30 January 2003
Employee motivation is vital to business success. Increasingly, it distinguishes companies that thrive from those that fail to survive. A highly motivated workforce delivers superior products and services, and this in turn leads to greater customer satisfaction and improved sales performance.
Given the implications for business success, the measurement of employee motivation and commitment through the use of employee surveys continues to increase, from an estimated 50 percent of U.S. organizations in the 1980s (Delaney, Lewin, and Ichniowski, 1988) to more than 70 percent in the 1990s(Paul and Braken, 1995). Survey findings have become a valued management information tool and are often used to identify and prioritize issues for action, monitor the effectiveness of change initiatives, establish performance objectives for managers, and provide metrics for the “people” quadrant of the balanced scorecard.
Because survey results are increasingly being used to guide management decisions, it is important to achieve a high level of participation to ensure that the findings accurately reflect the key concerns of employees. When response rates are low, the validity of the results will be called into question, and sufficient data may not be available for organizational subgroups or locations, hindering local action planning and follow-up. Moreover, a low response rate sends an ominous message that the workforce is disengaged and employees feel they lack a collective voice in communicating their concerns to management. All of this diminishes the return that an organization receives on its considerable investment in the survey research effort.
Participation in an employee survey is a direct result of how well the survey process is designed and implemented. Simply put, well-orchestrated surveys lead to higher return rates. Following are 10 “best practices” for survey design and implementation and the implications of these best practices for employee response rates. Also included are key questions to ask at each step to ensure that your organization is adhering to these practices.
Key question: What does the organization hope to achieve and what are the implications for company performance?
Key question: Who should prepare and issue survey-related messages and when should these messages be communicated?
Key question: What theme does management want to convey through the employee survey and how is this integrated with wider company change initiatives?
Key question: Who will be required to manage and support the survey and what resources will be required for the process to be successful?
Key question: What are the specific responsibilities of the survey champions and what are the requirements of managers who receive survey results for their areas of operation?
Key question: Who is the principal sponsor of the employee research and how is this person’s commitment to the process demonstrated?
Key question: What are the topic areas that should be covered in the survey and how should these questions be asked?
In addition, unless there is a specific need to coordinate with other business processes or a budgeting cycle, a survey generally should be administered at a time when it will pose a minimal disruption to the business and when a maximum number of employees are available for participation. Times of peak business activity or when employees are likely to be on vacation should be avoided. Similarly, data collection generally should not be undertaken during times when management and employee relations are tense–for example, during a contract negotiation, industrial action, or downsizing initiative.
Equally important, survey administration should be scheduled so that the findings are available in time to be included in business plans. This will position the survey as a business-planning tool and secure the necessary budget for follow-up actions. Poor scheduling for survey administration will invariably reduce line-management support for data collection and may result in data being available too late to influence budget or other business decisions.
Key question: What is the optimal time of the year to administer the survey and when will data have to be available for the business-planning process?
Key question: What are the key areas for action and which actions are most likely to affect performance?
Key question: How effective are the survey follow-up actions and what is the ROI for the company?
Enhancing employee motivation has become a business imperative and is essential to compete effectively in today’s market. The employee survey can be used to develop a strategy for creating a high-motivation work environment and improving business performance. Achieving a high response rate ensures that the survey findings are valid and can be used for local as well as organization-wide action planning.
Adopting the best practices outlined above will engage both management and employees in the survey process and can serve as a catalyst for cultural change,creating an environment in which employees are involved and have a productive and open dialogue with management.
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Written by Patrick Tong
We build robust scheduling & attendance software for businesses with 500+ frontline workers. With custom BI reporting and demand-driven scheduling, we help our customers reduce labour spend and increase profitability across their business. It's as simple as that.
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