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Culture Change: Have you asked your staff lately?

What_I_ThinkI’ve sat around a table with managers on a number of occasions and speculated about what employees were thinking - if they were happy about coming to work. Because we all know, from our own experiences, if we’re happy about our work, we’re more productive and likely to stay awhile.  Well logically, if you want to know what someone’s thinking, ASK!

Some managers say, “I have an open door policy. My team can come in anytime and talk.” And yes, some staff may feel comfortable and confident enough to do that with their manager.  That’s wonderful!  However, there are quite a few that don’t.  One of the best ways I’ve found to make an impact in the culture at a company is to ask employees to voluntarily complete an anonymous survey. According to a 2013 report by the Harvard Business Review, 71% of respondents rank employee engagement as very important in achieving overall organizational success. An anonymous survey lets you see if the company or a department displays a trend in a particular area. Good surveys not only hit on satisfaction areas like pay, benefits, training, job resources, and work environment; but also engagement areas like corporate culture, communications, leadership, relationship with one’s immediate supervisor, and overall feelings about employment at your company.

There are lots of options to do an employee survey. You can do one on your own using an online survey system, like Survey Monkey or Zoomerang.  Just be sure that it’s anonymous.  Again, you’re trying to include that portion of your staff that, for whatever reason, doesn’t feel comfortable expressing concerns unless it’s anonymous.   It removes the fear of retribution by the company or manager, regardless of whether there actually is one.

You can use a consulting firm to draft and execute your suvery.  This is a good option if you are unsure of the questions to ask and how to tabulate the data. Plus a consulting firm may be able to give you insights as to how to interpret and take action on the data you get back.  Consulting firms can be pricy. I know - I’m a consultant!

I think the best option is to participate in a “Best Places to Work” or “Best Employers” annual survey.  The sponsoring media agency works with well-known survey consulting firms.  These surveys use predetermined questions that have been vetted to identify employee satisfaction and engagement.  Many times you have the option to customize a few of the questions for your company as well.  You can purchase a full report of your company’s results as well as a comparison to the other companies that participated. This data is the true value in participating in the contest, but if you happen to place as a Best Employer, then that’s just sprinkles on top of your cupcake.  Of course, these “contests” are only offered once a year, so you are tied to the timeline of the event.  However, this was actually a benefit for me as it ensured the employee survey was on the schedule and completed every year.  Otherwise, it was just another task on the list that seemed to always get pushed to the bottom.

In order to really make changes in the satisfaction, engagement, and culture of your company, you have to do something with the data you get back.  Each year, I would schedule a meeting with the executive and management team to review the data, my analysis, and observations.  In the meeting we would brainstorm ideas for change and learn from each other.  Managers had open conversations about areas for improvement and discussed best practices for action items. Next, I would share the data, analysis, and action items with all of the staff.  That is open communication!  It was highly valued; it built trust and respect between staff and management. Throughout the year we would address the action items from the employee survey. We saw our satisfaction and engagement scores increase every year as a result.  I would highly recommend making a small time investment in an employee survey to make a huge impact in your organizational culture.


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