5 things to consider before launching your own surveys


It is easy to think “I will just create a quick survey for that” and then go off and email a link out to a group of people to collect responses. Looking at the big picture perspective, firstly be clear on your overall survey objectives and how you will use the input you receive.

Once you have defined that, take a few more minutes to think through 5 key aspects of launching a survey before you proceed:

  1. What exactly is the message?
  2. The platform you plan to use
  3. CHECK the text
  4. The intro matters
  5. The thank you

The message

Launching a survey is a message too

(It says: I want to know, I value your opinion, I am listening, Tell me what you think)

Take the time to write down all the messages about the survey that intended participants need to know. What do other stakeholders need to know – think of managers who may need to help you communicate to their groups about the survey. What do you need to make sure they know about it before your launch date?

People need to know what the survey is for and why it is important. What is this survey linked to and how do you hope to use the input to drive decision-making?

When can they expect the survey to be open and how will they access it? Link via email or QR codes around the building/email or will it be an app on their mobile devices?

Will you be emailing out the announcement of the survey or is there a communication plan that is much broader than the survey? Perhaps some messages will be on social media or notice boards? If you need to make a communication plan, this template can help:

Be sure to share this information with intended survey participants when you map out your communication messages:

  • This survey is coming on (date)
  • The reason we do this is (….)
  • What we hope to review/change/update/introduce as a result of this survey is (…)
  • Why we are asking for your input is (…..)
  • It will only take (…..) minutes of your time to complete
  • We will let you know about the results (time) and (how/where)
  • How will you protect their privacy and if the survey contains sensitive information – who will see it and how long will you maintain the data before destroying it?
  • Can they participate anonymously?

The platform

There are various survey platforms available these days – some are free, and others are not. In general, those with paying options come with additional features such as help to analyse your data, automatic graphic creations for communicating your survey results, text analysis options etc.

Whichever platform you choose to use, test it first. Create a quick survey and send out the link to some trusted colleagues or to yourself to see how it displays. Can you access the survey using the link without any firewalls or other error screens interfering with ease of access? Is it easy to complete the survey online? Is there a phone app for it? How well does the phone app work?

Also look at the reports you can get from the platform. To what degree does the platform offer you some level of analysis as a download? Can you download a spreadsheet which you then need to analyse yourself to create a presentation or a report? Knowing what remains for you to do is an important consideration in choosing the right platform for the survey.

Check the text

Make sure you have read each sentence out aloud. Missing words or repeated words can be overlooked when you just glance through your survey. Reading it out loud – word for word – often highlights areas that may need to be reworded or corrected. Answer these questions about your survey wording:

  • Do the instructions make sense? If I ask other people how they would interpret the instructions you plan to use, would they know what to do next?
  • Is each question or statement to be rated constructed in a simple way to avoid confused answers? i.e. do not ask about more than one thing at the same time such as “do you think it was easy to do and did you like the fun tests we handed out at cafeteria last week?” In this case your results could be hard to interpret. If the final scores are low, was it because people thought it was NOT easy or was it because they did NOT like it? Or was it both?
  • If the platform has a spell check function, use it. If it does not, copy and paste the text into a document where you are able to check spelling before you proceed to launch the survey

The intro matters

Even if you did a great job at communicating about the survey in your communication plan activities and presentation messages, people may not have seen or heard all of your early messages. Tell them the highlights in the introduction section of the survey: (after the survey title and before you start with your questions or statements to rate etc).

Intro points:

  • What it is FOR?
  • Why are THEY asked for input?
  • What will you DO with the information obtained?
  • Is it anonymous or will you be telling others what they said in the survey?
  • By WHEN do you expect their response to have been completed after which you will close the survey?
  • HOW LONG is it likely to take participants to complete the survey?

Say thank you

When people answer your surveys, they are prioritizing your request given other tasks that lie before them. They are making time out of often busy days to provide you with feedback. A simple thank you message can go a long way to ensure people are open to respond to future survey participation requests.

And while you are saying thank you, it may be an idea to provide a link to a website to visit if they want to find out more, volunteer or whatever other actions you would like them to take after completing the survey.

Surveys are so easy to create these days and the need to collect recent data and employee feedback is becoming more mainstream in companies than in previous decades. The annual employee survey is no longer the only way that change managers and management obtain feedback. Surveys can be a powerful feedback tool and yet, they can also create confusion and frustration if they are not communicated and launched with some forethought and planning.

