[HAMILTON] You strike me as a woman who has never been satisfied[ANGELICA] I’m sure I don’t know what you mean. You forget yourself [HAMILTON] You’re like me. I’m never satisfied [ANGELICA] Is that right? [HAMILTON] I have never been satisfied [ANGELICA] My name is Angelica Schuyler [HAMILTON] Alexander Hamilton
(via Genius – From Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda)
We all seek satisfaction, and what satisfies us often changes. What satisfied customers in 1990 is simply not enough in 2017, and the same rings true for employees.
We love our technology but it also has a way of alienating us from each other and mediating our interactions. In most cases that can’t really be helped. However, in some cases people are looking for a way to use technology to create real and personal experiences.
For example, generic advertising is out. Satisfying clients has become about engagement with content and personal interactions that resonate on an individual level. These aren’t just buzz terms, businesses are beginning to seek personal relationships with their clients, utilizing data and feedbacks to craft a satisfying experience.
A similar effect is happening to the employee-employer relationship. Here too we’re seeing a focus on creating a real world relationship satisfying both sides. In fact, employee satisfaction has become a real business priority, especially when it comes to performance and talent retention. Employees today don’t only demand satisfaction from their workplace and boss but they also expect (and want!) to get involved and be ASKED for feedback.
If they don’t feel engaged, then you can expect some rapid employee turnover. Unlike previous generations, that were looking for little more than steady pay and long-term employment, today’s employees are quick to switch workplaces if they don’t feel satisfied. Does this sound familiar? That’s because it’s a growing phenomenon some call the “Tinderization” of the workplace.
Why most satisfaction surveys are no longer relevant
At this point you might be thinking: “Hang on! I am one of those employers who really care about employee satisfaction! Heck, I conduct satisfaction surveys among my employees! And take the results into serious consideration!!!”
Of course you do! No doubt about it! But how much attention do you pay to their effectiveness? And when was the last time you optimized and adjusted them? It’s not as simple as asking employees: “Are you satisfied?”
Here are just a few of the issues plaguing employee satisfaction surveys that we regularly see in businesses. You might recognize one or more.
- Outdated format: If you’re still handing out paper surveys, please return your time machine to the agency and get with the (software) program.
- Irrelevant questions: As your business grows and changes, so do the criteria for your employee satisfaction. Updating the survey to include more relevant topics and issues is necessary.
- Complex questions: Open questions that are unclear, questions that may be outside the scope of a surveyed employee’s responsibilities and other structural and technical issues.
- Opt-in is so out: Opt-in surveys tend to attract the most disgruntled employees, or those most satisfied and happy to share. This tends to skew the data, and lead to incorrect conclusions.
One more thing: Personal conversations are not a replacement to satisfaction surveys. It’s a bit obvious, but worth mentioning, just in case you might be an old-fashioned type of business manager. Many businesses think that personal conversations with employees can replace satisfaction surveys. Aside from the pressure employees feel discussing satisfaction levels with the manager, surveys are a much more effective way to gather actionable data in a cost-effective way. However, this also works vice-versa, which is why satisfaction surveys are in no way a replacement to the personal touch.
Perfect surveys in a perfect world
In a perfect world, your HR department employs a survey specialist. The survey specialist designs effective employee surveys, conducts them, and uses the data collected to reach actionable conclusions but this world is less than perfect (to put it mildly). For many business owners, employee satisfaction surveys is yet another item on a never ending task list.
Crafting as employee satisfaction survey for the Facebook Generation
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. We hate the term “Millennial”. So we’ll gaurantee that was the first and only time we’ll use it in this post. Especially since there’s really no such thing as millennials (last one, swear).
Odds are that the majority of your workforce belongs to that age group. Creating effective surveys for employees of the digital age is not only about format and delivery (analog vs digital). In addition to what was demanded for effective satisfaction surveying in the past (mutual trust, objectivity and lack of bias in survey conduction), today’s employees require some additional adjustments.
