For the last six years we’ve carried out an annual staff survey, as part of our ongoing commitment to making Engage a great place to work and to help highlight any areas of the business maybe requiring a little more attention.
After initially deciding it was an exercise worth doing, the biggest barrier to getting everything off the ground was composing the actual survey itself.
So with that in mind, I thought it would be useful to share our approach along with the specific questions we ask, in the hope that they’ll be helpful had you been planning something similar but just not found the time.
Disclaimer: I’d caution that you need to already have a fairly healthy team and culture in place before committing to something like this. Even with a strong team, you’ll likely get a few curveballs and pockets of discontentment so it’s essential to have both the capacity and commitment to follow up and action things where necessary.
What are the benefits?
There’s no doubt that opening yourself up to completely honest feedback from your whole company on a series of potentially contentious topics could be seen as brave… or foolhardy, depending on your perspective.
A few people I’ve discussed it with have responded with comments such as ‘No chance’ and ‘I’m not opening that can of worms’ - highlighting the general reluctance in companies to open themselves up to feedback from the people who essentially are the company - driven by a fear of what it could expose.
The obvious counter argument to this ‘bury your head in the sand’ approach is that issues don’t magically resolve themselves without intervention and have a nasty habit of coming to light in the worst possible ways when simply left to fester.
Thus, taking a head-on approach can often nip things in the bud, set a positive cultural precedent and wait for it…. may actually generate some surprising and positive feedback about the things you’re doing great at, which makes it all worthwhile.
“Taking a head-on approach can often nip emerging issues in the bud whilst setting a positive cultural precedent”
Another less tangible benefit, is that it makes teams feel listened to and their input valued.
By simply asking questions about their role and job satisfaction, you’re giving them a voice and opening a channel for direct feedback with the directors on a range of sensitive topics, such as whether they feel they’re paid enough through to whether they can see their long term future with the company.
This is a rare and valuable opportunity to really get to the heart of any emerging issues whilst showing that you’re genuinely committed to listening to feedback and actioning positive change.
Over the years, it’s given us some great management reporting information, in that we’re now able to plot trends across a whole range of company areas and to see how we’re doing over time.
It’s also helped to inform and validate many of our business decisions, such as our move to Leeds and flexible working policies.
We use Typeform to manage our surveys, but then download all the raw data into Google Sheets for post-analysis, as this allows us to dig much deeper into the numbers and also do yearly comparisons of results - a feature currently not supported by Typeform.
The follow up
It’s important that you set aside time to thoroughly digest the surveys, do the analysis and identify any themes.
This year, we’ll actually be presenting the results back to the team, along with the learnings we’ve gained and the changes that we’ll be looking to implement as a result.
Completing the circle this way rounds off the whole process neatly and is an important part of making it a success.
We’ll also be holding an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session immediately following the presentation where myself and Dave will make ourselves available in a meeting room for half a day and invite anyone to pop in and, as the name implies, ask us anything they want about the survey or the wider company.
A note on anonymity
For the first few years of conducting the survey it was completely anonymous, as we felt this would enable people to be more honest with their feedback.
It worked as intended, but the problem with complete anonymity is that whilst you get an accurate overall picture and identify trends in the results, you’re unable to follow up on any individual answers that may require 1-on-1 attention, as you don’t know who wrote them, which can be quite frustrating.
“53% of people stayed anonymous in 2017 and only 37% in 2018”
In 2017 and 2018 we gave the team the option of adding their names to their surveys, should they wish.
53% of people stayed anonymous in 2017 and only 37% in 2018. This certainly makes it easier to drill down into individual sentiment, but there’s definitely a trend where people are happy to put their names to positive responses, but ones with more areas for attention still preferred anonymity, so it didn’t fully solve the issue.
For 2019 we may ask everyone to put a name to their feedback in an attempt to get the full picture, but are still undecided. Of course the real marker of a strong and healthy culture is one where people can put their name to completely honest and constructive feedback, free from the fear of retribution, however human nature often makes us hold back and this transparency may come at the cost of honesty.
What questions did we ask?
Anyway, enough of the preamble on onto the questions. So with further ado, here they are:
So, there you have it, warts and all. Obviously you’ll want to tweak things to be more relevant to your team but hopefully it’s a good starter for 10.
So what’s important to team Engage?
Whilst the majority of results are for our eyes only I’m afraid, below are the top 5 scoring areas from the team in answer to the question of ‘How important the following are to you at work?’
- Work / Life balance
- Personal development
- Working environment
- Quality of our work
With salary coming in at 8th.
What do you think your team’s top 5 would be?
And that’s all from me until next time. I’d love to hear if you do end up using our process or similar, and if you have any feedback or questions at all then fire them over to firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex concentrates his time moulding the future picture of the company's development, paying particular attention to the intricate balance of growth, culture and doughnut consumption.