Coaching Effectiveness Survey


While it is a good idea for coaches to periodically discuss how well the process may be working for those that they are coaching, it is also a good idea for HR/Learning and Development to get feedback on the coaching program on an annual basis. Occasional informal feedback from the person being coached to the coach directly may help the coach improve the person’s coaching experience and outcomes reached.

A formal annual survey helps the department responsible for managing and monitoring the coaching program to understand a few things:

  • General questions that coaching participants may still have about the process or program objectives.
  • How to improve the training of coaches to improve developmental outcomes.
  • How well the relationships are working between coaches and those being coached. Perhaps an intervention may be needed in cases where a high level of dissatisfaction is recorded?
  • Whether the coaching process is working well in general – meetings are held on a regular basis and the right topics are being discussed.

Coaching survey

The coaching survey above (see download option) contains questions you may want to consider for your annual coaching effectiveness survey and it also contains some suggested wording for the introduction email to those who are being coached to explain the survey and its purposes.

Gather the survey feedback and analyze it for overall coaching program effectiveness, but also look at individual responses to see if anyone is having a particularly negative view about his or her coach or the coaching process.  When you take action on individual responses pay close attention to the confidentiality statement you put in the email that went with the survey. Do not reveal someone’s input to his or her coach unless it was expressly established that the survey respondent consent to this course of action. Also use the information gathered from the survey to improve your orientation slides for the next coaching program and to improve future training you offer to coaches.

Other coaching resources that may be useful for setting up your coaching program: preparing for coaching, coaching questions, coaching program orientation slides.

Internal Communication Effectiveness SURVEY


comms

Internal communications should go at least in two directions: from the leaders to the people and from the people to the leaders. Employees should receive regular updates from management about the company and should be informed about planned changes, successes achieved in the company and how their efforts have lead to good outcomes and wins for the company. Communication should also go in the other direction where employee opinions and feedback are sought and captured to help managers make better decisions and improve efforts in areas where company actions or activities are not as effective as they had imagined.

Ensuring that employees receive important and relevant information internally on a regular basis and in the right ways is mostly the responsibility of the HR function. In some cases HR shares this responsibility with the Communications department. Whomever is responsible for managing this, there should be planned moments of checking outcomes of the internal communication plan against original objectives set.

Internal Communication Checkup Survey

Effectiveness of internal communication should be evaluated periodically. I would not repeat a survey like this one on a monthly basis unless you are going through a specific change initiative in this regard and would like to ensure you have a good understanding of how well your change process is going. Once per year or once in 18 months should be a good evaluation period. Keep it short to optimize your chances of getting good feedback and a high level of participation.

Tips:

  • Ensure your questions are specific and simple – survey respondents should know what exactly you are asking about. Do not combine more than one question into one.
  • Always make a post-survey action plan and share that with survey respondents and other stakeholders in the success of internal communications.
  • If you are an HR Director or in HR Management – stay close to the creation of internal communications. Read everything before it is released or published internally in your area of responsibility. The tone of communications and the contents of messages that are sent into the company very closely link to how employees are interpreting how the company’s management “feels” about them and you will often find disconnects started with some internal message that was misinterpreted.

HR Function checkup – Feedback from internal customers


In the same way that companies would approach external customers to gather their views on what is going well and what needs improvement (customer satisfaction), the HR function should reach out to its internal customers to find out how satisfied they are with the services and support that they receive. It is true that there are more than one model for HR service delivery, but that does not change the fact that it is wise to gather feedback on the services and support that you do provide given the structure and focus for HR in your company.

The HR function is often guilty of focusing its developmental and improvement efforts exclusively on helping other departments and neglects using those same skills and expertise to improve the HR function as a whole and developing the people who deliver the HR services to others.

HR Function – Feedback Survey

This survey can help you gather the information you need from your internal customers to help you identify specific areas of excellence in HR and also those areas where improvement may be needed. When improvement is needed it will often imply additional training and development of some HR representatives (HRBPs or Generalists) and may also  include communicating the HR vision and goals more clearly within the HR function. Remember to recognize and reward those who were part of delivering excellent services when you review the survey results.

