys – How can employers make them effective?

Employee satisfaction is an important topic for employers, and rightly so.  Satisfied employees are more likely to be productive, to stay in their jobs and to be loyal to the business.  Keeping employees satisfied at work is also an important part of keeping employees engaged so it’s an area that deserves consideration.

It can be tricky to find out how happy your employees are for a variety of reasons.  Employees may not want to give honest feedback as they’re worried about the impact it may have on their future job prospects.  Managers may not be comfortable asking questions or may not receive feedback from most employees.  It’s also difficult to get a snapshot of the whole organisation at one point in time.  This is where employee satisfaction surveys can help.  The survey is a method used to garner feedback from a wide variety of people across your organisation, which will allow you to find out how your employees feel about their job, and whether they’re happy with their role and with the organisation.

Surveys are usually conducted on a regular basis, with the most popular ones being done on a yearly basis.  The survey is then repeated at the same time each year, allowing you to see whether things have improved, and how well any changes have been received.  Organisations may use third parties to conduct the survey, or the HR department might utilise an online tool to create a survey that employees can access via the internet.

When you’re planning your survey, think about whether you want to ask employees to give their name or if you will allow the survey to be filled in anonymously.  You are more likely to get honestly if you go for the latter option, but there are things you’ll need to consider.  For instance, if you say it’s an anonymous survey but you ask for an individual’s department, nationality, gender etc., employees may feel that you’re trying to find out who wrote what and be less engaged in the process!  Having information split by departments can be useful though, as it will help you to understand if there’s certain issues in particular areas of the business.

What should I ask?

There are a lot of options on what to ask, and it’s important to consider what would be the most use to your organisation. You don’t want to make people fill in too much information so make sure your survey isn’t too long.  You can use employee focus groups, feedback from managers or information from exit interviews, to help you decide which questions from a survey will be the most beneficial for your organisation.  Some of the most widely asked questions relate to:

  • The working environment – you can ask questions here about the company culture, the working relationship between employees and how well the business is doing with diversity and inclusiveness
  • Salary and benefits – it’s important to know whether employees are happy with what they’re being paid but questions in this topic can also help you understand if your benefits package has been well received and/or what benefits employees would like you to start offering.
  • Workload and work/life balance – questions in this category can help you find out whether people are overwhelmed in their roles, whether they enjoy their work and how much control they have over what they do at work.
  • Manager support – you can use this area to ascertain how well your managers are performing as well as whether employees have trust in, and are communicated with, by senior members of the business.
  • Job security – if employees feel that their jobs are at risk, they’re more likely to be looking for other opportunities which will lead to higher staff turnover.  Use questions here to find out if employees are worried about their future prospects.
  • Career progression and training – Many employees are keen to develop their career and gain progression.  If employees don’t feel that they’re getting the opportunity to improve and progress, they’re unlikely to be happy in their roles.
  • Resources – employees can get very frustrated by out-of-date equipment and not having access to the tools they need to do their job properly, so this can help you understand where investment might be needed
  • Understanding of team/company objectives, goals – employees who know what the company is trying to achieve will be better equipped to help the business reach those goals.  Feeling like they’re contributing to those goals will assist in giving employees a feeling of collective purpose and achievement.
What happens after the survey is done?

The information you gain from a survey is invaluable so whatever information you get, make sure you do something with it!  Not doing something with the information is worse than not asking at all!

If the majority of employees have chosen not to fill in the survey, that can be taken as a sign that you have a disengaged workforce and/or a workforce that are overworked and don’t have time to fill it in. 

However, the chances are that employees will want to see improvements and will have given you feedback.  When you get that feedback, think about what you want to share with employees.  Some employers create a short report which contains the highlights of the survey.  Other employers release all the information from the surveys, or show it on a departmental level, comparing the department information to the organisation as a whole. 

If there’s generic feedback that a particular area needs improvement, it’s a great idea to start focus groups to involve employees in how to change things.  If your employees are involved in the improvements, they’re much more likely to buy in to any changes and to support them.  Once a plan has been agreed on what to change, communicate those plans to the wider team, make sure they get actioned and then, see what change that makes to the responses you get when you do the next satisfaction survey!

If you would like to improve your employee satisfaction, please speak to View HR to find out how we can help.