Several months ago, I wrote about writing work instructions. I received a comment comparing the art of writing work instructions to that of writing employee surveys. So, I thought, we should dig deeper into surveys.

Whether you are measuring employee satisfaction, gauging the interest in a new item in the employee lounge vending machine, or getting feedback on the new software system, you need to think about how to write your survey questions—if you want employees to give you the best information possible.

Communication is a key factor in employee engagement. Therefore, it is important to never stop improving employee communication within your organization. And you cannot improve something that you cannot measure!

Let’s look at creating an employee survey to measure internal communication.

The best tool for conducting surveys is the questionnaire. While interviews allow for greater clarity and depth, questionnaires offer an inexpensive way to survey a large group. Respondents can answer privately and anonymously—and often more candidly than in an interview.

First, define the survey’s purpose and target audience. You need to know what kind of information you want to get from your survey. If you have only a vague idea of what you’re trying to find out, your questions will be vague, too, and so will your answers.

Purpose: What do you hope to learn more about? What questions do you want answers to?

For example, if your survey’s purpose is to measure the success of your internal communication process, break this down further:

  • Effectiveness of the communication in and around the organization: Are employees receiving important organization news and day-to-day information that is necessary to do their jobs and feel connected to the big picture?
  • Accuracy: Is the information detailed, accurate, and consistent?
  • Timeliness and frequency: Is the communication delivered in a timely manner?

Audience: Who will receive the survey? Which groups or levels of employees are you most interested in learning from?

Not all employees will be best suited to offer you the information that you’re seeking. Consider targeting specific employee groups or departments. This will help you to receive useful information, as well as avoid “survey fatigue” in your organization. Survey software facilitates targeting specific groups. Another option is to survey only a sampling of employees.

Secondly, develop the questions for the questionnaire. Developing an effective survey is hard work. We must consider the types of questions: open-ended, binary, and scale. Questions must be readable and not be leading or loaded. The goal is to design the survey questions to capture the information you need. We’ll talk more about writing survey questions in the next blog post.

Employee surveys are particularly sticky because they take time out of our workday and we are never sure what the motivation is behind the survey. Survey readers are likely to ask themselves, “What information do they want to know?” and “Who will read my answers?”

Therefore, before launching your employee survey, communicate your plans, goals, and intentions with employees. This will establish trust and, in turn, increase the survey participation rate as well as the candor of the responses.

Lastly, it is important is to follow up. If your organization takes the time to issue an employee survey and your employees take the time to complete it, it is essential to report the results and follow up with your employees. What improvements or changes will be made as a result of the survey findings?

In my next blog post, we’ll look at how to write effective survey questions. What are your experiences with employee surveys? I’d love to hear from you.

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