Often, there is either information
coming from the grapevine that something is amiss in the
organization, or that identified problems have reached a
point where management must do something.
Other reasons include that listening to
employees is part of the companie’s values, or that
increasing size and complexity has caused a loss of the
“family feel” the organization used to have. Part of the
loss maybe due to the mergers and acquisitions the company
has partaken in over the years.
You may have concerns about losing key
people and want to determine the problems in your culture
and climate that might cause them to leave. Finally, your
organization has not done one before, and you wish to find
out what’s on employees’ minds.
What’s the best schedule for a
The easiest way to schedule a survey is
to work backwards. For example, if budgets are due in
November, goal definitions in October, and strategic plans
in September, you might schedule survey recommendations to
come in August, and start planning the survey effort in May.
What kind of questions should we
Questions fall into five broad
categories: questions about the organization, such as pay,
vision, clarity of mission, perception of senior management,
cross-functional teamwork and the like; questions about a
team, such as cooperation, meeting management, dealing with
conflict; management style, such as communication abilities,
encouraging teamwork, and listening skills; job-related,
such as authority, job clarity and equipment needs; and
finally, specific evaluative questions, such as benefits,
use of databases, and health plans. The above is just a
small list of the kinds of questions that can be asked.
Working closely with your consultant is the best way to
narrow down and define what questions are best for you.
What methods should we use to ask
There are five methods: “scaled”
questions, open-ended questions, focus groups, observation
and reviewing archival records. These do not have to be used
all at once, but sequentially. It’s usually best to start
with scaled and open-ended questions, and then use focus
groups and observations to clarify the issues identified
with the scaled items.
What about asking pay questions?
This is the most commonly asked
question of us. First of all, the purpose of a survey should
be to identify what issues exist and to address them: It
doesn’t mean that everyone will demand a pay raise, nor
should management automatically give one when that is a
It’s been our experience that pay is
rarely an issue: Usually there are higher-priority concerns
on people’s minds. Another point to keep in mind is that if
pay is an issue, it needs to be addressed.
What kind of “scale” should we use?
(Don’t use agree-disagree!)
There is no “one size fits all” answer
to this, but for certain, don’t use “agree-disagree”
scales. Agree-disagree scales (those with strongly
agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree values for
example) suffer from several logical and interpretational
problems. In addition, employees with lower socio-economic
status tend to be confused more easily by this kind of
Which scale is best for your
circumstances depends on the answers to the questions asked
How do I deal with anonymity and
One of the great concerns of employees
is that the bad news they tell you comes from them. The fear
of retribution is a strong one and need to be allayed as
much as possible. A strong statement by management
concerning keeping anonymity helps. Having a neutral party
collecting the data helps as well. Should open-ended
questions be asked, this neutral party can summarize this
kind of data, not allowing management to see the
word-by-word textual comments.
How should we “break out” the data?
This question is closely related to the
last one. If you ask too many detailed questions, it may
create the reality or perception of easily identified who
answered what. There is a fine balance between wanting to
determine where the problems are and identify who might
What should we do with the issues
and concerns that employees raise?
What concerns employees have should be
summarized and communicated back to employees. This
communication should be done as quickly as possible, within
a few weeks of data collection and analysis. In addition,
management’s response should be communicated at the same
time. This doesn’t mean that management should say yes to
whatever problems arise. It does, however, mean that
management should think long and hard about their response.
Some actions could be done right away, others may require
additional data gathering, some may require long
implementation, and some might not be acted on at all.
What can I expect to get from a
First of all, expect the obvious: quick
response, accurate information, surveys and actions
tailored to your needs. Second, expect them to work closely
with you to determine the best content for your particular
problem and concern. Third, you should expect them to help
you decide the scope of your needs, including only being a
neutral data gatherer of your existing survey, working with
you to customize content, globalizing your content to
reflect multiple cultures and languages, facilitating
management offsites to digest the data, gathering additional
information in focus groups, or advising management in their