(6 minute read)
Most companies invest huge sums to make sure their customers are satisfied, but overlook the most important satisfaction rating of all: that of their employees. Employee satisfaction is necessary to ensure that your organization is functioning as you would like — and can help you improve profits at the same time. By now, it seems most companies would realize just how critical happy employees are to the success of any business. It makes perfect sense that satisfied employees create better products and deliver better customer service experiences, right?
Still, especially during uncertain financial times such as these, some companies continue to thrive, while others slowly spiral toward the “Out of Business” drain. Throughout the latter, you’ll hear blame focused a variety of factors— most economy-related — but in reality, the trouble can be as simple as how respected and appreciated your employees feel.
How Important is the Happiness of Even a Few Employees?
While there’s plenty of research available on the subject, all the statistics in the world pale in comparison to a recent, real-world example of the effects of employee dissatisfaction on customer perceptions.
Kathleen Gage is a business advisor, keynote speaker, trainer and contributor to webpronews.com. Recently, she visited a local pet store to purchase supplies.
“I was given a pleasant greeting, assisted with my purchase and made to feel like a valued customer,” Gage recalls. “It was a good experience — until I paid for my purchase. The clerk began badmouthing the fact that her boss, the owner, took the afternoon off. The clerk seemed to feel obligated to tell me how much better she could run the business if she had the authority.”
She dismissed the experience as an isolated case; perhaps the clerk was just having a bad day.
Gage returned on another occasion and had a similar experience with another clerk. This time, the clerk didn’t seem to care if she bought anything or not; she just wanted to put down the owner. Since then, she hasn’t returned to the store, and she certainly doesn’t recommend the store to others based on her experiences.
“I have to assume that these employees do not feel valued by their boss,” Gage relates. “If they did, I hardly think they would talk so poorly behind the owner’s back. I assume these employees work just enough to justify their paycheck. I can also assume they won’t do anything to generate new business. What a pity — and what a missed opportunity for everyone.”
Gage suggests that instead of clinging to the old belief that “an employee should just be happy to have a job”, smart managers take a more progressive, holistic approach to gauging employee satisfaction.
Survey your Employees — You might be Surprised at What you Learn
A proper employee survey can be one of your most effective tools for increasing employee satisfaction. Not only will it allow you to capture general information about areas for improvement, it may also indicate how certain employee groups — for example, older employees or those in a certain department – are doing. In fact, just by taking part in an employee survey, employees will feel more involved in the business — with a valued, respected say in the company’s future direction.
“Where do I start?”
Like most company-wide initiatives, an employee survey typically requires buy-in from management. There are two primary constraints on internal efforts that “take away” from more customer-centric activities — time and cost. Unfortunately, it’s much easier for management to quantify time and cost than the very real, potentially significant benefits of the survey’s results to the company’s overall success.
It’s not too difficult to keep things simple for an easier sell to management. The process may seem overwhelming at first, but keep in mind that a typical employee survey takes only a few weeks from start to finish. Just beware of large “committees,” who tend to slow things down (and make poor decisions at the same time); keep your survey team as streamlined as possible.
Take advantage of today’s online survey technology:
One of the easiest ways to significantly reduce time and costs is to conduct your Employee Survey online (with options for paper-based surveys as needed). According to medicalsurveys.net, who works with leading hospitals to improve patient care and reward employees, this methodology has many significant advantages over paper-based programs:
Superior response rates: From 75% to 100%, vs. of 65% for paper surveys. (High-technology companies and small firms tend to have the best response rates.)
More detailed comments: Employees feel more “anonymous,” providing comments typically twice as long, giving management deeper insight into employee perceptions and attitudes. Also consider outsourcing your survey to a company like SurveyMethods to provide even more comfort to employees and guarantee their anonymity.
More efficient reminders: Responses typically dip quickly within a few days; an electronic follow-up reminder is an efficient way to boost response rates. Second and third reminders are also important, and they’re easy and free, too.
More legible response: It’s an unfortunate fact of business that handwriting is often still hard to decipher. Electronic surveys save transcribing costs, but spell checking is still needed in most cases.
Improved security: Duplicate online responses are much easier to detect and weed out than in stacks of paper surveys. It’s also important to incorporate the right tools to create, deploy, and analyze data to create internal satisfaction scorecards and metrics to monitor improvements.
Case Study: BMW — A Modern-day Employee Survey Success Story
BMW Manufacturing Co. is constantly on the lookout for new ways to improve employee job satisfaction and morale. In the past, the company’s HR staff deployed paper-based surveys, but the team was disappointed with response rates and the lengthy times needed to complete surveys.
They decided to try an online solution. Now, they can quickly collect feedback on everything from why employees visit the HR department (direct-deposit issues, 401K questions) to their assessment of how HR associates handle a case (Knowledgeable? Professional? Friendly?).
BMW lists the following tips for conducting a survey and acting on what you find:
- Assure employee anonymity: Online surveys are received and processed by impartial third parties.
- Communicate earlier findings, if available.
- Describe how results were used in the past, and how they will use new findings.
- Analyze results: Start as soon as they begin coming in. Use third-party analysis tools to slice and dice the information as best suits your business needs.
- Communicate findings: Consider compiling a series of reports — a confidential one (with full details) to top management and an open report to all employees. Be careful with details in small groups; anonymity may be threatened.
- Act on the information. Acknowledge problems up-front, and ask employees for help in eliminating them. The employee satisfaction cycle continues.
Employee surveys are among the most valuable tools available to help companies succeed, especially in tough economic times, when customer service means everything. Forward-thinking companies are using online survey technology and analytical tools to improve employee satisfaction scores, improving customer satisfaction and employee retention at the same time.
For more information about deploying an effective employee survey process at your company, or to engage SurveyMethods to assist with design, depoyment, and analysis of your survey, contact us today!