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Mastering the Art of Workplace Surveys

Satish, a blue-collar employee at a manufacturing plant, often found his lack of formal education impacting his awareness of company initiatives and policies. This issue became particularly pronounced when he was asked to complete an Employee Engagement Survey. Although he was eager to offer genuine feedback, concerns about language posed a barrier. Nevertheless, Satish was glad to find the survey available in English and two familiar regional languages. But even with multilingual support, he still failed to understand the essence of the questions. The fear of being judged, disclosure of his identity, and responses with potential repercussions held him back from seeking support from the onsite support person. In the end, he responded based on his interpretations, leaving himself uncertain about participating in any such future initiatives.

Satish’s experience would resonate with a vast population across sectors, industries, and organizational hierarchies. It underscores the inherent challenge of collecting true responses in surveys, as they serve as the cornerstone for understanding an organization’s needs, similar to an individual’s medical checkup. To gain a comprehensive perspective, let’s delve into the barriers associated with this problem and explore solutions to address this challenge, as it has the potential to undermine the core purpose of conducting surveys.

Challenges & Strategies for Obtaining Genuine Responses :

1. Psychological Safety & Fear of Repercussions :

Did you know? 86% of employees say that the fear of repercussions holds them back from discussing their concerns with their managers. This reflects a defensive approach by management toward honest and constructive feedback, fostering a culture of apathy and dampening the potential of communication channels, even if responses are anonymous. The outcome of the survey? Focusing on the positive and missing critical-genuine areas of concern.

To ensure that responses are authentic, organizations need to cultivate a climate where open communication and honest feedback are not only encouraged but also valued. It begins with an active demonstration of how an organization embraces constructive feedback through regular, no-penalty feedback sessions, suggestion boxes, and enforcement of non-retaliatory policies. This leads to a culture of feedback excellence showcasing there are no repercussions for the workforce’s voice, encouraging them to be open, and transparent towards any organizational activity.

2. Anonymity & Confidentiality :

Prior to the administration of surveys, it’s common for individuals to seek assurances from multiple sources about anonymity and confidentiality. This mistrust results in neutral or positive responses, often leading to a missed opportunity to uncover employee concerns and areas of satisfaction. Addressing this issue necessitates an explanation of the purpose and utilization of the data through discussions before the process commences.

By explaining that demographics are collected solely for analytical purposes, or by utilizing survey tools that allow responses to be submitted without the inclusion of personal details, organizations can help build trust among the workforce. Emphasizing that the survey results would be presented in a collective form, with no single response linked to any individual can also help alleviate these fears. Ultimately, clarifying the role of third-party agencies in maintaining confidentiality from the outset ensures that employees have faith in the process, leading to honest responses, and fostering a culture of trust within the organization.

3. Transparency & Clarity :

Questions like, What’s in it for me? Will I see genuine survey results? What can I expect once the survey is completed? are often at the forefront of employees’ minds before they opt to participate in a survey. What’s even more concerning is the lack of concrete answers, which leads to employees feeling unheard and uninterested, treating the survey as a mere formality. The issue is the underestimated importance of effective communication throughout the stages of a survey, including the pre, during, and post-survey phases.

For better survey outcomes, organizations need to focus on pre and post-survey communication efforts to convey scope, objectives, and structure. Customized messages, regular check-ins on focus areas, and seeking and providing clarifications via group discussions/team meetings can help convey the agenda and demonstrate the organization’s interest in their workforce’s opinions. Additionally, they can announce when employees can expect to see the results. By keeping employees informed about the process and providing clarity on outcomes, organizations can ensure more meaningful and engaged participation.

4. Survey Fatigue :

We’ve had three surveys this year, but nothing seems to change. I responded to the latest survey because I was constantly reminded, but I didn’t even bother reading the questions. It’s not like they pay attention to our answers anyway.” Repeatedly responding to surveys without witnessing any action taken can create a perception that employee feedback isn’t valued, leading to survey fatigue. This, in turn, results in employees refraining from active participation in surveys, treating them as tick-mark activity with no expectation of change.

Effectively addressing this requires more than just reducing the survey frequency. It’s vital to demonstrate the tangible impact of employee feedback. This begins by sharing the survey results and outlining the specific actions taken based on those results on time. Even after months or years, highlighting the lasting effects of previous surveys through emails, remote communication channels, and weekly meetups ensures that the impact is not forgotten. Not only does this sustain the engagement of past respondents, but it also bolsters the commitment of more employees to participate in future surveys, creating a snowball effect. Ultimately, the workforce becomes more enthusiastic about sharing honest feedback, knowing that it can lead to desired change.

The success of a survey relies heavily on the level of engagement it garners from employees. Greater engagement yields more powerful results. However, many employees, like Satish, often grapple with these above challenges when participating in workplace surveys. This underscores that many organizations are yet to fully engage their workforce or cultivate a culture that kindles inherent motivation.

If the problem is innate, the solutions should be intrinsic as well. Only then can experiences like Satish’s and others significantly improve, motivating them to actively participate in such organizational-led surveys more frequently.

NamanHR operates uniquely. We don’t just address organizational needs but also comprehend individual requirements. This ensures that our organization’s diagnostic surveys are backed by scientifically designed tools and accurate information from both individuals and organizations, bringing them closer to a true understanding of their behavior. To get more insights and truly benefit from organizational surveys, contact us today!

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