How to Plan an Employee Survey To Get Actionable Intelligence

Include the survey process into the normal business planning cycle.
Syncing the schedule of the survey with the normal budgeting cycle increases the chances that recommendations will be funded.

Avoid using agree-disagree scales.
Agree-disagree scales, while commonly used, have response-biase issues, and most importantly, are difficult to interpret, even with norms. To give a quick example: How can you prioritize survey items where one shows 37% agree, but 42% disagree, with another item that is 22% strongly agree and 17% agree?

Create and communicate clear, specific actions from the employee survey data.
Suggesting that "management communicate more" or "we need team spirit" doesn't do much. What really needs to change?

Don't look for what you already see.Conducting a training needs survey assumes lack of skill is the cause of company problems.
Conducting a wide-ranging survey at the start will help avoid agreeing with what you already believe.

Use multiple survey methods.
No one method(numerical surveys, open-ended questions, focus groups, etc.) is the gold standard of data collection. Each has its advantages and disadvantages

First use numerical surveys, then follow with focus groups.
Using focus groups first allows "squeaky wheels" to have too much influence.

Keep the data anonymous, but communicate the actions.
Some employees may be to paranoid about tracing their data back to their computers, we've had to revert to paper surveys for some of our clients.

Decide how to analyze data before you gather it.
How will your graphs and reports look? If they look a certain way, how will you interpret them?

Decide on your sampling plan, and how to "break out" the data.
Deciding whether to do a 100% sample of employees, or a random sample, is an important statistical (and buy-in) question to ask. Asking too many questions, like gender, location, job title etc. can violate anonymity or the perception of it.

Involve influential employees in the survey effort.
We involve key employees in the planning effort of the survey. They can become mighty advocates of survey recommendations.

Never survey without acting.
Even if management decides they cannot(or will not) solve a problem employees raise, it is still important to acknowledge the problem and state clearly why management is not taking action at this time.

For further reading, you might to read an elaborated form of this blog here , or look at "Master of all you Survey" available at Amazon.