Far too often, issues in an organisation are attributed to distorted lines of communication and a noticeable void between the employees on the ground and senior management in the boardroom. To rectify this, the most popular option seems to be to run an online employee engagement survey. But is that the best approach?
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons…
• Low cost – online surveys can be compiled at minimal cost
• Speed – once the questions have been designed you can send out a link to your survey and have the results in within a few days
• Practicality – employees can complete the survey at a time to suit them
• Lack of personal interaction – although they are being consulted, employees may feel that they are not being considered as individuals
• Self-censorship – respondents may feel the need to avoid being overly negative, watering down their true feelings
• Lack of clarity – as there is no room for dialogue there is a lot of potential for misunderstanding
Most online surveys are formulated to produce a quantitative output, with respondents selecting from multiple choice options. While some do allow an element of free input, this often isn’t analysed to any degree.
Asking employees for their feedback and opinions in person rather than on-screen is likely to be more successful as well as helping them feel more valued.
A hybrid approach
In our experience, purely online employee engagement surveys rarely have the desired effect and are often poorly managed. One-to-one sessions with a manager or HR representative are far more fruitful. And while this approach demands more time and effort, it is worth it.
If you feel that you might have lost touch with your workforce, you could consider a hybrid approach, running through a survey questionnaire with employees individually, face to face. The sessions can be run by line manager managers or members of the HR team.
Holding the sessions face to face will enable the interviewers to pick up on body language cues that would be missed in an online survey. Once the interviewees feel at ease, they are also more likely to open up and provide honest input, compared to when completing an online questionnaire.
The design of the questionnaire is important. To avoid each interview taking too long out of the working day, it’s probably best to limit it to a maximum of ten questions. Choose them carefully and make them open questions to encourage employees to talk, but set a maximum time limit for each question.
You should reassure employees that, although they are providing their feedback in person, the answers they give will be treated in confidence and pooled with the responses of their colleagues to help direct decision-making.
Making use of the feedback
Sadly feedback from employees is too often lost or ignored, making the whole effort redundant and leaving workers feeling disenchanted and disenfranchised. They are unlikely to be enthusiastic about sharing their views if they know they have already done so but that their input has apparently been disregarded.
So at the end of each session it’s vital that the interviewer writes up their notes, to be collated centrally. Then the input needs to be analysed and the findings actually used to guide decisions on actions to take. Details of these should be circulated to all involved, verifying to participants that their contributions have been noted and have made a difference.
At Renoir we’re experts in helping organisations gather employee feedback and put it to good use to make meaningful changes. During our Focus Process®, we not only ask for their input but involve employees in designing, creating and rolling out the solutions. This helps to create a sense of ownership that many won’t have experienced before.