Gary Cattermole outlines what will be the key trends to achieve best practice in employee engagment surveys over the coming months.
The rise of the open question
This year companies will become a lot more intelligent in the way they collect engagement data to get a more in-depth picture of what is going on in their workplace. At the moment the majority of questions in employee surveys are ‘closed’, the user simply selects from a choice of options to rate a statement or question. This works well from a ‘traditional’ analysis perspective as the responses can be analysed and reported on in a straightforward way.
However, by their nature closed questions don’t allow a participant to expand on their response or detail why they have answered in a particular way. The intelligent use of open questions will rise in 2014, firstly by using them strategically (i.e. where a participant is asked to rate a question, an open question will follow to seek further clarification or information on what the participant actually means).
For example: if someone has rated staff morale as only 3 on a scale of 1-10 (1 low – 10 excellent). They can be led to answer why – an overview can then be gained as to whether it’s been redundancies, lack of communication, or salary etc.
Previously much of this interrogation of the data has been looked at more closely in focus groups. However thanks to more robust and sound analysis tools, analysing open questions no longer requires the need for someone to sit and read the comments – analysis can be conducted using analytical tools for text. Thanks to the development of new technology HR and training professionals can look more in-depth at the issues facing their companies more quickly and simply than ever before.
Shorter focused questionnaires
As ever high response rates are crucial at discovering exactly what is going on inside an organisation. During 2014 it won’t be a surprise to see shorter, punchier surveys coming to the fore and a decline in longer questionnaires. Nobody likes to spend lots of time answering lengthy questionnaires and with the advent of new technologies, organisations will focus on more regular, or real-time survey feedback, honing in on key business or people issues.
The short questionnaire will be a real benefit to HR and training consultants following a more-lengthy survey; and after a time where staff consultation has resulted in change.
For example: A survey has highlighted that career development is an issue for many within an organisation. The HR and training department has got together and created a strategy to offer more opportunity and training throughout the organisation. A ‘pulse’ survey can quickly and effectively gauge opinion on how the new strategy has been received, and whether there is a need for further change or communication about the development programme.
Following-on from the trend for shorter questionnaires there’s also a continuing trend to turn around surveys in a very short amount of time. For example, we recently conducted a full survey - questionnaire design through to analysis and feedback presentations - in just four weeks. This was a multi-lingual survey delivered in English, US English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and German, and we were delighted to achieve a response rate of 87% from a population of just shy of 2,000.
Organisations are becoming more adept at communicating with their employees quickly and efficiently, taking and learning from the way in which they interact in real-time with their customers and applying these practices internally. For many professionals seeing an insight into what is going on in their organisation provides a catalyst for change, and once a programme of change has been created, managers want to see the results of their actions to discover how it is positively affecting the everyday lives of their employees.
Richer, business-led analysis and interpretation
Possibly the most significant change with surveys during 2014 will be how businesses use the feedback. This will become much more strategic with companies linking key findings with business data.
For example: linking employee engagement scores with key business data - such as staff turnover or store/ location profitability.
This strategic approach will be really helpful for a number of business situations, such as pinpointing outlets that are working well and branches that are underperforming. Further investigation can then be undertaken to see why some outlets are doing well and why others are failing.
For example: A chain of hotels may see a spike in profitability for their airport located hotels, simply due to their proximity and seasonality. However if a dip has occurred in a city centre hotel and a new manager has arrived it may be worthwhile to investigate further. Surveys can look into whether employees are happy with management style etc; there may be cause to undertake action to ensure the smooth operation and increase in levels of staff morale at the hotel.
This business-led evidence approach is also vital for reporting data back to the board. It will not only help push HR and training further up the boardroom agenda, but will also help managers gain more financing into a change management programme, once the board can see the financial gain for their organisation.
Gary Cattermole is a director of leading employee engagement specialist, The Survey Initiative