Human Resources Kit For Dummies
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In many cases, particularly if your company is small, you don’t have a hard time getting a good read on the general atmosphere among employees. But if your company is larger, periodically conducting a more rigorous employee survey can be exceedingly valuable. It can help you gain a comprehensive sense of how employees feel about your company and convey the message that you genuinely want their opinions and feedback.

Here are some tips:

  • Watch your timing. Don’t conduct surveys during holidays, when many employees may be taking days off. Avoid exceptionally heavy workload periods.

  • Think carefully about your objectives before crafting your survey questions. What do you want to find out? What do you intend to do with the information?

  • Share survey objectives with employees, but do so in language that’s relevant to them. In other words, instead of using HR terms such as “We want to assess employee engagement levels,” tell them, “We want to hear your thoughts since we merged with Company X.”

  • Before you unveil your survey to the entire company, test it out on a small group of employees to see whether your questions are appropriate and what you can refine.

  • Assure employees that their comments are anonymous.

  • Communicate to employees the results of the survey in a timely manner and take action, as appropriate, when employees make recommendations. Let employees know how their input has affected company policy. It can be negatively impactful if you survey your employees, set their expectations that change will occur from their responses, and then take no action.

Employee survey information may need to be disclosed during litigation. It’s a good idea to consult with an attorney before initiating your own survey.

Taking the pulse of your workforce

Don’t limit your use of employee surveys to those conducted every couple years of so. Pulse surveys also can provide valuable insight into employee attitudes and opinions.

True to its name, a pulse survey is designed to measure the “heartbeat” of a company by examining such issues as job satisfaction, support from management, and opinions regarding pay and benefits. Because pulse surveys can be given semi-annually, quarterly, or monthly, they allow you to keep an eye on any significant trends or developments.

In addition to being conducted more frequently than conventional surveys, they’re often shorter and more focused on one or more particular issues. Also, pulse surveys can be administered to one group of employees one time and another group another time. This offers a broad array of perspectives without the risk of burning out employees on too many surveys that are conducted too often.

Pulse surveys are valuable on several levels:

  • They can offer an early warning system, bringing up issues that may develop into significant problems if left uncovered until a more comprehensive employee survey is conducted.

  • Because they’re more focused, pulse surveys also can encourage employees to think carefully about particular issues they may have never given much thought to.

  • Conducting pulse surveys lets employees know that you consider these issues important and worthy of their feedback.

  • They foster an ongoing sense of communication between you and your employees. You’re conveying the message that you value what they think and are eager to regularly solicit their ideas.

Like a conventional survey, it’s important that employees understand that pulse surveys are completely anonymous. That makes employees comfortable in being as candid and forthright as possible.

Exit interviews

When you’re trying to take the temperature of the organization, some of the most candid employees are often those who are leaving your company. To gain valuable ideas about improving your working conditions and making the workplace more inviting, consider conducting exit interviews with employees who have resigned or are otherwise voluntarily leaving your company.

People you’ve had to fire — though potentially the most candid of all — are not good subjects for two reasons: They’re unlikely to cooperate, and, if they do, their input will probably be overly negative rather than constructive.

About This Article

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Max Messmer is chairman and CEO of Robert Half International, the world's largest specialized staffing firm. He is one of the leading experts on human resources and employment issues.

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