Want to Know What Your Employees Want? You’ll Have to Ask Them.

Raffa Financial ServicesRaffa Financial Services on 06/13/2019

Employee surveys can be a very effective way to get important feedback and information from your team. They can also be a big waste of time.

There is a right and a wrong way to conduct employee surveys. If you’re going to go through the trouble to do one, you’ll want to make sure your efforts are worthwhile.

When conducting employee surveys, there are many ways to get it wrong. Here are a few common mistakes:

  • Asking questions that are irrelevant, misleading, or confusing.
  • Designing surveys that are obviously slanted toward a particular outcome.
  • Creating “anonymous” surveys that contain key identifying questions.
  • Making surveys way too long.

Here are some ways to make sure you get it right.

Plan strategically

Slapping together a random survey will yield random responses and random results. To get the best results, you’ll want to design your research in a way that maximizes participation, honesty, and reliability.

Define your goals. Who do you want to hear from? What do you want to measure? What indictors will you use? How will the results be analyzed?

Build on past successes. Have you conducted similar research before? Do you have benchmarking data? Can you pull questions from previous surveys?

Learn from your mistakes. Have your surveys flopped in the past? Examine your efforts to look for problem areas and make changes. Don’t go back to old strategies and expect new results.

Think logistics. Will your survey be conducted in-house or outsourced to a third party? Are you committed to keeping results anonymous? Is it strictly an online endeavor or does your staff require other options?  

Survey tip #1: Employee surveys should never be used merely as a vehicle to pat leadership on the back. If that’s your main purpose, stop right here and save yourself the time and money.

Implement effectively

No matter what survey format you choose, there are some basic rules you’ll want to follow when asking questions:

Make sure each question serves a distinct purpose. Irrelevant questions will give you irrelevant data.

Arrange questions logically. Avoid jumping back and forth from topic to topic.

Keep it simple. Each question should address one thing only. Avoid multiple-part questions and complicated jargon. Make each question clear and concise. If you must use complicated terms or acronyms, include explanations for each one.

Keep it positive. Avoid negatively worded or biased questions.

Keep it neutral. Toss out any partisan language or leading questions.

Keep it short. The more questions you ask, the less time respondents will spend on each one. Strive for a 2 – 5 question range, and a completion time of 5 – 8 minutes.

Survey tip #2: If you’re going anonymous, go all in. Avoid any personal and/or identifying questions and use a system that doesn’t track dates, times, or respondent email and IP addresses.

Test it out

Never send an employee survey without running it through a test group first. You’ll want to make sure there is a consensus on what the questions mean, how to fill it out, and that it actually works. If there is any kind of problem with your survey, you’re going to create significant frustration and a flurry of questions and comments.

Survey tip #3: Be sure to run your survey through a spelling and grammar check. These kinds of mistakes can not only cause confusion, they can also result in a loss of confidence and credibility.

Prepare your respondents

Don’t just send your survey out cold. Communicate the purpose of the survey, why it’s important, and how the team will benefit.

Give specific details regarding:

  • When it will arrive
  • What it will look like
  • How they should fill it out
  • When it needs to be returned
  • Who will be receiving the results
  • How the information will be used

If you’re going incognito, explain that all results will be completely anonymous and confidential.

Survey tip #4: Thank respondents in advance for their time and effort.

Go ahead. Send it out.

Because you’ve explained why the survey is being conducted, what it looks like, and how it should be filled out, this process should be smooth.

Remember to include all of this information again with the survey so respondents have all of the details in one place.

Be open to what you hear

There’s a reason people warn you to be careful what you ask for. You may not like the things you hear. Unfortunately, you can’t just ignore your results.

You and your employees committed to this process and you need to follow it through all the way to the end. Staff will be expecting to see something from leadership about the survey responses and what changes they should anticipate as a result. Don’t let them down. Share what you learned and how you plan to incorporate that information into organizational processes moving forward.

After all, wasn’t that the whole point?


Running into challenges with employee engagement, turnover, and retention? At Raffa, we’ve got ideas to help you address these issues and more. Get in touch to find out what working with a true employee benefits consultant feels like.

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Photo by sashkin7

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