How can we best measure employee satisfaction?

by Sam on February 22, 2011

You may be about to embark on your very first opinion survey of employees. Or perhaps you’re planning a departure from past assessments. Either way, pursue as many of these seven best practices as possible.

1. Know why you’re doing it. There’s one very good reason and many less nobler motives. The most commendable rationale for a staff survey is to discover those actions that if taken will increase the engagement of employees. Less worthy purposes are to rationalize some initiative that management wants to take, to satisfy the demands of higher ups, or just because you haven’t done one for a while.

2. Assess thoughtfully. Limit the number of points surveyed so as not to burden employees or collect more information than you can process. Don’t go on a fishing expedition, hoping that if you ask enough questions a few of them are bound to show significant results. Don’t probe in ways that will cause discomfort for employees. Do consider a few of these survey items.

  • I have a clear understanding of my job responsibilities, requirements, and expectations.
  • I see how my work contributes to making greater things happen in our organization or for our customers.
  • I can get all the resources I need to do my job well.
  • My organization uses my time and talents well.
  • People in my organization are held accountable for performance and results.
  • I receive appropriate recognition when I do good work.
  • I get sufficient feedback from my boss that tells me where I stand.
  • My boss values, asks, and listens to what I think.
  • I am pleased with my job.
  • I am fairly compensated for my level of responsibility and work that I am asked to do.
  • My job responsibilities leave me with satisfying quantities of time and energy that I can choose to devote to my life outside of work (e.g., family, friends, hobbies, and rest).

3. Stratify your data collection. It may be important to know comparative employee responses by location, in relation to job function, according to years of experience, of managers vs. non-managers, and along any other stratification relevant to your objectives.

4. Encourage comments. Use a rating system that draws suggestions from employees for fixing the items they rate lowest on the survey. For example, you might employ a strongly agree — agree — unsure — disagree — strongly disagree scale with an idea for improvement required whenever an employee cannot at least agree with a statement.

5. Assure anonymity. Only if employees are convinced there will be no repercussions for their evaluations, can you expect helpful honesty from them. This may mean you’ll need to contract with an outside resource to collect and analyze survey responses.

6. Get back fast. Within a week of receiving the survey analysis, show employees what you heard. At meetings of appropriate groups, reveal the outcomes on Power Point presentations. Solicit their thoughts on what they believe the results mean. (It’s rarely a good idea to provide hard copies of the data to anyone except senior managers.)

7. Turn it over to employees. Most organizational survey results yield three to five broad areas of change for the better. Once your senior managers choose these foci, create a separate employee task force to recommend specific improvements for each area. Once some of these initiatives are approved, turn back responsibility for implementation to each task force. One client that I coached through this process created employee task forces on (1) keeping people informed, (2) appreciation and recognition, and (3) overcoming barriers to being able to do the best. These three teams were invaluable resources within that company, continuing their work for years beyond the survey until one-by-one their success made them irrelevant.

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