As most communications professionals will tell you, developing an employee communications strategy without first getting employee input is a risky business.

After all, how else will you know what your starting points are, which information employees most need or want, whether your messaging aligns with the day-to-day experiences of members or whom employees perceive as their most credible source of information?

And how else will you establish a baseline to monitor and measure progress?

Unfortunately, not all organizations are quick to recognize the importance of surveys, focus groups and other formal feedback mechanisms. Some will argue that it’s a waste of time and money because they already know how employees will respond—and most employees won’t bother to respond, anyway. But these arguments miss the point. Soliciting formal feedback is, as much as anything, about engaging employees and giving them a voice.

Done well, the process will help create buy-in and allow employees to take ownership of the outcome. For example, focus groups or “challenge teams” provide the following:

  • a formal mechanism to hear and acknowledge the opinions of employees;
  • a forum to explain and enhance the line of sight between employee preferences and business objectives;
  • an opportunity to shape the views of key opinion leaders; and
  • a chance to convert your potentially most vocal critics into your best program champions.
Survey or focus groups?
Which is better for your organization? As a general rule of thumb, surveys are the preferred solution when you want quantitative information based on statistically valid data. Focus groups, on the other hand, lend themselves to more qualitative analysis because they lead to open-ended discussion. But there are times when both a survey and focus groups make sense. That’s because the survey will tell you what members are thinking, while the focus groups will allow you to probe and find out why employees think the way they do.

A word of caution, however. Done poorly, employee research can alienate otherwise engaged individuals. You need to listen to employees and respond with respect. As a guideline, keep the following tips in mind when you communicate with employees:

  • Don’t ask questions you are not prepared to address. Asking a question and then ignoring the answer will disillusion employees and seriously compromise your ability to solicit feedback in the future.
  • Report back to employees. Sharing the results of a survey or focus group (even at a high level) will demonstrate that you are committed to open, honest communication.
  • Respond to the results in a meaningful way and within a reasonable time frame. When it comes to member research, collecting data is only half the battle. Interpreting and acting on that data is the primary challenge.

Given the current economic landscape, it’s more important than ever to develop effective employee communications programs: programs that deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time in order to achieve a desired outcome.

That’s why smart organizations don’t pay lip service to employee feedback. They make it an integral part of their risk management tool kit, and they do it on a regular, formal basis.

Recipe for a successful survey

  1. Secure full leadership support.
  2. Keep it short.
  3. Promote it.
  4. Offer an incentive to respond (such as a draw prize).
  5. Use an objective third party.
  6. Assure participant anonymity.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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Marcel Chenard:

How often a survey should be conducted for an entire organisation? yearly, every second year?

Thursday, September 08 at 3:09 pm | Reply

Ted Thaler:

In short, it depends on your objective. You don’t want to conduct a survey just for the sake of conducting a survey. There needs to be a reason.

For example, if you are looking to introduce a new benefits program, or change the one you have, you’ll probably want to:
• conduct a survey before you develop the new plan design (to get a sense of employee expectations and needs);
• hold pre-launch focus groups to “test” the new plan design (so you have time to tweak the design and communications before the launch); and
• conduct a follow-up survey after the launch to determine what adjustments, if any, need to be made.

Similarly, if your organization is in a constant state of flux, or if there is a gap between employee preferences and business objectives, or an ongoing issue with morale or trust, then an annual or bi-annual survey may make sense – at least until things are back on an even keel.

If, on the other hand, things seem to be running fine, then conducting surveys on a less frequent basis is probably the way to go. The occasional survey will still give you an opportunity to take the “temperature” of the organization and identify any emerging issues before they become a problem.

Keep in mind two key points:
• If you conduct too many surveys, you run the risk of survey fatigue. Employees will simply stop responding – especially if there is a disconnect between the survey results and the actions of management.
• Surveys are part of a two-way communication process. They can be a great way to engage your employees, but they can just as easily alienate those same employees if you don’t feed back the results and address their concerns in a meaningful way.

Friday, September 16 at 8:47 am

Cindy Dicenta:

Our company just did a survey and your recipe for a successful survey was followed for the most part. We were offered an incentive for each department that got 100% participation. Turns out everyone got the same thing regardless. Some departments did not get 100% and got to partcipate anyway. Needless to say there was some animosity.

Sunday, January 08 at 1:35 pm | Reply

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