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With unemployment at an eight-year low, the chance for dissatisfied employees to find an awesome new job is better than it’s been in a long time.

Even more frightening for supervisors is when a dissatisfied employee decides to “quit and stay”, meaning they mentally or emotionally check out of their job, but don’t physically leave.

So how can you keep your finger on the pulse of what employees are thinking and feeling, so that engagement and productivity remains high – and turnover low?

A place to start is with an employee satisfaction survey.

This Too Shall Pass

It may be that their supervisor micromanages them.  Maybe they have a coworker who’s a bully.  Possibly they found out that a friend makes $2 more per hour working in the same job at another company after less time on the job.

Many different causes, but the result is the same: employee dissatisfaction.

Everyone is going to be unhappy with an aspect of their job at some point or another, so why worry about it? It’ll pass, right? If that were true, there would be very little turnover in organizations. It won’t pass, and it’s very likely to get worse.

Why Surveys?

SurveySo what’s a supervisor, leader or business owner to do? Before you can fix anything, you’ve got to know what the problems are. If you’ve never conducted an employee satisfaction survey, or it’s been a while, that’s the best place to start!

We feel safety in numbers.  Anonymous surveys, in which all individual answers are mixed with everyone else’s, significantly reduce or completely eliminate the fear factor.

When there’s no fear, there is honesty.  When the truth is shared, steps can be taken to make the situation better.

Three Survey Misconceptions

I hear several reasons why supervisors and leaders decide not to conduct employee satisfaction surveys. Let’s take a look at these one at a time and reveal why they are really misconceptions.

  1. “I don’t need to do a survey; I know how my employees feel.”

You may think that your employees are happy because they’re not complaining. However, the majority of employees who are unsatisfied with their job never tell their boss about it.

Employees don’t want their supervisor to think they’re ready to leave. They fear retaliation, including getting fired.  They may want to leave, but they likely want to do it on their own terms.

Regular, open dialogue between supervisors and employees is definitely a best practice. However, most people will not tell you what’s making them miserable at work.  Further, if you do manage to eke something out of them, it’s probably not the full story.

No one likes conflict.  Most people avoid it like they do a longwinded neighbor.  Telling you what they don’t like about the job you gave them, or about the workplace you support, feels like conflict.

On the flip side, you may know that your employees are not completely satisfied, but the reasons may be different than you think.  If you move forward without knowing how your employees really feel, you’ll waste time working on the wrong issues.


2. ” I know there are concerns, but I can’t fix all of the employees’ problems.”

Although it is true that asking what the issues are and then doing nothing is said to be more damaging to morale than not asking at all, you won’t be able to fix everything.  But that’s okay!

As long as you can fix some problems, and explain clearly and openly why you can’t solve other issues, the staff will understand.

3. “I know everyone just wants more pay, and we can’t afford to pay them any more.”

Studies tell us that pay isn’t the number-one reason most people leave their job.  Although it’s easy to explain a job jump when it is for more pay, that’s usually not the whole story.  If a person loves what they do, has a great team of coworkers, a supportive boss, and reasonable pay, they are very unlikely to leave.

Also, if pay is an issue across the board, you need to address it.  Maybe you’re more generous on the benefits side, but compensation is more important to the majority of your staff.  You might need to look at what you are spending on pay and benefits as a whole, and reconfigure how it’s allocated.

Or you may need to conduct a market analysis.  If you are behind, begin to strategize how you’ll catch up, and communicate that intention to the team.  Paying competitive wages is the cost of doing business.  If you’re struggling to do that, you need to take a careful look at the financial model of your business.

If the analysis reveals that your wages are actually competitive, show your staff the data, and explain how you’ll continue to keep up with the market.

Surveys Build Trust

Surveys are an excellent supplement to ongoing, regular conversations with employees, to ensure you know where your team stands. Surveys uncover specific things you can do to prevent employees from hopping off your train and onto another one (or staying and letting their productivity slip).

By listening carefully and fixing things your employees do reveal to you, you begin to earn their trust.  They’ll come to trust that a) you won’t fire them for bringing up negative issues, and b) you’ll actually work with them to solve the problems!

We Can Lighten Your Load

You may feel your hands are tied because you don’t have time to put together and roll out a survey.  We can help out!

People Matters can create customized surveys for your business, based on what is important for you to know.  We can assist with the staff communication, collecting data and conducting the analysis.

Another option is for us to provide you a template that you can “tweak” to meet your needs.  Whatever your time availability and budget, we can lend a hand.

Don’t let lack of time or expertise stand in your way of unlocking this critical business information.

New Ideas Emerge When We Share!

Please post your thoughts about this article in the comment section below.  I’d love to read examples of your experiences with using surveys to retain employees!

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1 Comment

  1. Julia on June 12, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    This is a great article! What I’ve found is if you (organization) survey often enough, you don’t always need a long survey to get the data you need.

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