When HR directors give employees the opportunity to fill out satisfaction surveys, three outcomes are to be expected: 1) some surveys are not completed and submitted, 2) the surveys that are completed are done so with little attention or effort, and 3) there may be quite a few “neutral” responses, but very little detailed feedback is provided by the employee.
Depending on the design of the survey, the average overall employee “meh” response might be replaced by something much more useful – and honest. This is exactly what happened when I joined in creating and administering an employee satisfaction survey from a quality improvement standpoint at a previous place of employment.
As my team received packages of completed surveys from each participating agency location, we noticed a quickly developing trend: as a whole, staff members trusted the QI department and were counting on us to help make some changes. The majority of requests we received required action by the Executive Director and Director of Operations; many fell into the lap of the HR department. While some responses were common (more pay, better hours), an overwhelming amount of comments and suggestions were geared toward additional training / education opportunities, health-related programs for employees, and several other responses that could easily be addressed.
And then, there were the cries for help, detailed and brutally honest.
So, how does an organization handle honest, negative feedback from employees?
Address specific concerns promptly. Employees need to know that their voices are being heard. Though it’s not reasonable to resolve all complaints in a way that would make every employee happy, it’s very possible to compromise if necessary.
Determine the real issues. Often times, complaints will have underlying issues that may not have an obvious source. Investigate thoroughly before making premature adjustments.
Be discreet. Confidentiality is always standard, but not always enforced. When it comes to specific responses on employee resumes, the only staff members who should be aware of them are those who write the responses, those the responses concern, and supervisor(s) who are responsible for mediating or resolving the issue at hand.
Follow up. After the survey results have been compiled and comments/suggestions have been addressed as administration sees fit, it’s always a good idea to follow up with staff a few months later – either with the same, or abbreviated version, of the survey. This can be time consuming, but ensuring your employees’ satisfaction is crucial in operating a successful business.