Tips:

  • Add comment fields next to scores if you want to be certain to capture specific comments about the scores.
  • Do be sure to provide survey participants with feedback on the outcome of the survey and the actions that you plan to take as a result of the survey. This motivates participants to continue providing you with valuable feedback in the future.
  • Create an action plan and communicate that clearly within the HR function so that everyone understands which areas you plan to address and how you plan to do that. It may help to set specific metrics around your planned improvements to make it easier to report progress.
  • Regularly update stakeholders – internal to the HR function and those who are internal customers in your company – on the progress of improvement efforts as you implement the post-survey action plan.
  • Remember to celebrate successes (milestones and outcomes achieved) and be prepared to add additional actions to your plan in cases where your improvement efforts are not reaping the results you had planned for.

Having a standard survey which you use ever year gives the opportunity to track the progress in specific questions over time and helps with trend analysis and showing % improvements over time.

Exit Interview Template


Unexpected employee resignations can often be alarming. More so if the resignations come from star employees whom you had high hopes for in terms of future expert or leadership roles at your company. How will it impact your project and your team, you may wonder? The question I would ask is, was it avoidable?

The Exit Interview helps with gathering feedback on employees’ decisions to leave the company and what next steps they are planning to further their careers elsewhere. This structured interview can greatly support your ability to narrow down the reasons for the exit and whether you have any large internal issues to address to avoid more people leaving the company.

While it appears to be a written survey, it works well as an interview conducted in person and then the interviewer (usually from HR) can complete the survey later in order to capture the answers from exiting employees in a structured way. Based on your company set-up and employee conditions you may want to add some questions or statements to be rated. Just avoid overloading the employee with too many questions. Perhaps you can remove some of the existing questions if you decide to add any?

Tips:

  • You could  choose to use this as a survey which the departing employees complete independently. I would however recommend that you ask these questions as part of an exit interview conducted in person as it offers the opportunity to ask follow-up questions to clarify answers to make sure you really understand the factors that led to the decision to leave the company.
  • There is a good chance that the departing employee may not tell you the truth. Sometimes they are afraid you may give them a bad reference in future if a prospective employer called you up. Other times they may be worried about being the whistle-blower on an existing organizational issue in terms of potential impact on any friends they still have at the organization. It may be worth considering the use of an outsourced vendor to gather feedback from departing employees before or just after they have left.
  • Do take the time to review feedback received from exit interviews to determine whether you or anyone else at your company may need to take actions to improve a situation, revise benefits, improve communications to employees on specific topics etc. These actions may be exactly what is needed to avoid other employees from leaving for similar reasons.
  • Mind confidentiality around these interviews. Be sure to be honest with the departing employee on who will get to know about the information shared and stick to the agreement.
  • Talk to those employees who remain with the company and make sure they understand how much you value their continued service and loyalty to the team/organization. When a prominent person leaves – whether a subject matter expert or a much-liked leader – people may start wondering about their own careers and consider leaving too. Taking employee retention actions and communicating especially to those in key roles will go a long way towards putting people’s minds at rest.

It is never easy when you lose good employees and respected leaders and experts to the competition. The best you can do is make sure you learn from the event and take the actions you need to avoid recurrence of an unplanned exit.

New Employee Survey


A New Employee survey is key to capturing feedback on how well your hiring and on-boarding processes are adding value to the early part of the employee’s experience in your company.

The objective of the survey is to capture data over time from various new employees to see if the changes you are making to improve on-boarding is gradually increasing the scores and yielding more positive trends in responses. If you track responses from more than one location you can compare the results to understand if there are any location-based differences in new employee experiences and how you can ensure a consistently great on-boarding process across all locations.

These kind of surveys can be run on a number of online platforms some of which are free to use and others need to be subscribed to. If you find it too daunting to setup such a survey online, use a paper copy of the New Employee Survey. The important part is to gather the data needed to help identify early employee experience improvement opportunities .

Tips:

  • Don’t make the survey very long or you will risk lower response rates, questions skipped or repeated answers.
  • Watch out for questions that seem similar which frustrates survey respondents.
  • Make sure you are asking questions which would generate answers that are actionable. For example I advise against asking “Did you feel good on your 1st day at the office?” If the survey respondent answered “no” you would have limited ability to avoid getting that response from future new employees.
  • Do take the time at least once per quarter (or shorter time periods if you are hiring several people) to review, analyze and summarize the results obtained from the New Employee Surveys. That way you will be able to spot trends and identify specific focus areas for you and your HR/Learning and Development teams to address and improve upon going forward.