Utilizing Employee Engagement Surveys

A powerful tool for the evolution of any organization

By Matthew W. Burr, SHRM-SCP April 15, 2021
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Utilizing Employee Engagement Surveys

​Matthew W. Burr, SHRM-SCP

​Employee engagement surveys have been used in organizations for decades, some more successfully than others. Depending on the employees' feedback—and, frankly, on the percentage of completed surveys—surveys are a tremendously effective way to understand how engaged the workforce is and to drive change. Organizations large and small should seek opportunities to create and implement employee engagement surveys.

  • Preparation. Apply the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (SHRM BoCK) to strategically align the survey to the success of the organization. Review the survey questions and strategy prior to rolling it out. Communicate the reasons for the survey and the value the organization expects upon reviewing the results. 
  • Privacy. Employees may be leery of taking the survey due to privacy concerns about who receives the information they provide. Utilize an external firm to oversee the survey and provide anonymous overviews of the results back to you. Ensure that there is no retaliation against employees who are transparent with their issues and concerns. 
  • Development. Keep the survey short and simple, with space for employees to write responses. A survey should not have lots of questions and take hours to answer—the response rate will be low, and the information collected will not add extensive value to the organization. 
  • Metrics. Metrics are critical to ensure the survey is a success. Keep the survey open long enough so that all employees have the opportunity to complete it, and send reminders to them to do so. Review the response rates based on specific job, department, division, etc. The third party overseeing the project can provide you with this information as the surveys are completed.
  • Results and feedback. Communicate the results of the survey to the workforce transparently and honestly, regardless of how positive or negative the feedback might be. Provide action items and strategy based on the survey responses. We have an obligation to provide timely results, otherwise the entire exercise will have added no value to the organization. This is one of the most important aspects of employee engagement surveys. I have seen both successes and failures after a survey is complete, based on employer communications. 

Matthew W. Burr, SHRM-SCP, owner of Burr Consulting LLC in Elmira, N.Y., and co-owner of Labor Love LLC, is an HR consultant, an assistant professor at Elmira College, and an on-call mediator and fact-finder for the New York State Public Employment Relations Board. He holds master's degrees in business administration and in human resources & industrial relations, and a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.

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