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Employee feedback is vital for gauging employee performance and levels of employee engagement. Survey tools have evolved and provide phenomenal insights.

The COVID-19 pandemic has radically transformed how countless numbers of employees work and will work in the future. Necessity as they say, is the mother of invention and, thank goodness, technology is the midwife.

Thanks largely to technology, we find ourselves not completely helpless. We’re not helpless against the virus as medical professionals tirelessly work toward finding a vaccine, and we’re not helpless when it comes to staying productive. Thousands of companies have made transitions that have seen a substantial percentage of the workforce now working remotely.

In these trying times, it’s of paramount importance to stay in touch – and in the know – because for all the benefits of being able to work remotely, the virtual distance can easily erode a company’s culture. It’s easy enough to stay in contact with colleagues and co-workers by using the various platforms geared toward online collaboration, but to really know what’s going on corporate culture-wise, you’ll have to ask some very specific questions.

Enter the humble survey

Traditionally, surveys were simply performance management tools. By receiving feedback, organisations hoped to gain insight into things like corporate culture, employee engagement and employee performance. We’re seeing a dramatic increase in survey research and data collection by means of online surveys and now, more than ever, we need employee engagement surveys.

Tumultuous events can easily upset the status quo and disrupt established patterns and practices. Effective employee feedback is important because carefully analysing survey data, for example, can provide insight into how employees feel, and what their experience of the current situation is.

It’s very useful to get regular feedback, as this not only informs management of trends and moods but provides comfort to employees in knowing their wellbeing is top of mind and an ongoing concern for management. At this stage of the game, limiting feedback opportunities to the annual engagement survey or annual performance review is completely insufficient for keeping a handle on what’s going on with your workforce.

Building a better survey

There are many free survey tools available online that go out of their way to help you set things up, and it’s simple enough to create a survey if you are a small organisation. But let’s say you are a large, complex organisation; how can you create an equally complex and detailed survey? Sure, a survey can be made entirely of multiple-choice questions, but this can lack focus, especially if there are a great many irrelevant questions.

Just imagine someone from marketing having to read through all the questions directed at someone in finance! You can be sure they will be on autopilot for the rest of the questions and not even considering their answers – creating a very unreliable survey response. You also don’t want people to abandon the survey, as this will negatively affect your response rate.

Skip who?

Skip logic is a common feature in online survey tools, and it allows for a personalised survey experience by actively navigating the respondent only to questions that are relevant, based on previously answered questions. Skip logic reduces the number of questions to be answered, eliminates questions that will add no value, gathers relevant survey data for more accurate analysis, and helps to achieve higher completion rates.

What types of questions should you ask?

The construction of a survey depends greatly on the situation. Do you require a quick snapshot or a more detailed, in-depth response? A short, pulse survey will work for quick insights and needn’t comprise more than five carefully formulated questions, however if it’s deep-dive, nitty-gritty granular info you need, you’ll have to mix it up. A comprehensive survey ideally uses a range of question types to keep it user friendly.

Don’t forget to consider different types of employees when constructing your survey. For example, some may feel constrained by the limited options of a multiple-choice question. An easy way to accommodate your more verbose / chatty employees is to allow for an optional ‘Other’ response in your multiple-choice questions. Open-ended questions are often far more revealing than survey questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no, or “D: All of the above”.

It’s much like a sales conversation, in that you want to engage people and give them the opportunity to make observations and give comments, so you get a better ‘feel’ for them. These types of questions do require a human on the other end to analyse however, so be mindful that adding open-ended questions will add to the evaluation time of your survey. You can be sure that AI will be able to accelerate this process in the near future.

Be mindful that you won’t always get positive feedback. It’s like they say about publicity, positive or negative, it’s all good. Don’t ignore negative feedback.

Also allow for comments and observations about the survey at the end of the question set. These reactions, hopefully in the form of constructive criticism, will enable you to adapt and improve your survey.

Surveys. Surveys everywhere …

Another indicator of just how far surveys have come, and what a useful tool they are, is their inclusion in popular collaborative platforms, like Forms in Microsoft Teams, and user generated polls on social media platforms like Instagram. Both allow for real-time feedback from either your team members or your Insta followers.

At the end of the day, we are all human beings and we all like to know that somebody cares about us and our wellbeing. It could be argued that surveys were, historically, an impersonal way of gathering information, but given their evolution and modern functionality, they’re an indispensable tool that is finding more and more prominence in the modern world of work.

Truly, we live in interesting times.