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Employee Surveys - Tell Us What You Really Think
Do you think employee surveys add value to a company?
As I navigated though my sea of daily emails I stopped at one flagged “Important”. It was a brief message from the director of Human Resources informing me that I had been randomly chosen to complete an on-line employee survey. The message stated I would receive a separate email with the survey link. I hit the delete key and continued on my mission of reading, deleting and forwarding emails.
Later that day, another email appeared in my in-box with the subject line “Survey”. Although I was really not interested in completing the survey, upper management seemed to be fanatical about the survey response rates so it was somewhat of an obligation to complete it.
Perfect I thought, as I had about 30 minutes before my next meeting. I could complete the survey and get it out of the way. Much to my surprise, this email was simply a reminder that I would be receiving a survey link and instructions. Not sure why a reminder was necessary 3 hours after the first email but I deleted it, read a few more emails and then went on to my meeting.
At the meeting, the Human Resources director went out of his way to mention the survey and state how important our feedback was to the company. Now I was starting to get suspicious. If our feedback is that important, why not just ask us? We are all sitting here in the room with you right now! Actually I understood the anonymity of a survey and that it provided the employee with a sense of protection and fear from repercussion but it seemed very unusual that the completion of the survey seemed to be the main theme of the day.
When I arrived home that evening I stood frozen at my mailbox as I glanced down at my handful of letters and noticed a post card reminder to fill out my employee survey! Are they kidding me? Thoughts of not completing the survey now filled my head.
The next day I was almost relieved to find the email link had arrived. I immediately went to work on it as I was eager to see what was so important about this survey. The survey was being conducted by a certified accounting firm which, while that may sound impressive, was just a way to say it was statistically valid. The survey was not given to all employees, rather a cross-sampling of all different types of management, craft and technical associates. The greater the sample size the greater the accuracy or less volatile the score. That is where the response rate counted.
As I sipped my coffee and clicked to proceed to the next survey screen, amazingly enough yet another email survey reminder popped into my in-box! This is getting ridiculous I thought. The survey questions were straight-forward and broken into several categories such as Safety and Health, Communications and Customer Service. Although the questions had a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being the worst score and 10 being the best, many of the questions were very subjective. One example was “My manager treats all employees fairly” and another was “My work is challenging”. How does one accurately define fairness and challenging? Would not everyone’s definition be different?
Ironically one of the very first questions was, “Do I know what is expected of me?” I laughed out loud as I said yes; obviously I am expected to fill out this silly survey! I kept thinking about some of the individuals in the firm and how they would answer some of these questions and what value those answers would have to the company’s leadership. Like a good soldier I continued on checking boxes for each question. I completed each of the remaining sections, Quality, Teamwork, Diversity and Compensation. With each click of an answer I wondered if anyone was actually going to read the survey or if my answers were simply destined to be averaged out among a few hundred other employees. I realized that if the majority employees felt the same on any particular issue then the result would demonstrate that. However, what if I were one of a few in a particular department, would our unsatisfied voices ever be heard?
After about 20 minutes I completed all of the survey questions and clicked the submit button. Happy that I completed the task at hand, I decided to take a walk and refill my coffee cup. As I made my way down the hall through the maze of cubicles I turned right at the corner office. As I passed, my boss stuck his head out into the hall and shouted, “Don’t forget to complete your survey!”