How to Start an Employee Survey?

A guide for managers

Would you like to set up an employee survey? Would you like to know what practical steps you must take for a good research? Get a free practical guide! Follow these 9 steps to conduct this survey.

Step 1: Business strategy

To initiate a survey, it is important to define the purpose of the survey and key groups you would like to include. Questions to asks are:

  1. What is the purpose of this survey?
  2. What do we want to achieve?
  3. What are we plan to do with the results?
  4. Are the results needed to take the next step in our business strategy? Or should the outcome of the investigation solve a current problem?

An employee survey should be designed to understand perceptions of work motivation, team dynamics, leadership, organisational culture, resources and other topics relevant to your organisation. Perhaps innovation is lacking, or customer focus requires attention.

The goal is to use the insights gained to address problems before they escalate and to make targeted improvements where needed. Without a clear objective, your survey will have less impact and may not get the response you need.

Stakeholders

It is important to generate full support for your survey within your organisation and to involve all relevant stakeholders not only in the launch phase, but also in the preparation phase. If you want your stakeholders to take action on the results, you will have to win them over in advance by involving them in the decision-making process.

The stakeholders who should be involved from an early stage are:

  • (Line) managers
  • Other direct line managers
  • HR Director and managers
  • Management
  • Internal communications department
  • Works Council (if applicable)
  • Trade unions (if applicable)

It is advisable to involve Works Council representatives from the beginning, not only to comply with the rules and expectations, but also because a works council can play an important role in embedding the survey in the organisation. If you are working on an international level, you will also need to involve regional managers.

Step 2: Target audience

Based on the goal of your survey you need to determine which audience you want to reach. Do you want to send the survey to all employees? Or do you need to enquire the view of senior management? Do you want to approach employees working in a particular part of your organisation, region, or otherwise? Take into account the size of the population when determining your target audience.

Step 3: Research methods and execution

There are three phases of methodology to consider:

  • Distribution: How to distribute the questionnaires in an effective way.
  • Participation: What is the most attractive way for respondents to participate in the survey?
  • Data collection: How do you ensure the maximum number of responses?

There are many methods of conducting surveys, but two methods are commonly used depending on the type of organisation: through an online questionnaire and/or through a written questionnaire. Choose the method that best suits your situation. For example, you may find that pulse surveys appeal to your people more than annual engagement surveys.

Another option is to decide choose for a quantitative research; for example, a face-to-face interview with a group of employees. 1. Research: assign a group to submit your questions in order to optimise your questions for the survey. 2. Use the interviews afterwards to discuss the results of the online survey and to collect more information. Please make sure you set up the interview at a neutral venue.

Online tool for free
If you want to perform the survey, you can use for example for the online tool: SurveyMonkey. This online tool provides templates which already contain a number of questions to be customised to your own needs and company layout. The tool can also be integrated with MailChimp and has a free basic plan, but offers more paid features.

Step 4: Preparation

Now that you’ve chosen the survey methodology it is time to create the survey questions. Please make sure you take into consideration the following:

  1. Is there a variety in open and closed questions?
  2. Is there an opportunity for the respondent to also give detailed explanations?
  3. Does the survey contain questions in which respondents choose to answer in order of importance or have to value the answers on a scale from 1 to 5?
  4. Is the list of questions not too long?

Step 5: Communication

Now that all the steps have been completed, the questions and the method have been established, please inform the employees about the survey, planning and distribution of the results. In your communication, before, during and after the research it is important that there is emphasized that the answers will be processed anonymously.

Also pay attention to the fact how the results will be presented and what can expected as of the next steps. Experience shows that employees are not always confident that the management team will follow-up the results and provide the employees with an action plan. Be very specific in your communication and strategy if there is any correlation between the results of the survey and your business plan.

Step 6: Launch of the employee survey

The process of the survey can be measured in the tools online. Inform employees when the survey needs to be completed and send the respondents a reminder a few days before the deadline to complete the survey.

Step 7: Interpretation and analysis

The results of the survey will be displayed in reports with graphs. These results can be easily exported to Excel and used for a PowerPoint presentation. Please agree with your HR department or Communication department how the results will be communicated to the employees.

Step 8. Privacy

In the interest of privacy, consider the following points:

  • Ensure that employees can complete the questionnaire without feeling controlled
  • Ensure that responses are received and stored on a secure platform and/or server
  • Keep questions about personal characteristics to a minimum (avoid questions about gender, education level, years of service, etc., as much as possible)
  • Convert handwritten answers into standard (computer) fonts
  • When reporting the results, keep the data at group level as much as possible

In addition to anonymous questions for the employee survey, avoid situations where employees can complete the questionnaire more than once. To avoid duplication and unreliable results, employees should only be able to give their opinion once. Therefore, work with unique login codes that can only be used once.

Step 9: Follow up

As mentioned earlier in this article, it is crucial that there are practical and visible follow-up action plan. Identify the key results and address to employees what actions can be expected. Inform employees and other stakeholders in a timely manner. Also emphasize the positive results and do not only focus on what needs to be improved.

Involve your employees and senior management in developing the action plans and make them accountable for the execution. The actions and follow-up can be discussed during a (weekly) meeting. Obviously during the year, progress should be discussed in management team meetings. After a certain period of time (twice or more frequently during the year) a new survey can be scheduled.

More News