3 Thoughts on How to Handle Employee Satisfaction Research in Small Companies

Employee satisfaction is a valuable tool. Yet some companies – especially larger companies – can get away with less satisfied employees, depending on how well they have streamlined their work process. Employee satisfaction is important, but the degree of satisfaction may not be vital to the success of some large organizations.

On the other hand, small businesses – especially start-ups – need their employees to be satisfied. With less money to invest in each new hire and production, it becomes crucial for these companies to get as much out of their employees as possible. Since employee satisfaction is directly linked to production, it’s even more important that your employees are satisfied.

The Problem with Employee Satisfaction in Small Companies

Employee satisfaction at small companies is notoriously personal. When your business consists of 5 to 30 employees, low satisfaction scores mean that the people you work with directly are dissatisfied with your organization and its working environment. In addition, the probable lack of anonymity is often realized by the employees that may not be filling out their survey honestly.

Finally, it’s not uncommon for owners and management at small companies to be strongly dedicated to their work, and it is easy to see how collecting data with such a small organization can cause the management to be:

  • Sad that the environment they thought they created is not as successful as it appeared.
  • Angry that employees are not responding well to what they thought was good management.
  • Incredulous that their management style could possibly be wrong.
  • Trying to figure out which employees gave the worst scores only to hold it against them.

Grudges are common, despite the manager’s (and owner’s) best efforts, and even if there are no grudges it’s easy to feel as though the employees are the ones that are wrong about their assessments, or feel hurt that they are dissatisfied with what you’ve built. Regardless of what occurs afterward, it is clear that assessing a small company’s employee satisfaction can have some tough consequences.

Overcoming this can be difficult. However, it’s important that you find a solution to this problem, because employee satisfaction is simply too useful to ignore. There is no perfect fix, but finding a way to assess the satisfaction levels at every company is a good way to promote success, so your company needs to look for solutions.

Ways to Conduct Employee Satisfaction Research in Small Companies

Here are 3 possible ways to reduce the personalization effects of employee satisfaction surveys so that you can conduct this research and use the data effectively.

    • Expand the Sample

When you survey about twenty people or less, the sample is not only too small – it’s too personal. Look for ways to try to expand the sample, possibly by adding in ex-employees to the sample. If possible you may also want to consider an “only ex-employee” survey, to try to limit the data to those that won’t be affected by the results.

    • Limit the Questions

Choose questions that will reduce the chance of identifying the employees (so no questions about rank, time with the company, or open-ended questions), as well as questions that will have results you are less likely to take personally, such as ways the employees wish to improve the business rather than how the employees view the management. Focus on questions that will not lead to results that may cause grudges with the management.

    • Have a Third Party Review

Another option is to avoid having any manager or owner review the data at all. See if there is a third party that can take a look at the data and try to find trends that they will put in a report later, or consider putting an employee in charge that has no vested interest in the outcome of the survey, so that no grudges can be held and only the most relevant information is used to make judgments.

Both managers and owners of small businesses like to believe they can look at the data objectively, but there is a history of anecdotal evidence that shows that small business owners and managers tend to take the results of these surveys very personally – or worse, ignore the information altogether. The above list represents just a few of the ways that you can avoid this problem and get the data you need to make decisions about your current employee relationship.

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