There are many different types of employee surveys and just as many reasons to use them. Employee surveys provide organizations with insights directly from their employees. One of the top concerns for CEOs today is Excellence in Execution (Source: The conference board — CEO challenge 2008). An employee survey is an excellent tool to gain insights into whether your employees understand your corporate strategy and are able to execute it. A survey will help you look into employee engagement and highlighting the effectiveness of your organization at executing your business strategy.
Why should you care whether or not your employees are engaged? In 2001, The Gallup Organization estimated that "actively disengaged" employees—those fundamentally disconnected from their jobs—cost the U.S. economy between $292 billion and $355 billion a year, in its inaugural issue of the Gallup Management Journal (Source: GMJ). Simply put—engaged employees are more productive and stay with their organizations for a longer period of time, reducing operational costs associated with recruiting and retraining employees. While engaged employees are more productive, it is important to ensure they understand where to focus their time to drive business execution. Employees may be engaged and productive, but if they are not spending their time where it matters—aligning with the organizational strategy—you will not see successful business execution.
Wouldn’t your company benefit by having engaged employees aligned and working on goals that support your corporate objectives and organizational strategy? Employee survey data uncovers critical areas you should focus on to have the greatest impact on employee engagement (e.g., career development) and better understand your employee ability to execute your organizational strategy.
Designing the Employee Engagement Survey
It is important to use valid and reliable questions in the survey that you are prepared to address. A poorly designed survey can create more problems than solutions. Asking questions that the company is not willing to take action on is more likely to disengage employees than engage them. Often, organizations want to ask questions about compensation with the belief that it has a link to employee engagement. Somewhat surprisingly, research shows that compensation is not a major driver of employee engagement. Furthermore, companies are very likely to receive negative feedback on compensation questions, but are often not ready to take action on them. If so, these questions should not be part of an employee survey.
In a well designed employee engagement survey, the items should assess components of the organization that drive employee engagement and business execution, not simply satisfaction. Based on SAP SuccessFactors’ research, an employee engagement survey that focuses on employee sentiment, including the critical sub-factor of engagement – motivation – will uncover valuable information that can help your organization focus investment where it will have the most impact to your bottom line.
Implementing an Employee Survey
Before you execute any type of employee survey—you should be aware that it may backfire if you do not plan to take action upon learning the results. The employee survey is a starting point for organizational change. The survey helps you pinpoint areas that need to be addressed from your employee’s perspective in order to engage them in their work and make them motivated, committed and satisfied within your company. Management should incorporate a communication plan in the employee survey process to increase participation and encourage submission of honest feedback.
The communication plan should include how the employee and the organization will benefit from the survey, and what you intend to do with the information you gather from the survey. The best way to get employees to believe in the process is to remind them of the goals, ask for feedback and show them progress and results. When planning to administer a survey, a good way to instill confidence in the process is by having a third-party involved. Employees will feel more comfortable and respond more openly and honestly when they know their responses are anonymous and being gathered by an outside organization.
Analyzing Survey Results
Employee survey results are useless without insightful analysis and detailed comparison.
Too many organizations look at employee survey data as a reactive process. Find the problem and fix it and your numbers will go up. Unfortunately, it’s rarely that easy. An organization should analyze the problem, understand the root cause(s) and take appropriate actions that address the root cause(s).
Many organizations wonder if they have to share a summary of the results with their employees. What if you choose to communicate only strengths and top goals? In almost all scenarios—transparency beats concealment. Your top performers are already aware of organizational issues and are waiting to see if you are too. More importantly, they are waiting to see if you are willing to admit what they are and what you plan to do about them.
An employee survey focusing on engagement and business execution gives you measurable insights into the factors that influence your business success. For example, a company with a strategy of focusing on improving customer service might find that locations that receive higher customer service scores also have higher engagement. In this situation you would probably want to understand what engages these employees. You can also look further at organizational changes and how the changes may impact employee engagement and ability to execute company strategy. For example, are employees who have changed managers frequently more or less engaged? Are the more engaged employees higher performers? How is engagement related to retention? These are just a few important questions to ask and answer. Obviously, implementing an employee survey is only the beginning in the process of getting to know what drives engagement, how effective your organization is at communicating and executing the business strategy, and what actions your organization should take to have the most impact.
Ultimately, an engaged workforce is vital to a company's long-term ability to execute on strategy, making it one of today’s most important business issues. You’ll make a real difference in your success by aligning and engaging your workforce so it’s essential that every organization measure and understand their employee's level of engagement and knowledge of the business objectives. And, an employee engagement survey is an excellent tool for gaining insights into your workforce.
About SAP SuccessFactors HCM
With SAP SuccessFactors solutions, we believe that purpose drives people and people drive business performance. To meet business goals today and be ready to digitally transform for the future, your organization must be able to attract, develop, and retain the best people – tapping into their full potential. We innovate every day to help connect your people to your purpose and transform your workforce experience, to inspire people to perform at their best, and develop the workforce needed for the future. With a leading cloud-based HCM suite, SAP SuccessFactors solutions help more than 6,400+ customers and over 100 million people, across more than 60 industries in over 200 countries and territories, turn purpose into performance. The SAP SuccessFactors brand is part of SAP, the market leader in enterprise application software. SAP helps companies run better, with applications and services that enable our customers to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and grow sustainably. For more information, visit www.successfactors.com or www.sap.com/hcm.