5 Common Mistakes When Applying Employee Surveys and How to Avoid Them

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Employee surveys are very useful tools, especially for the Human Resources department, because they help us understand what is happening in our organization.

But, like any tool, you have to know how to use them.

If they are not well designed or if they are not managed correctly, instead of helping, they will cause us to make wrong decisions.

So, to avoid malfunctions in your process decision, in this article we are going to unmask five typical mistakes that are usually made when applying surveys, and how to avoid them to ensure that they are really helping you improve your organization.

5 mistakes you should avoid when applying employee surveys

1. Inadequate survey design

A poorly designed survey provides unclear information. If the questions are ambiguous or complex, the answers are most likely imprecise and therefore do not reflect the reality of the organization.

This fact hinders the main objective of the survey: obtaining a clear view of employees’ opinions and experiences.

On the other hand, a poorly prepared survey can also cause the data collected to be biased. For example, if the questions lead participants to respond in a specific way, the interpretations we make of those responses will be wrong, causing us to make decisions that do not address the organization’s true problems.

How to solve it?

 

#Clarity in questions:

  • Make sure each question is formulated clearly and simply.
  • Avoid using jargon or technical terms that may confuse respondents.
  • Use neutral language that doesn’t bias answers in a particular direction.

#Conciseness:

  • Keep questions short and to the point to avoid confusion.
  • Review each question and eliminate any unnecessary words or phrases.
  • Avoid redundancies.

#Objectivity:

  • Ask questions that allow you to obtain unbiased answers.
  • Avoid questions that could lead to positive or negative answers.

#Avoid double questions:

  • Make sure each question focuses on a single topic or idea.
  • Split compound questions into several individual questions if necessary. Or even in several surveys if the topics are different.

#Clear answer options:

  • Provide clear, mutually exclusive response options.
  • If you use Likert scales, make them consistent throughout the survey.

#Variety in types of questions:

  • Incorporate a mix of open and closed questions.
  • Closed questions help obtain quantitative data, while open questions provide qualitative insights.

#Testing

  • Test the survey with a small group before sending it to the entire organization.
  • Collect feedback on the clarity and relevance of the questions, and tweak the survey if necessary.

2. Lack of anonymity

Is it mandatory for all surveys to be anonymous? Nope. However, you should keep in mind that the lack of anonymity is often a barrier between employees and transparency in their responses.

If the team feels that their answers can be traced back to them, they will most likely not be honest for fear of being judged or reprimanded, especially if they have critical or negative comments.

Furthermore, if surveys are not anonymous, it is easier for employees to choose to give “safe” answers instead of sharing their true opinion, which is what actually helps improve the organization.

How to solve it?

 

#Reliable tools:

  • Opt for reputable survey platforms that offer robust anonymity features.
  • Make sure the platform has security measures to protect the identity of people participating in surveys.

#Anonymity policy:

  • Establish and communicate a clear anonymity policy that explains how respondents’ privacy will be protected.
  • Ensure leaders and managers understand and support this policy.

#Avoid relatable questions:

  • For example, questions that may reveal the identity of the respondent, especially in small groups or in departments with few people.

3. Not having a clear objective for the survey

This is point three, but it should really be number one. And it is possibly the biggest and most important mistake.

Without a defined purpose from the beginning, survey questions can easily stray into irrelevant or tangential topics, making the data you collect not useful for decision-making.

This not only causes a significant loss of time, but can also generate frustration both in the employees, who will see that the questions do not address what they are really interested in, and in the HR team and managers, who will continue to be unable to apply an action plan in the areas of improvement.

How to solve it?

 

#Exhaustive definition of objectives:

  • Before designing the survey, clearly define what you hope to achieve with it.
  • Objectives can range from understanding the level of employee satisfaction, identifying areas for improvement, to measuring the effectiveness of certain policies or initiatives.

#Question alignment:

  • Design questions that are directly related to the established objectives.
  • Make sure each question contributes to obtaining the information necessary to achieve those survey objectives.

#Avoid bypasses:

  • Avoid including questions that are not related to the purpose of the survey, no matter how interesting they may seem.
  • Maintain a clear focus and avoid straying into topics that do not contribute to those previously established.

4. Ignore the feedback received

Why is this a mistake? Because, if employees take the time to provide feedback and then don’t see any action or recognition of that feedback, they will feel like their time and opinions are not valued, nor that the company is serious about the improvement process.

Even more, by not seeing real involvement from the organization, the team may become disengaged, making any future improvement actions more complicated to execute.

How to solve it?

 

#Detailed analysis:

  • Take time to analyze the collected feedback exhaustively.
  • Identify trends, areas of improvement and strengths highlighted by employees.

#Action planning:

#Communication:

  • Communicate to the employees the findings from the feedback and the planned actions in response.
  • Maintain open communication about progress and any changes to the action plan.

#Implementation:

  • Implement planned actions and monitor results.
  • Adjust the action plan as necessary, based on the results and additional feedback.

#Effort recognition:

  • Recognize and thank employees for their time and honesty.
  • Always celebrate achievements and improvements.

#Continuousfeedback:

  • Encourage a continuous feedback loop, where employees can see how their opinion contributes to improvements.
  • Use future surveys to continue collecting feedback and make ongoing adjustments.

5. Lack of follow-up

Finally, another common mistake when launching surveys is thinking that, once the data has been sent and analyzed, the process ends. The reality is that keeping the pulse of an organization must be an ongoing project.

In this sense, post-survey follow-up is crucial to ensure that the effort invested in collecting feedback is not lost in oblivion.

Remember: without follow-up, employees will begin to question the usefulness of sharing their opinion, while leaders may miss the opportunity to act on valuable information.

How to solve it?

 

#Monitoring plan:

  • Design a follow-up plan that details how and when the survey results will be reviewed and acted upon.
  • Be sure to assign clear responsibilities for reviewing and acting on feedback.

#Continuous communication:

  • Share survey results and planned actions with everyone involved, not just leaders but employees as well.
  • Maintains open communication about progress toward established goals.

#Regular review:

  • Schedule regular reviews to evaluate progress and determine if the actions taken are generating the desired results.
  • If necessary, adjust the action plan based on the results.

#Learning and improvement:

  • Use the follow-up process as an opportunity to learn and improve.
  • Identify what worked well and what didn’t, and use those learnings to improve future surveys.

#Follow-up

  • Request feedback on the monitoring process and how survey feedback has been handled.
  • Use this additional feedback to make adjustments and improve the tracking process.

In summary, to avoid the main mistakes when launching a survey: create a good structure that is logical with what you want to find out, guarantee anonymity to increase the reliability of the answers and the quality of the information, do not ask just to ask and focus on your goal, pay attention to what the answers tell you and act accordingly, and don’t forget to do regular follow-ups to visualize the progress and changes that are occurring.

Now is your turn! Create and launch surveys to your employees with Team Insights, the only Feedback platform created by HR People for HR People. Sign up for free and start making the best decisions for your organization today.

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