If you own a business, you no doubt pride yourself on knowing every aspect of the business inside and out. But while you may think you could run the business blindfolded, there’s still a lot you probably don’t know.
Chances are, your employees aren’t walking in to work on Monday morning saying, “Hi, boss. By the way, you need to pay me more.” or “Happy Monday! You’re unreliable.” But one survey found that 79 percent of workers felt like they’re underpaid, and only 36 percent felt like they had the support of their supervisors.
People will often be more honest in surveys, so here’s what you should know about using surveys in a business setting to learn more about your employees.
Anonymity is key
First, let’s distinguish between polls and surveys. A poll generally has one question with multiple choice answers. A survey can have more questions and be open-ended. So if you asked your employees one question like “What would you most like to see change at work?” and gave them eight choices, that’s a poll. But if you asked several questions, that’s a survey. As a business owner, you’ll probably want to conduct surveys, because they tend to provide more useful information.
But while there’s no guarantee everyone will take the survey seriously, you can improve your odds by providing anonymity. Don’t ask for names. And definitely don’t go to your IT guys to try to match computers with employees. If you want bland survey results where everyone says everything is fine, you can ask for names. But in general, the only companies that do that are companies that can’t stand criticism.
Anonymity should be built into your online survey maker. The obvious reason is that it allows people to be more open and honest. Yes, it also means you might get some uncomfortable answers or outrageous demands. But you’ll also get data that can help your company grow. If a lot of people have a problem with your leadership style, it’s better to figure that out now rather than go on assuming everything is fine.
Ask for solutions
When you ask employees to identify problems, you should also ask something like “What are some ways the above issue could be fixed?” as well. The ability to be humble will go a long way with your employees. Sure, you’re the boss, but that doesn’t mean you’re too good to admit you made a mistake or overlooked an issue.
For instance, maybe the survey reveals that several employees feel like the job doesn’t offer enough opportunities to advance their careers or improve their education. They would like to feel more supported in both those endeavors. Now, you could not ask any more questions and try to figure out solutions on your own, but asking them to suggest ideas is going to be a lot quicker.
In the above scenario, some employees might suggest things like tuition reimbursement so they can get an online criminal justice degree. Others might ask for flex time that allows them more freedom to take traditional college classes or certification courses. Try not to rule out anything that seems like it came from a genuine place. If someone asks for you to buy everyone in the office a new sports car, then, yeah, you can go ahead and ignore that.
Once you’ve had time to absorb the survey results, it’s critical that you communicate with your employees and let them know you’ve heard them. You can send out a companywide email and say that you’re working on resolving issues A, B, and C. And then, if you care about employee retention, you’ll actually address those issues. Workers have more options when the economy is doing well. If you try to placate your office with a cheap pizza party while not doing anything to resolve the harder stuff, you’re probably going to lose some good employees.