Tag Archives: surveys

Are surveys effective for determining employee engagement?

Administering surveys is one of the oldest and most common ways internal communicators measure the engagement of employees. According to CEB, 92 percent of companies use them.

Do they really work?

Absolutely. However, they can just as easily paint an inaccurate picture of how employees are really feeling and if they are engaged in the way that matters to the performance of your organization.

Whether you choose to an employee engagement survey vendor such as the firm that started the trend (and currently claims we’re in an engagement crisis) or roll your own, a lot of effort goes into creating a survey that provides the answers communicators need to get an accurate look at the state of things and make decisions about how best to move forward.

Here are a few of those essential ingredients:

1. The right questions

 You can’t find out if employees are engaged just by asking them, “Are you engaged?” You have to find the specifics that make it clear that they’re engaged or not. The International Association of Business Communicators offers this advice: “Survey questions need to be precise, unambiguous, efficient in the way they capture information and, in most cases, should employ answer categories that can be used to quantify responses.”

Given the results of 2016 election surveys, we all understand how the nature of the questions will determine what you are in fact measuring. Testing has shown the precise wording and order of questions will impact your results.

Some survey question sets, such as the Gallup G12, which asks, “Do you have a best friend at work?” tend to be focused on employee satisfaction. For more of an organization performance angle, a very good place to start would be the CEB’s list of the top nine survey questions.

Yes-or-no questions provide the clearest measurement results, yet not every question can be black-and-white. Engagement questions can be quite broad reaching, so it’s important to keep in mind some employees may be intimidated to honestly answer questions like “Do you understand the strategic goals of the company?” While open-ended, comment-style answers are quite difficult and time-consuming to measure, instead you might ask employees whether they agree or disagree with certain statements,  have them rank options or make value judgments on a scale (“excellent” to “poor”). Other companies have borrowed from the Net promoter score concept, and ask, “How likely is it that you would recommend working at our company to a friend?”

2. A well-defined schedule and distribution strategy

Considering it can take two to three months to create, execute and report out your survey, timing is critical, as are your distribution methods.

Will it be available via email, on your intranet, at kiosks, on paper or all of the above? Will you attempt to survey every employee, or take a randomized sample approach? How will you ensure your sample is random and representative of the entire population?

While some companies conduct surveys every two years, Quantum Workplace offers research which suggests one survey per year is optimal. Others find a continuous feedback approach allows them to be more nimble and ahead of the curve given today’s rapidly changing economic and social environments. Companies such as CultureIQ and Agency BB&A offer reminders that focus groups, flash polls and asking for feedback on social media provide other useful ways of taking the pulse.

3. A statistically valid response rate and effective reporting of results

A survey isn’t worth much if not enough people answer it. That’s why it’s important to conduct outreach and conduct follow up that encourages employees to complete the survey for their own benefit as well as the company’s. This includes non-digital follow up with people in order to get a representative sample of responses.

To get accurate results, you don’t need everyone to respond to your survey, and the larger your organization the lower percentage of participants you actually need.

Generally, the larger the responding sample is, the higher your confidence will be, and the lower your margin of error. Simply speaking, the more response you get, the more accurate your results.

Many surveys aim for a 95 percent confidence level, which simply means that for every 100 people in the population, 95 will answer the same as your survey results. For an organization of 10,000 employees, for a 95 percent confidence level and 5 percent margin of error, you only need 370 responses. If you increase your accuracy to 99 percent confidence with a 2.5 percent margin of error, you will need 2,103 responses. For an organization ten times larger, those response numbers are just 383 and 2,594.

Sample size is important, but not as much as randomization. With surveys it is most important that you gather responses from a representative sample of your population. When you rely on only one method of distribution and allow a broad population to self-select their participation (such as a large email blast where you just take whatever responses you get), you can easily introduce selection bias errors. Perhaps only the more engaged employees respond or only the employees active on email, or only those with more free time. Obviously such bias may significant skew your results.

Communications teams play a critical role in the success of the employee engagement survey, as well as overall employee engagement.

To get higher levels of participation, it’s important to explain why you are doing the survey and provide examples of how you have acted on the results previously. Then follow up diligently and include data regarding your participation objectives and current status, but only send reminders to those who have not yet completed the survey, and send thank-you notices to those that do. When it comes to reporting out the data, CultureAmp offers good suggestions which include providing an overview of key findings, presenting results to executives first, and publishing an action plan.

Remember: Your survey is just one part of the larger whole of communications activity to help foster higher levels of employee engagement.

Purpose, process, payoff: Aligning internal comms to business goals

Have you heard this one before: “Companies with engaged employees outperform those without?”

That’s a fact—and it is a fact, according to the American Marketing Association—that gets thrown around a lot among communicators. But what does it really mean? What’s the key to unlocking the treasure of engaged employees?

