Spring has been conducting employee surveys for over 25 years.  We have collected millions of survey responses across industries ranging from steel workers, airline pilots and truck drivers to physicians, executives and call center employees.  Each employee group has their own unique perspective, their individual challenges and ultimately, great insights for improving your business.  Employees are and always will be your most valuable and sustainable asset and have the potential to be your competitive advantage in the marketplace.

When working with new clients we often get asked three critical questions.  Here are our answers based on our experience working with many industries over the years. 

When is the best time to survey our employees?

This answer to this question is very dependent on your industry.  For those organizations who are seasonal or have peak times, it is important not to conduct a survey during your busiest time.  This can put unnecessary pressure on your employees and management teams and may be disruptive of your operations.  It may also mean leaders are unable focus on the results until the busy time is over, potentially making the results out of date before you even get a chance to act on them.

Any survey captures employee sentiment at a point in time and employees are influenced by their current environment, business performance and any recent changes you have put in place.  This needs to be taken into consideration when choosing when to do your survey.  If you have just given everyone a pay cut or a pay increase you should expect to see that reflected in your survey results.  

Many companies make the mistake of postponing surveys during times of change.  If you are in the process of undergoing major changes, downsizing or organizational restructuring this can be the most important time to capture employee sentiment.  Asking for employee feedback during these critical times will ensure that you are accomplishing your goals, having the impact you want and identifying opportunities to course correct.  Retaining your key talent during these times is essential and ensuring they have a voice is perhaps one of the most powerful tools you have.

How often should we survey our employees?

Today the technology exists to conduct surveys on a daily basis but that doesn’t mean you should.   Interestingly, the question should actually be ‘how quickly can we respond to feedback and take action’.  Employees do not get ‘survey fatigue’, they get ‘lack of action fatigue.’ Every organization is different, your ability to interpret and react to employee feedback is usually reliant on the time you put into it, how it is prioritized and how it is integrated into your operations. Do not put yourself in a situation where you are unable to act based on employee feedback.

How long should our survey be?

The length of the survey is dependent on what you are looking to learn.  If you simply want a snapshot of employee satisfaction, then this can be accomplished with one or two questions.  However, this will not tell you why or how to improve this metric. A well-designed survey will include a number of factors or items that reflect the work environment and experiences that influence an employee’s level of engagement.  Keeping your survey to 25 – 35 items will make it easier for employees to complete the full survey and still give you sufficient data to determine your priorities and what action you should take.

The decisions of when to survey, how often and what to ask are important.  Remember, your employees know your business better than anyone else.  Leverage this knowledge and experience by giving them a voice – especially during times of change.