Culture Crash Course Lesson 4: Best Practices for Employee Surveys

Employee Survey Best Practices

Collecting ongoing employee feedback is a crucial component of strengthening your company culture. Employee feedback helps you understand why employees stay, why employees leave, and what they’d like to see improved at your organization. In Lesson 4 of our Culture Crash Course, we’re focusing on an especially important way to collect feedback: Employee surveys.

Employee surveys enable you to systematically collect data, measure responses, and act strategically to improve your culture. We compiled our surveying FAQs to help you begin collecting employee feedback.

If you need a catch up: Lesson 1 defined company culture. Lesson 2 shared culture’s importance. Lesson 3 introduced you to measuring culture and engagement.

And once you’re ready, head on to:

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How often should we send surveys?

This really depends on the size of your company and what your goals are, so it’s best to focus on why you are collecting feedback, rather than on how often. Here are three common types of employee surveys:

Want to level up your employee surveys? Download our free guide to designing, testing, and following up on surveys.

1. Annual Company-Wide Culture Survey

At CultureIQ, we recommend at least one company-wide culture survey every 12 to 24 months. This survey will produce your baseline metrics so that you can plan accordingly going forward and track progress.

Here are some best practices for building your culture survey, such as what demographics to include and how to phrase questions.

3. Regular Surveys to Track Progress

In addition to your annual culture survey, you will want to re-measure progress throughout the year. Doing so will help you can course correct and re-prioritize if necessary. Companies will do this quarterly or six months after their initial culture survey — this depends on how quickly you are able to implement measurable changes.

If you’re following the CultureIQ methodology, you can re-measure the 10 culture qualities without diving deeply into any of them. These qualities are 10 objectively look qualities for organizations to possess, like communication or wellness.

Alternatively, you can choose to only re-measure specific focus areas. For example, if you rolled out programs related to improving Communication and Wellness, then you can re-measure only those qualities.

For any of these options, if you are using the CultureIQ software, you can also use trend questions. These track progress in a truly ongoing way, without risking survey fatigue. You can see what this looks like in the image below.

trend questions

 

3. Ad Hoc, Deep Dive Surveys

Throughout the year, you will also want to get a sense for how employees feel about specific topics as they arise. This will help you dive deeper into focus areas as well as evaluate initiatives you roll out. For example, you’ll probably want to collect feedback after a wellness program you rolled out so that you can tweak it accordingly.

Here is a sample survey schedule:

CultureIQ's sample employee survey schedule

What are some other opportunities to survey employees?

  • Idea sourcing (e.g. Do you have any ice-breaker ideas for our next meeting?)
  • Collecting feedback on programs and initiatives (e.g. Please rate last week’s team-building event)
  • Diving deeper into specific pain point
  • Exit surveys
  • Onboarding surveys
  • Meeting follow up
  • Meeting planning (e.g. Please submit your questions for the CEO before Wednesday’s meeting)
  • Gauging interest in a program (e.g. Would you participate in a lunch-n-learn series?)
  • Training follow up
  • 360 reviews, team reviews
  • After mergers and acquisitions

How do I prevent survey fatigue?

At CultureIQ, we have a saying: There is no such thing as survey fatigue, only inaction fatigue. That means that as long as employees feel like their feedback is considered valuable, they will not tire of providing it.

However, you do want to be respectful of employee time and energy when sending surveys. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to learn with this survey?” and have a clear understanding of how you will use the feedback before collecting it.

You should also be on the lookout for a drop in response rates or a decrease in comments over time. These could be signs that employees don’t feel comfortable taking the survey or that they don’t feel like their feedback is considered valuable.

What is the best time of year to send a company-wide survey?

Align your employee feedback schedule with your business and planning schedule. Consider sending your company-wide survey in December or January, for instance. Doing so will help you incorporate your culture goals with your annual company goals. If you are collecting feedback throughout the year (which we highly recommend), the timing of the annual survey is less important — you’ll have access to other data to help you make decisions.

Take into consideration the natural cadences of your industry. For example, if you are an accounting firm, avoid sending your culture survey during busy season because employees will not have enough time to provide high quality feedback. Instead, send a dedicated follow-up survey after busy season to see how you can set employees up for success next time around.

 

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How do you encourage employees to participate in surveys?

Employees should understand how their feedback fits into both the big picture and the more immediate picture.

Explain why you are sending the survey, how it will be used to make changes, and how it ties into broader company goals and initiatives. Even after the survey is complete, be sure to reference the findings from the survey in future communications. For example, if your team develops an initiative based on survey results, provide that context when you roll out the program.

Most surveys should be anonymous so that employees feel comfortable providing honest feedback. Onboarding and exit surveys are two notable exceptions.

If a survey is anonymous, clearly communicate the details of the anonymity policy and how the information will be used — especially if demographic information is collected. If the survey is “known” (not anonymous), make sure that is clear as well.

Here are some tips for achieving a high response rate. You can also consider providing a friendly motivator to participate (such as entrance into a raffle), but clearly state that the reward is based on participation and not on the actual feedback.

Who should we include in the survey?

The rule of thumb is that anyone who wants to provide feedback should have an opportunity to do so.

All employees — whether full-time, part-time, or even interns — experience your culture in some way and impact the business. That said, they probably experience it differently and will benefit from different programs.

We recommend including demographic information (tenure, department, location, etc.) when you collect feedback from a diverse employee base so that you can understand the nuances and unique opportunities across groups.  

How soon after implementing an initiative should we collect feedback?

This depends on the type and scope of the initiative. Is it something that affects employees immediately on a day-to-day basis? Then you can probably send a survey 30 days after the initiative launches. If it is something that takes longer to play out, such as an acquisition, then you will want to wait longer before collecting feedback.

Some initiatives, such as wellness programs, can start out strong but lose employee interest over time. For these, you might want to consider a 30/60/90 day feedback schedule.A regular schedule will help you understand the immediate reception of a program while also getting a sense for how it fits into the culture long-term. You might learn after 90 days that no one has benefited from the program and resources would be better allocated elsewhere.

And remember: cater your feedback program to your employees and your business! When in doubt remember your goals and ask yourself: What am I trying to learn with this survey? How will this help us make better decisions to improve our culture? How can I collect the highest quality of feedback?

Ready to get started with your surveys? Let’s head to Lesson 5: Building Your Culture Survey.

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