Engaging employees isn’t something that just happens, and there is no trickery, bribery or shiniest new tool that makes it happen. It comes by making a real connection with employees, who then buy into your organization’s business goals. When they become believers, they are engaged.

And that’s no easy task. According to research from HubSpot, more than half of internal communications professionals (54 percent) said one of their biggest challenges is gaining buy-in from employees.

Big challenge, big rewards. How can communications help to engage employees and the added company performance that comes with them? Here are a few tips and best practices:

Create a strategic communications plan. A blog post from internal communcations agency Tribe explains how a strategic communications plan helps align internal communications and business goals:

The strategic communications plan helps to keep everyone moving in the same direction. It’s what provides the structure on which you can build employee engagement in reaching those business objectives…Even before you start developing your messaging, you’ve begun to pave the way for changing employee behavior.

Listen. Employees want to know they’re being heard. It’s that simple. You can’t ask someone to buy into your goals if you aren’t attentive to their needs. In a white paper, Janson Communications offers this advice:

If internal audiences are constantly on the receiving end and seldom or never get the opportunity to “be heard,” the messages will become less genuine. When employees are given the chance to share their opinions and that information is used appropriately, a foundation of trust is built.

Measure. Listen to what employees say, but also pay attention to what they do. Which channels do they prefer? (According to HubSpot and PoliteMail, email is still the most popular channel.) What types of messages do they like? What do they respond to? Make adjustments to communicate with them in the ways they want with the content they need and find most useful.

Speak to employees as individuals. When you ask someone to buy into an idea or a way of thinking, there’s one important question you must answer: “What’s in it for me?” Be sure you let your employees know what the benefits to them of engagement are. The answer won’t be the same for everyone, so align your messaging with specific segments of our audience according to their roles and interests. While some may be satisfied with an answer about the health of the organization, others may want something else. Be upfront about all the risks and benefits.

What is the secret recipe for employee engagement? There really isn’t one magic bullet, but communications, culture, community and clear objectives are the keys. Communicating with employees on their terms, explaining what the business wants and why, and asking them what they want and taking that into consideration is the way forward.

To learn more about how organizations like yours are successfully communicating with employees, download PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.

Quantitative or Qualitative: How surveys and focus groups help measure internal communications effectiveness

After making the sometimes arduous decisions of which internal communications channels and programs are the best for your organization, the question of “Is it working?” lingers for comms professionals.

There are two viable measurement methods for answering that question.

First there isthe quantitative data, which comes in the form of metrics and analytics gathered from your organization’s use of email, intranet pages, mobile pages and other communication tools. Qualitative data will tell you how many employees are reading an email message or regularly utilizing your intranet site. What that doesn’t tell you is why, and that’s is where qualitative data comes in.

Qualitative data is the internal communications feedback you get direct from employees by conducting surveys and focus groups. Qualitative data, using properly formed questions, can tell you why employees participate or now, and how they feel about the channel, program or campaign.

While surveys and focus groups are equally worthwhile methods of gathering qualitative information, each one achieves different things. Quantum Workplace points out the difference:

Often the employee survey itself simply uncovers weaknesses and strengths, but it doesn’t always point to action steps for improvements. This is the next part of the conversation and where employee focus groups can provide insight on how to improve employee engagement.

A broad survey of hundreds or thousands of people can often serve as a starting point for digging deeper using focus groups of 10 to 12 employees, Quantum Workplace’s article suggests.

The Society for Human Resource Management has provided a detailed, six-step outline communicators can use to set up an employee focus group, starting with choosing a purpose statement, through developing questions, to selecting a facilitator, inviting participants, holding the actual meeting, and then analyzing the findings.

SHRM’s guide suggests that “a productive focus group is much more than a chat session,” and requires care and planning to make sure the results are useful.

Surveys, likewise, require careful planning. The way a question is worded will impact not only the answer, but how participates feel. In many ways, communicators must consider the tone of a survey just like they do other communications. According to Custom Insight, “communicating and establishing trust will also increase the survey response rate as well as the candor of the responses.”

Like SHRM’s focus group guide, Custom Insight provides a planning guide for surveys, with tips for alerting employees that the survey is coming, then combing the results for information that can improve internal communications.

In a post on his blog, internal communications expert Shel Holtz notes that it’s important for communicators to not just ask employees about tools and features they currently use; they should describe possibilities that could come in the form of new tools:

If the responses come back pointing toward a mobile app or mobile version of an internal social network, you’ll know all you need to: You’ll know that employees don’t yet know what delivery mechanism they want. It is up to internal communicators to make that mechanism available.

Surveys and focus groups go hand-in-hand. According to Quantum Workplace, employees who receive follow-ups after a survey (possibly in the form of a focus group) are 12 times more engaged than those who have no follow-up.

To learn more about how communicators are measuring their communications efforts, download PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.