13 Sep Surveys: Why They Fail & How to Fix Them
Did you know that the average employee survey response rate is a mere 30%. That’s due to several factors. One being that employees feel like surveys are a waste of time, either because follow up action is not taken or, if it is, it’s simply not communicated. In fact, only 20% of employees think their manager will act on survey results, and the sad truth is that they’re often right. Another reason is that 48% of employees think that surveys are not an accurate reflection of reality, likely due to the imperfect nature of the survey questions. I’ve seen more than my fair share of surveys over the course of my career, and sadly, I’ve seen poorly designed surveys more often than not.
There are a few things you can do to improve your surveys, obtain more accurate results, and make the data count. Whether surveying about organizational culture, employee engagement, return to work strategies, or anything in between, the guide below will help your efforts be more effective. I’m going to assume you know to minimize bias in the way questions are worded, to avoid double-barreled questions, and to have surveys that are focused around what you are seeking to know. But here are some other tips to help you maximize the results from your survey and see the change you want in your organization or on your team.
1. Take Action
Your surveys are only as good as the action that follows.
a. There is nothing more frustrating than taking a survey and feeling like your feedback and opinions have vanished into the ether. Your surveys are only as good as the action that follows. Use the data gathered to inform actionable solutions.
b. If the survey results lead you to believe that no action is necessary, that’s okay, but make sure you can reasonably explain this non-action to your employees.
c. 27% of managers don’t even review survey results at all, and a whopping 52% review the results but take no action. Why bother giving the survey at all if responsive actions aren’t going to be taken? It’s no wonder why so many employees feel they’re not being heard despite spending valuable time answering surveys.
2. Be Transparent
70% of employees say they feel most engaged with their organization when leadership communicates consistently about ongoing strategy and updates.
a. 70% of employees say they feel most engaged with their organization when leadership communicates consistently about ongoing strategy and updates.
b. Let your employees know what the survey is going to be used for, and explain what sparked the need for the survey in the first place.
c. Keep your employees updated about the survey results so they can understand where they stand in relation to their colleagues. Don’t try to rationalize or argue the results. They are what they are. They represent your employees’ collective thoughts, feelings, and experiences, not yours. Seek to understand them and decide what you’ll change and what you won’t.
d. When you have a plan of action for how to implement change based on your findings and discussions with employees, or if you’ve decided no plan of action is necessary, share that information with staff.
e. Follow up about how the actions taken are going/went so your people know their participation in the survey was not for nothing. A common theme we see is that this may be discussed once or twice – you need to point back to the survey findings repeatedly and always make a direct connection about an action and the feedback you heard.
3. Results: Dig Deeper
To have a deeper understanding of your data, include a demographics section, and keep an eye out for underlying trends.
a. When you conduct a survey, you have to look behind the general numbers. Demographic trends can easily be overlooked. Survey results are often generalized, so you have to dig deeper to see significant patterns. Often, we will begin an engagement with a client and review their existing survey data. Often times it lacks the demographic details so it’s easy to be misdirected. In one instance, 60% of respondents wanted to return to work, but without having demographic slices, what wasn’t evident was that the majority of those respondents were men. To have a deeper understanding of your data, include a demographics section, and keep an eye out for underlying trends.
b. Conduct follow up focus groups or dialogue sessions to really dig into the data and get some additional perspective on the feedback shared in the survey.
c. Ensure you engage your teams in helping to craft the solutions – most often they know what will work best for them. it also builds goodwill and buy in to the solutions.
4. Provide a Follow up Survey
a. After you’ve implemented your plan of action based on the first survey round, it’s a good idea to provide a follow up survey so you can gauge how employees feel about the actions that were taken.
Composing unbiased, effective surveys can be tricky. Understanding the results can be even trickier, and creating a plan of action can be the hardest part of all. If you feel you need some expert guidance on how to perfect this process, or if you just want a pro to come in and handle it for you, schedule a consultation with The Silverene Group to get your business back on track today.
Shaara Roman is founder and CEO of The Silverene Group, a culture consultancy that helps companies align their people programs with business goals.