Getting Ready To Do an Employee Survey? Expert Offers Tips

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Safe Atmosphere is Key to Honest Answers, Says Author of New “Employee Survey Question Guidebook” Volumes.

Employee surveys continue to grow in popularity as a way of diagnosing organizational ills and opportunities. Employers can increase their chances for a productive survey by following four guidelines, according to Dr. Paul M. Connolly, an industrial psychologist with more than 20 years of organizational assessments experience.

Connolly recommends the following tips:

1. Be realistic about what an employee survey can and can’t do for you. “Many employers start a survey process hoping to increase employee morale or commitment,” says Connolly. “But employee surveys can’t really do that. They excel at identifying barriers to high level performance in a systematic way. They’re great for illustrating the relative depth and consequences of these barriers. But by themselves, they only raise employees’ expectations.” If you can’t share the outcome or take action on the results, says Connolly, don’t do a survey.

2. Create an atmosphere in which people feel safe giving honest answers. Connolly says this is accomplished in several ways. “Let them know whether their answers will be anonymous or confidential. There is a difference,” says Connolly. “Respondent anonymity means that no one in your organization will be identified with his or her responses. Confidentiality means that their identity may be known, for instance, to the survey analysts, but that identities will be revealed only to that small group and no one else.” Respondents must feel confident that no one will be punished for bad survey results when they are first revealed. “Remember that one purpose of the survey is to clarify the gap between management’s perceptions and employees’ perceptions,” he notes. “Save the sanctions for later, if the suggested and expected improvements are not made within a reasonable time.”

3. Be aware of broader patterns that affect all workplaces. Employers can over- or underestimate the importance of a survey result unless they have comparative norms. Connolly offers the example of communications. “Over twenty years we’ve found that it is normal for all employers to score low on questions about communications,” he says. “Likewise, training, compensation and benefits rarely get the highest marks on employee surveys.” Take low communications scores seriously, he says, but be aware that your organization is struggling with an ever-present challenge. Connolly recommends the development of internal norms over a period of years through repetition of the same questionnaire. Alternatively, organizations can seek outside norms from survey vendors.

4. Be realistic about the difficulty of creating your own questionnaire. “Be prepared to put in the time with pretesting,” says Connolly, “or look for a predesigned set of questions.” Though employee survey questions may look simple, survey construction is complex. “The average employee has to be able to understand the intent of the question – and find it credible,” says Connolly. “Above all, the overall tone of the questionnaire must communicate insight, respect, and understanding.”

Paul Connolly is coauthor of a two-volume how-to survey guide, recently released in its updated 2006 edition. The “Employee Survey Question Guidebook” and its companion volume, “Employee Surveys: Practical and Proven Methods, Samples, Examples” have been published by Connolly’s firm, Performance Programs, Inc. Used together, these books provide everything an organization needs to create, administer, and interpret an employee survey. For the first time, both volumes are now available as e-books as well as hard copy format.

“These books are a unique resource in the human resources field, as far as we know,” says Connolly, who is president of Performance Programs, Inc. in Old Saybrook, CT. “We know of no other resource where employers can obtain such a robust set of field-tested employee questionnaire items, along with complete instructions for their selection and use.” The Guidebook offers 700 field-tested questionnaire items. He adds that norms are available for 85 of the items, including industry norms for 11 industries.

Paul Connolly is also coauthor of “Employee Opinion Questionnaires: 20 Ready-to-Use Surveys that Work.”

The “Employee Survey Question Guidebook” is organized into eighteen dimensions that reflect key aspects of organizational effectiveness. Dimensions include organization culture and climate, organization structure, co-workers and teams, commitment, performance management, and more. The eighteen dimensions have 82 themes. For instance, themes such as ethical conduct, workplace diversity, fairness, innovation and creativity, and many more, are located within organization culture and climate. The Guidebook also features an easy-to-use index to symptoms of organizational dysfunction and references appropriate diagnostic questions.

“Employee Surveys: Practical and Proven Methods, Samples, Examples,” the companion volume, is a how-to resource that aims to increase the survey project manager’s effectiveness and sense of confidence. From initial concept to final reports, the book includes myriad real-world situations that employers may not expect or know how to handle. Topics include planning, forming a survey project team, identifying respondents, designing reports, use of norms, questionnaire creation, data gathering and processing, awareness campaigns, administration, feedback, and action plans. At each step, the human side of survey work is addressed.

Book Descriptions

Prices and availability for both the books and e-books can be found online at the following links:

Employee Surveys: Practical and Proven Methods, Samples, Examples, and Employee Survey Question Guidebook.

Reviews of the first employee survey books are available online.

For predesigned questionnaires, visit Employee Opinion Questionnaires: 20 Ready-to-Use Surveys that Work.

About the Authors:

Paul M. Connolly, Ph.D., has provided organizational measurement services since 1981, including employee surveys, 360 feedback, personality assessment, expatriate assessment, customer surveys, and work-life balance assessments. Connolly is the founder of Performance Programs, an organizational measurement firm in Old Saybrook, CT. He has worked with organizations of all types, sizes, and locations, using multiple survey delivery and reporting methods. He has a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University. This is his seventh book in the human resources field.

Coauthor Kathleen Groll Connolly is a writer who has authored many articles for print and the Web, and has coauthored four books on human resources topics. She has held various marketing, management and research positions in both small and large businesses. She has a B.A. in writing from Pennsylvania State University and an MBA from New York University.

Performance Programs, Inc. is an organizational assessment firm in Old Saybrook, CT. The firm specializes in employee surveys for morale, satisfaction, engagement, and commitment, 360 feedback surveys, job personality testing with Hogan Personality Inventory, expatriate assessment, and work-life balance evaluations. Founded in 1986, Performance Programs has served thousands of organizations of all types, sizes, and locations worldwide. They can be reached at 1-800-565-4223.

This press release was distributed through eMediawire by Human Resources Marketer (HR Marketer: on behalf of the company listed above.


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