- Show the benefits – Even when employee satisfaction surveys aren’t mandatory or incentivised, employees should get the sense that they’ll somehow benefit from providing accurate and useful answers. This has a lot to do with employee trust, but not only that. Today’s employees expect their opinions and desires to be taken seriously. Informing them of how the information will be used to make their working experience a more positive one, will encourage them to participate and contribute.
- Keep it personal – Generally, anonymous surveys provide less actionable information without necessarily providing more accurate data. So you have a disgruntled employee. Without the name, you can’t really address their specific issue. This too has a lot to do with employee-employer trust, and can skew the data. If the trust level is low, and employees worry that low satisfaction reported will get them fired? They simply won’t report it.
- Keep it safe – Data security is an issue employees are a lot more aware of today than a decade ago. Be sure to communicate to your employees not only how their answers will be used, but also that they will be thoroughly secure. In addition, try and avoid questions that might be TOO personal, even if your intentions are good. For example: “Do you feel your work interferes with your personal life?”
- Social media counts – Much like customers, employees tend to express their opinions (sometimes anonymously) online. You should try and predict what these will be. Include questions like: “How likely are you recommend the services of <Company> on Twitter or Facebook?”
- Keep it focused – People today are swamped with marketing messages, alongside surveys and feedback forms. The last thing you want is for your satisfaction survey to cause dissatisfaction. Try and minimize the number of questions and focus on specific and relevant topics.
- Keep it short – Avoid long and complex questions, as well as needless explanations, especially if they are of things the employee already knows. For example, when asking about a cross-company software tool implementation, don’t bother with half a page detailing the integration process and all the neat features, then asking about specific features. Instead, include information relevant to each question within the question itself. Without repeating yourself too much, of course.
- Keep it simple (but not stupid) – Ask direct and to the point questions. Don’t cram more than one variable into the survey question to try cover as many topics as possible in one survey. Example of badly written question: “Do you like the new software implemented in your department? Do you feel you know it well? It is comfortable to use?”
- Make it fun – Let’s face it; surveys can be boring. Try do add some color to them, or some fun questions like: “Which superhero do you think would work best with our corporate culture?”
Below you’ll find some sample questions we recommend using with your templates.
Types of questions
To get the right answers (in this case, useful information), you have to ask the right questions. And it’s not just about the content of the questions, but also about its type. Generally speaking, there are roughly 4 types of questions usually used in satisfaction surveys.
- Multiple choice – This type of question usually offers a limited number of choices. Sometimes, it’ll also include an “other” field, occasionally also allowing for manual entry. In some cases you might want to let people select more than one.
For example: “Which of past year’s company events did you like best?”
Possible answers (select up to 2):
(a) Summer Company Dinner
(b) Office Christmas Party
(c) Halloween Family Costume Party
(d) Company families Spring Picnic
- Grading – To collect statistical data and create averages, the best type of question is a ranking scale.
Example: “How satisfied would you say you are with your current pay?” with a ranking scale of 1-5 from “Very Satisfied” to “Very Dissatisfied”.
- Statement agreement level – These types of questions can be defined as a subclass of the grading questions, but instead they include statements and a scale of approval.
Example: “I feel my skills are properly applied in my current position” with a ranking scale of 1-5 from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree”.
- Open question – For employees, these aren’t always easy to answer. But they give room for original ideas. So try to keep these to a minimum, and only when a question cannot be answered using one of the types above.
Example: “What brands / products would you like to see added to our product catalog?”
- The extra field – In addition to all the questions in the survey, you should always include a field for general comments on the topic of the survey. You can’t predict what bugs your employees most, or what they especially love about working for you. But you sure do want to know these things.
You can mix and match the types of questions according to the information you want to collect from your employees. And as I’ve mentioned above, it’s never simply “Are you satisfied?”
Read more: Bad Surveys: Asking What You Want to Hear