Connect with HR – Employee Satisfaction Survey – Should you or shouldn’t you?

Posted on January 7, 2013 by admin | Posted in Highlights

Employee Satisfaction Survey – Should you or shouldn’t you?

About five years ago I worked for a company who stated in their interview with me that their culture was unique.  The Vice-President spoke a great deal about how many employees they had recruited over the years that just didn’t “get the culture” and ultimately failed in their positions.  When I asked, I thought rather innocently, what the “culture was”, I was given the usual response “we’re one big family”.  Only after accepting the position and working there for three months did I realize that it was indeed a “family culture” – a very dysfunctional family!  The lack of communication, the “blaming mentality”, the inability to resolve conflicts, the escalating fighting and the long simmering resentments, all added to the unhappy “family culture”!  Most importantly, as the Chief HR Officer, when I asked employees to describe to me the “culture”, they would laugh and say “what culture?” Or they would shake their head and say, “I don’t know – do we have a culture?”

It was difficult to get management to realize that there were many disgruntled and disengaged employees.  They just did not believe me.  So when I suggested we conduct an Employee Satisfaction Survey, management quite smugly agreed, in order I believe, to prove how wrong I was.  But they did have a number of questions:  what if the survey was used merely as a “venting” opportunity; would employees be honest or be afraid of reprisals; what assurance would the employees have that their responses would be kept strictly confidential; would management have an opportunity to review and revise the questions, and of course, how much would it cost?  My concerns were would management be willing to communicate the results of the survey and then act on the most pressing issues.

Management’s concerns were readily addressed:  questions are phrased in such a way as to require reasons and comments regarding each response; those survey responses that are 100% negative or 100% positive are removed from the overall survey results. Employees are guaranteed anonymity and as employee surveys must, in order to be effective, be conducted and analyzed by third party providers.  Communication regarding why the survey is being conducted also includes an assurance that management wants truth as without it, the Company cannot fix what is wrong; a description of the third party’s experience and expertise, and that confidentiality is maintained by each employee receiving a confidential password by the third party provider and that management will only see the final analysis and not the specific responses.

You can only imagine the outcome and just who was wrong – yes I’m still rather smug!

My father once said “don’t ask a question that you don’t want the answer to” and this is something that holds true when conducting an Employee Satisfaction Survey.  You must be prepared to communicate the good with the bad, accept the employees’ answers, and then develop a plan to fix what isn’t working.

My employer at the time learned the performance review program in place obviously wasn’t working as 96% of all staff commented on it negatively.  As well the IT department was the most unhappy and disengaged group of all departments, due to the poor leadership.  All employees felt there was a general lack of communication from management and that pay and bonuses were not tied to performance.  Worse was the fact that the employees felt the culture was one of “keep your head down and don’t be noticed by management”, and overall 64% of employees were disengaged.

We tackled the communication aspect first by holding a series of meetings and sharing the results of the survey.  The employees were surprised at management’s candor and management’s determination to make things better.

We then developed a plan to tackle each of the major issues and re-engage the employees, through various committees, changes to programs and leadership training, all designed to help management to succeed in its change to the culture and enjoy a significant improvement to the bottom line.

After two years, and two more surveys, management had in fact succeeded and could rightfully boast about the “culture”. The culture was one of open communication, recognition, appreciation, productive, engaged employees, where both management and employees were proud to be named One of Canada’s Top 100 Companies to Work For!

If you would like to receive more information concerning Employee Engagement Survey’s, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Director, Human Resources Advisory Services at