While much can be learned by conducting employee surveys, many corporations have learned the hard way that poor surveying technique can do more harm than good. In fact, generally, when executives are opposed to surveying, their opposition is based on poor experiences with surveying in the past.
Here are five surefire ways to do more harm than good while surveying employees:
- Don’t bother explaining to the employees in advance the reason(s) for the survey and what will be done with the results. Adults want to know why and in the absence of the real story, they will create one. The one they create will almost certainly be negative.
- Assure them of anonymity, but fail to explain how their privacy will be protected. “Trust me” is not an adequate explanation and almost certainly will get you responses that are far less than totally honest.
- Violate their anonymity. Not only will this assure that it will be a very long time before you will ever get honest answers to a survey again, but the residue of distrust created by this violation will pollute every other interaction between the corporation and employees for some time to come.
- Keep the results to yourself. Respondents will be more honest on the next survey and more likely to support changes spawned by this survey if they are given a full accounting of the results.
- And the biggest failure of all . . . don’t do anything with the results.
No one takes organizational surveys seriously if they cannot point to any change that resulted from the last one. In fact, when you conduct the second survey and are having your pre-survey information sessions (see #1 above) being able to remind the respondents of what the organization learned from the last survey and what was done about it, is absolutely the best way to increase candor for the upcoming survey.