Have you ever been surprised when someone handed in their resignation? Even if it wasn’t your top performer, a sense of panic likely set in while your mind raced to figure out how you’d find someone to take their place and how the work would get done in the meantime.
Unfortunately, other dissatisfied people will stay physically, but they will mentally and emotionally check out. This can have an even more detrimental impact on the business.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to keep your finger on the pulse of what your team members are thinking and feeling: employee surveys.
Let’s explore how to use surveys to avoid these unpleasant surprises or consistent lack of productivity that disrupt your business and cost you money.
One of the keys to attracting and keeping good people, as well as maximizing productivity and fueling creativity, is to nurture positive employee morale. Many supervisors expect that they’ll hear about any concerns without having to ask, but top supervisors and leaders seek it out proactively!
Remember, surveys are not a replacement for a conversation. I recommend pairing surveys with a follow-up conversation to clarify and learn more.
Surveys are a way to dive deeper and get more precise information than most people can glean in a one-to-one conversation. There are at least a couple of reasons for that:
1) Time to think
If you ask a question in a meeting, the person must answer on the fly. This can lead to a shallow answer. Allowing time to re-read the question and think longer may lead to more accurate—and thoughtful—results.
Also, they might have some negative feedback, but without time to consider and craft the statement carefully, they won’t express it.
2) Avoid the 3rd degree
The best discussions are those that are conversational in nature and follow a winding path. If you sit down with a list of questions and are copiously taking notes, it may end up feeling like an inquisition.
In addition, it may be difficult for you to resist the natural urge to defend or explain your position when something unfavorable is brought up. That reaction will result in the person sugar coating future comments and being afraid to bring up any issues or negative feelings they may have.
Timing is Everything
If you have a process in place to gather input at three pivotal times in the employment lifecycle, you will ensure a regular flow of information that will come to you about the status of your team.
The first part of this lifecycle should start when they’re hired. Give them 45 days or so to get to know the organization, people, customers, and processes. Once they have their bearings, you’ll get a wealth of insight through their fresh eyes.
The second is periodically throughout their employment. I like to call these temperature readings. You don’t want them to be too hot (angry) or too cold (disengaged), but just right! Take a reading with a few employees every month so that by the end of the year you’ve heard from everyone.
The third is when they are leaving the organization. You might argue that it’s too late at that point, but they may be leaving on a positive note. A spouse’s new job may be taking them to another city, or maybe they decided to take time with their new family. These are people who didn’t really want to leave, so they can give insight into what made them want to stay.
Even if they’re leaving because they are unhappy, it’s a great opportunity to learn what went wrong so that you can prevent it from happening with others, if possible.
Fear of Pandora’s Box
A common reason that managers don’t ask staff how things are going is that they are afraid they’ll receive a flood of complaints and/or it will be things they can’t fix. For example, they worry people will ask for more money, and they know they aren’t in a financial position to give raises.
That may happen. But if you can acknowledge the problem, their feelings, and explain what is holding you back from solving it, you’ll gain respect and could even get a greater level of buy-in on initiatives that will lead to working out the problem.
When you set aside this fear of what you’ll uncover, you’ll realize the bigger problem is not knowing that you have unhappy staff and that you could have addressed their issue—and not realizing it until they are walking out the door.
Surveying all employees at these three times is an invaluable practice that will give you insight and enable you to build a stronger, more productive team.
What are some questions you’ve asked staff to determine if they’re satisfied at work? You can leave your answer in a comment below.
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