Bringing communication online

Happy employees are generally more productive, creating increased profits for the business. Keeping them satisfied should therefore be a major priority but many employers are still not considering this vital measurement. HRM looks at how online surveys can provide an unobtrusive platform for staff feedback

The benefits of listening to staff are clear. According to internal communications consultant Melcrum, companies with highly effective internal communications are three times more likely to measure and report results than those with less successful connections to their employees. Also, they are nearly twice as likely to outperform the market in their business objectives.

Connecting with employees truly gives a company a competitive edge. However, internal communication with staff is routinely ignored in the face of seemingly more pressing corporate needs.

Paul Wilson, director of Par-ex, says that one of the most common factors that cause employers to ignore communicating with staff about their satisfaction levels is the fact that they think such conversations are, ultimately, all about salary.

Employers may also find employee engagement efforts to be too costly and time consuming.

“Many have limited experience of implementing surveys and feedback processes and are concerned about what’s involved in doing it well,” says Wilson.

Some employers even refuse to listen to staff feedback as they worry it will add costs to their operations, says Charles Liaw, Managing Director, Times Software.

Furthermore, certain needs that employees voice during engagement surveys are actually not reasonable and practical for companies to accept or adopt.

For example, staff may want a Karaoke and Fitness Club room but space may be a constraint for the company. “Also, specific staff may want to choose which clients they want to serve or provide support and services to,” Liaw adds. “That’s unacceptable as well.”

There may also be a shortage of skilled manpower to help the organisation look into employee engagement.

Companies may also have set up reporting structures that restrict staff to provide feedback to management. Working environments and tight working schedules may also limit staff communications.

“Employers are sometimes even secretly afraid of the messages or feedback they may receive,” says Wilson.
Internal communications on a budget
Face-to-face feedback, either through structured interviews or focus groups, can be resource intensive and therefore less suitable for evaluating engagement levels across an entire workforce.

However, this type of feedback can provide rich data and complement an online survey, allowing researchers to explore certain aspects of the survey findings in more detail and thereby improve managers’ understanding of the results, says Wilson.

Hardcopy questionnaires, on the other hand, are still necessary where staff do not have adequate access to the internet. “It is important that all staff are given the opportunity to contribute so hard copies may have to be used as a last resort for some groups,” Wilson explains.

“The distribution, collection and data entry slow the process and raise costs significantly when compared to online questionnaires so I can see no other reason to use them,” he adds. “Ultimately, each has its value when used in the appropriate context.”

A cost-effective way to measure employee satisfaction and provide an unobtrusive platform to employees is through anonymous online employee surveys.

“The real-time nature of the reporting means that we can give regular updates on response levels across different parts of the organisation during the survey period,” says Wilson. “This means that if there is a low response rate identified, we can alert managers who can take steps to address this before the survey closes.

“The better the response rate, the greater the confidence that the data is representative of employees views and opinions,” he adds.
Ins and outs of online surveys
Some common challenges companies face when implementing online employee survey platforms include first understanding exactly what is to be achieved from the survey. “Knowing exactly what the aim of the survey is will significantly improve its impact,” says Wilson.

Employers also need to be realistic about the scope of the survey and avoid the tendency to “put too much in”. Wilson says employees and managers must be on board with the process. “You need them to work with you.”

It also helps to fit online surveys into a suitable point in the business cycle, avoiding peak workloads and other major initiatives.

“Most importantly, be prepared to respond to and act upon the feedback,” Wilson warns. “Failure to do so will undermine any future engagement initiatives through lack of credibility.”

A primary concern for staff is confidentiality. Liaw explains that while online employee surveys can work, for them to be really effective, sender identifications (IDs) should not be revealed.

“Many employees refuse to provide feedback online as they worry that their company might able to trace the sender ID,” says Liaw. “They feel they may be blacklisted by their supervisors or managers if their ID is revealed.”
Making online surveys work for you
Engaging a specialist supplier to design and administer the survey is an important way of demonstrating that the impartiality and anonymity of online surveys are respected and protected.

“We at Par-ex will explicitly contract with the client on the level of confidentiality that is required and how that will be achieved,” says Wilson.

“For example, we do not share the raw data with the company and will agree a minimum group size that we will report on,” he explains. “That way, we ensure that the responses of small groups of employees will not be revealed and open to scrutiny.”

While employees’ concerns about confidentiality should be addressed at the earliest stages of the project, anonymity is not always ideal.

“For example, one of our surveys is aimed at recently-recruited employees to get their feedback on the recruitment and on-boarding process, and also to gauge their level of engagement and if they are at risk of resigning,” says Wilson.

“It can be administered anonymously, but offers most value when it gives the opportunity for a named individual to share their experiences and views, and promote the opportunity for a discussion about how the company can better maintain and/or improve their engagement level.”

Individuals’ reports on workforce-wide engagement surveys can also be provided, becoming a powerful tool for development planning with HR or line personnel.

“Have employers actually added up how much recruitment, on-boarding and leave administration costs their business?” Wilson asks.

“It can cost up to 40% of each new hire’s salary just to bring them on board and up to speed,” he explains. “Can any employer really afford not to take up the engagement challenge?”

Challenges in implementing online surveys
  • Costs and manpower issues to maintain systems
  • Resources to consolidate surveys
  • Provide timely report to Management to look into serious feedback urgently
  • Acting on feedback fast to encourage more staff to participate
  • Staff not willing to share their issues or feedback with company
Source: Charles Liaw, Managing Director, Times Software


What is the ideal length for your online survey?
One of the most common questions from survey creators is, “How long should my online survey be?”
If your survey is too long, respondents may:
  • Rush through the survey, skip questions or enter false information
  • Abandon the survey
  • Ask to be removed from your mailing list or report your message as spam
According to Rachel Foster, B2B copywriter, Fresh Perspective Copywriting, while there is no single answer to this question, here are some guidelines that will increase both your response rates and the quality of the responses:
  1. Mention the time commitment up front. Before someone opens your survey, let them know how long it will take to answer all the questions. Then, include a bar on every page that highlights their progress throughout the survey. The bar will keep respondents motivated and reassure them that they don’t have much longer to go.
  2. Vary the types of questions. Try not to give someone a survey that requires an individual response to every question, as these take a lot of time and thought to answer. Be sure to include lots of quick and easy multiple choice and ranking questions.
  3. Be a ruthless editor. When you edit your online survey, keep all the questions that will provide you with critical insight and minimise or remove everything else. Non-critical questions increase both respondents’ time commitment and the effort you’ll need to analyse the final results.
“Aim to keep your survey as short as possible to respect your respondents’ time while ensuring you still receive the insight you need,” Foster advises.
Source: Adapted from an article on Cvent


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