How to Plan and Implement Employee Engagement Surveys to Maximize ROI

January 23, 2019
How to Plan and Implement Employee Engagement Surveys to Maximize ROI

Employee engagement continues to be a hot topic because companies want employees who are enthusiastic about their jobs and who go above and beyond on a daily basis. Employees who are engaged with their company are more likely to take pride in their work, which feeds into a positive company culture. Engaged employees also tend to stick around longer, reducing the costs and time associated with turnover. Additionally, engaged employees have a positive impact on customer service, reputation and, ultimately, profitability. Below is more information on how to plan and implement an employee engagement survey to maximize your ROI. 

Effective employee engagement programs start with a survey

A great place to start with any systemic change you wish to make to your business is by doing an employee engagement survey. Throughout my years planning and launching surveys for TriNet clients, I have gained insight into how surveys can be an asset to businesses in the process of creating an employee engagement program because they: 

  • Allow business leaders to assess where they’re starting from, so they have a clear indication of what they need to do to get to where they want to be. 
  • Give employers the ability to get feedback about multiple engagement-related topics at once, including performance and recognition, communication, work-life balance, benefits offerings and corporate culture.
  • Can uncover unknown issues or spark ideas for improvement that business leaders wouldn’t have otherwise thought about. 
  • Help save costs by allowing employers to focus their budget on the items employees most want or need in order to be engaged and not on things that don’t work. 
  • Contribute to engagement by showing employees their company cares about their feedback and wants to provide them with the best work experience possible. 

Formal surveys work best in companies with at least 20 employees. For smaller businesses, open forums, anonymous suggestion boxes, or even 1:1 meetings with team members are great ways to collect feedback and engage the team in ongoing discussions on engagement.

Planning the survey

Before starting the survey, business leaders should ask themselves the following questions. The answers will then be useful guideposts for creating and performing the survey:

  • What company goals does the business want to accomplish? Does the company want to measure the strength of its current employee engagement? Find out from the source what will continue to drive engagement? Gather ideas? Improve customer service? Minimize frivolous expenditures? Reduce turnover? All of the above? Employers will want to make sure the answers to these questions are tied to overall business goals and objectives.
  • Is there budget to hire an outside vendor? I recommend companies factor into their budget the cost of an outside vendor who specializes in company surveys. A vendor can simplify the process by helping customize the survey to fit business objectives. Their services typically include launching the survey, sending reminders and analyzing results. Additionally, using a third-party vendor can help with anonymity so employees can honestly assess the organization. It also ensures questions are designed to get the information needed and results are tabulated accurately. Companies working with a professional employer organization may already have access to this service. 
  • Who should be involved? In addition to an outside vendor, I highly recommend companies involve their HR services provider, CEO and pertinent senior leaders in survey strategy and tactics. This will show employees that the company takes the survey seriously and can help yield the best results. 
  • How will employees be encouraged to participate? Will the survey be disseminated through email? The intranet? Assigned to them by their manager? Is it feasible to provide a reward for their participation, such as a gift card or their names entered into a drawing for a larger prize?  
  • How will the results be communicated/implemented? While employers may not be able to address or implement everything that is brought up in a survey, it’s important to the overall success of the employee engagement program that business leaders are transparent in communicating the results of the survey to the team, as well as next steps for the organization and why some suggestions or issues that came up may not be immediately addressed or implemented. 
  • How frequently should the survey be launched? I recommend surveying employees in regard to employee engagement semi-annually or at least annually. 

Implementing the survey

  • Get buy-in from employees before the survey is administered. Starting around 30 days out from survey launch, it’s a good idea to notify employees at least two to three times and in two to three different ways (e.g. email, intranet, postings in the break room) of the upcoming survey and how it will be administered. This is a good opportunity to communicate expectations and reasons for doing an employee survey. Business leaders will want to make sure employees understand that their opinions matter. It’ also a good idea to include this background information also as an introduction to the survey when it is sent out. 
  • Allow employees reasonable time to respond. Best practice is to give employees at least two weeks to complete the survey. Feel free to send a reminder a day or two before the deadline. 
  • Keep survey time to 30 minutes or less. A good survey length is 25 to 30 questions that take, on average, no longer than one minute per question to answer. 
  • Collect candid feedback: While most questions will be multiple choice, throwing in one or two open-ended questions, or at least allowing employees a space on the survey to freely jot down their subjective thoughts, can provide valuable feedback and information companies may not have thought to ask. 
  • Make sure questions address issues the company is willing and able to work on. For instance, asking employees if they feel they have close friends at work isn’t very effective as there is likely little an employer can do to address this. However, questions that get to the root of their overall job satisfaction and what types of changes might increase this can be very useful. 
  • Let employees know next steps. Throughout the communications to employees—including at the end of the survey—let them know next steps, such as when they can expect to see survey results.

After the survey

Arguably, the most important aspect of the survey process is what is done with the results of the employee engagement survey. It is important that businesses do two things at this stage: Communicate and act. 

  • Analyze the results. Senior management and HR should analyze the results (in conjunction with the survey vendor, if one is used) and decide what to act upon. The focus should be on high-impact changes that are tied to business goals and objectives. Make sure any action items are developed from what the company set out to accomplish during the planning stage. 
  • Develop a communication plan. Formally let employees know which suggestions will be implemented and how.  You may want to share positive as well as negative results from the survey and offer a brief explanation as to why business leaders may have decided not to make changes or implement suggestions that were repeatedly reflected in survey responses. 
  • Coach managers on how to present results to their direct reports. It’s a good idea to provide action plans to managers and hold them accountable for follow-up. Departmental feedback meetings work well for delivery of results. Open and honest communication should be encouraged. Review progress on action plans quarterly to ensure changes are being made. 

Regular surveys help support continuous improvement. They are a valuable tool for measuring employee engagement and providing the beginnings of a solid foundation for change.  

This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance. 

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