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Employee Communication Surveys - Seven Tips For Successful Design and Implementation


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Organization Communication Problems?

So, your organization is suffering from poor communication practices. John complains that his boss never tells him anything. Sally is expected to come up with sales targets without being briefed on this year’s company strategy.

Where do you start in improving ineffective communication between people? A good first step in fixing communication problems in any organization is to survey employees. Even if there are no obvious problems, surveys can help get an organization to the next level of performance.

What are the benefits you would expect to see in conducting a communication survey and acting on the results? Well, you could experience some of the following:

*improved employee satisfaction
*lower turnover
*reduced absenteeism
*less political infighting
*greater levels of manager-worker trust
*reduced defect rates
*higher customer satisfaction

A well-run survey can give your organization these benefits. However, a poorly conducted survey can have the opposite effect. Surveys badly planned, rolled out and followed up can actually increase employee cynicism and resistance to change. It may also worsen employee turnover and absenteeism. And this impacts on customer satisfaction and your bottom line.

Communication Survey Tips

So, what do you need to consider before rolling out your survey? Here are seven useful tips to get you heading in the right direction.

Question types

Include in your survey questions requiring limited tick-the-box responses, such as Yes/No and Strongly Agree/Agree/Disagree/Strongly Disagree. Including these questions will allow you to perform quantitative analyses that you can use to compare results between different demographics and to use as a benchmark for future surveys.

However, just as importantly, allow provision for free form comments. Everything that people will want to say will not fit into your pre-packaged boxes. A good idea is to run Focus Groups with a random sample of survey respondents after the survey forms have been collected and analyzed. These discussion groups are invaluable in performing a sanity check on your results so far and in teasing out issues that have surfaced in the written survey.


Guarantee absolute anonymity for the people completing the survey and make this clear in the survey instructions. Some employees will either not complete the survey or give sanitized answers if they believe that their identity will be disclosed with their answers and comments.

Sample size

Should you survey the whole organization/department or a select group? Preferably, survey all employees as this gives everyone a sense of being listened to. If the organization/department is excessively large or budget is tight, draw a random sample from each of the demographic groups that you will be reporting on.

If your selection is not random, the survey results will not be representative and you will lose credibility with your client managers and employees. If a demographic group comprises 50 people or less, you will need to survey 100 percent of the people within that group.

Mode of delivery

If the people completing the survey are small in number and at the one location, then hardcopy distribution will not be a problem. As the number of respondents increase and the locations become more dispersed, give more consideration to the need for electronic distribution. Think about putting the survey on a local intranet or internet web server.

To make filling out the form easy for people, have it so that the form can be completed online. If this is not possible, either send the form by email or put it on an accessible server from which people can download it. If your survey respondents are not comfortable with technology, then be wary of online options and provide plenty of employee support if you decide to go down that road.

Inducements and Reminders

Survey participation rates are typically ten percent or less. You can dramatically improve on this completion rate by conducting some simple follow up. As you get closer to the survey cut-off date (of course, you will have publicized that date with your survey), send out an email reminder or have someone call the respondents personally. Advertising a prize to go to the first to complete the surveys will also increase the participation rate.

Distribute results

Once the results are in and analyzed, distribute your findings first to your client managers and then to employees. Withholding results from employees will only breed cynicism and distrust and make your next survey all that more difficult to get a satisfactory response rate.

Break down your results into meaningful groups, such as by department or by region. The reporting groupings need to be small enough that people can identify with the group enough for a meaningful action plan to be developed.

Be prepared for some kickback from defensive managers. Frank employee feedback is both confronting and jarring, especially for those managers not used to it. Use your best facilitation skills to deliver the key messages. If you are in a politically charged environment, use a professional facilitator to perform this sensitive task.

Follow up and Rewards

A survey conducted with no plan for action is not only a waste of resources but will leave employees asking why they bothered to feedback to managers how they felt. Work with each manager to construct an action plan that they agree with. Remember, it is the manager that will be implementing the plan, not you. Get back with each manager three or six months later to review how they are progressing with their plan and report the results to the organization. As you see communication practices improve across the organization, make sure that managers get rewarded.

By following the above tips, you’re sure to get the most benefit from your employee communication survey. The key is to leave room for free form comments on the survey form whilst guaranteeing that participants will not be identified in the results. Make the survey accessible and follow up to ensure that a sufficient number of people respond. You can maximize your response rate by offering rewards. After analyzing the results, distribute to all employees. A survey report ignored is a survey wasted, so develop an action plan and follow up with managers.

2006 © Business Performance Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Vicki Heath is the Director of Business Performance Pty Ltd, a company providing practical online information and resources in a range of business areas, including training and development. Her company's guides, tools and templates assist organizations engage and develop people, manage organizational change and improve project delivery.

Proven experts in the following areas: project management, change management, strategic planning, business process re-engineering, culture surveys, organizational communication, training and development, business performance measurement, employee performance management, leadership and team development, organizational capability and learning, coaching and mentoring.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2006-09-08 19:16:56 in Employee Articles

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