98. Human Resources Management: Conducting Effective Employee Surveys

12 important takeaways from this lecture:

00:02:15 Employee surveys are cyclical evaluations about job, company communication, and employees and bosses

satisfaction with the general understanding that the greater the satisfaction, the greater the productivity. This of course isn’t always true.

00:05:47 Many companies do a pre-study before they actually create and administer their survey or questionnaire. Simply sitting down and thinking about the questions you want to ask based on your opinion of importance is wrong. In truth, you shouldn’t try to write anything until you know what to write. Writing starts with thinking. If you don’t have your information already thought out in your mind, you cannot write. Once you understand what to write, writing is a piece of cake.

Whenever you prepare questions for a survey, you must understand one important thing: people will not understand your questions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a survey with the question “Have you had abdominal pains in the last four weeks.” What they failed to take into account is that all over the world people have a different understanding for what exactly the ‘abdomen’ is, even though it is a universal and simple concept to understand. Ask people about ‘innovation,’  ‘profitability,’  ‘business strategy,’ etc. and the average person will not understand what you mean. People don’t not understand your questions because they are dumb, they don’t unerstand your questions because they are normal. This is why it is important to conduct pretests (asking individuals to define words and paraphrase your question in their own words) and adjustments before your survey is officially released.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Susan Orlean, staff writer for the New Yorker is quoted as saying “If you’ve got writer’s block, you don’t have writer’s block. You have reporter’s block. You only are having trouble writing because you don’t actually yet know what you’re trying to say, and that usually means you don’t have enough information. That’s the signal to walk away from the keyboard, think about what it is that you don’t really know yet, and go do that reporting.”

Also, for more on survey development, read my interview with Peter Spear, Brand Listener.

Lastly, for great information on how your surveys can actually manipulate consumers and cause your research to become useless, read Redirect by Timothy Wilson.]

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00:17:00 The previous 12 questions form the foundation for high-quality surveys.

00:22:30 Whenever you look at the results for any employee survey, you will almost always find negative results with regards to compensation, communication, leadership and career opportunities. Nobody is ever 100% satisfied with:

  • How much you pay them
  • How you communicate with them and whether or not the employee is well-informed
  • How quickly your employees can advance within your company

This is almost always the case, regardless of company or industry.

Therefore you will receive a better understanding of the results by comparing them with the whole instead of looking at each survey result individually.

00:24:39 There are several different ways to read and interpret statistical results, and you must be careful in your interpretation of the results so as not to come to the wrong conclusions. This is especially imperative when comparing results from different countries and cultures because there is a bias – certain cultures tend to repond more positively than others, while other cultures tend to respond more negatively to the same questions.

In Latin America, for example, people almost always say they are posistive. In France, on the other hand, people tend to evaluate more critically. In Asian culture people tend not to select the extreme ends of a scale.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more informaiton on understanding cultural differences, read the book Understanding Cultural Differences Between The French, German, and Americans by Edward Hall.]

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00:33:10 It’s important employees see the results of a survey they contribute to, even if the results are negative. How demotivating would it be for you to constantly fill out surveys only never to hear about it again or understand how it is improving your job? You likely wouldn’t fill out future surveys, would you?

00:34:40 Although challenging to orchestrate, it’s important that each team and department receive their own relevant version and results of the survey.

00:40:00 Not all topics covered in the survey are important or necessary. The company may not necessarily care, nor is it relevant to the company, whether or not you have made close friends within the company (referring back to the Q12 Gallup slide above).

00:49:31 Unless there is some form of motivation, things which are not important before a survey, will not be important after a survey, independent of any result of the survey.

00:50:40 Another important shortcoming of employee surveys, management appraisals, 360° feedback, etc. is that it isn’t clear why we are doing this, and for whom (who is the customer of this survey?).

01:06:49 Employer attractiveness refers to how attractive a company is for high-quality recruits. You must be attractive to high-quality employees if you are to compete in the labor market and capture and keep a competitive advantage on innovation.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on employee attractiveness, watch Armin Trost’s lecture Human Resources Management: Attracting & Selecting The Best Candidates.]

01:15:54 You cannot be attractive to everybody in everything; therefore you must choose strategically how you will be attractive for whom and what.

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