HR Administration

Dear Workforce How Do I Design a Survey

By Staff Report

Sep. 7, 2011


Dear Workforce:

We have done a number of surveys in the past. Our last one was done in 1996with a recommendation that we not complete another one for three years. Before1996, we used to complete surveys annually.

In part, our decision to delay surveying again was based upon our inabilityto process the data, analyze it and effectively communicate to employees theresults and recommendations/changes stemming from the survey each year.

Since 1996, we have had top management re-structuring (more than one!) andthe survey process has been left languishing. Recently, a renewed interest hasbeen shown and I and my executive are charged with making a recommendation. Theold survey instrument does not seem to fit with our new organizational structureand I would like to develop or find a new one. Have you any criteria fordefining the purpose of a survey?

It seems to me that I could survey with a focus on organizational climate,employee opinion, job satisfaction, employee attitude and so forth. I need someway of assessing what I should focus on so that the scope is not as broad as inpast years’ and we can obtain clear evidence of issues which we can then tackle.What approach do you suggest I take?

— Vicki


A Dear Vicki:

An organization such as yours which has experienced more than one topmanagement restructuring over the past few years is bound to have a number ofimportant issues (e.g. high turnover, lack of clarity about the organization’sstructure, low employee morale) for which you may want employee feedback.

A survey can be a very effective tool to measure employee attitudes regardingthe critical issues currently facing an organization. The first step indesigning a surveyto address organizational issues is to define the purpose of the survey. To dothis, consider the following criteria:

  • Determine the key issues
  • Define how each issue is impacting the organization,
  • Identify which issues are the most critical,
  • Prioritize the issues based on critical impact, and
  • Determine what information is needed to support the issue.

Using this criteria, you should take an approach which will help focus yoursurvey on one or two main themes. For instance, if job satisfaction/turnover isa common theme in your most critical issues, you can design a survey instrumentspecifically centered on that issue.

Targeting the survey in this way also helps to ease the processing of thesurvey responses, analyzing the data and communicating the results,recommendations and changes. After you determine the purpose of the survey, youneed to establish the goals of the survey, determine the sample and developquestions to specifically elicit the information you want to obtain.

Finally, if you’re looking for a way to improve the efficiency ofconducting a survey and communicating the results, consider using availabletechnology. Today, many leading-edge companies are using e-mail surveys. Theyoffer some distinct advantages over traditional survey methods. An e-mail surveyoffers:

  • Speed — you can gather responses quickly within a day or two,
  • Economy — once the set up has been completed there are no printing or distribution costs,
  • Greater response — the ease of an e-mail survey generally stimulates higher response levels than ordinary mail surveys, and
  • Quicker turnaround — you can tabulate data and communicate results faster.

Hopefully, these ideas will be helpful to you in making your recommendation.


SOURCE: Gerard Nazzaretto, Strategic CommunicationsConsultant, Teaneck, NJ, PricewaterhouseCoopers Unifi Network.

E-mail your Dear Workforce questions to Online Editor Todd Raphael at,along with your name, title, organization and location. Unless you stateotherwise, your identifying information may be used on andin Workforce magazine. We can’t guarantee we’ll be able to answerevery question.

Schedule, engage, and pay your staff in one system with