Definition: To see
To survey means to look over the parts, features, or contents of; view broadly. Another definition is to to look at or examine carefully and appraise: literally to see something.
Without the use of surveys, one can remain blind to certain areas of your business. They allow you to see things that were previously hidden from view, either fully or partially.
There are different kinds of surveys and each has a different purpose. A company can take external surveys for marketing or PR purposes and whole campaigns can be based on information gathered from the public in this way.
Alternatively, a business can take internal surveys of their employees to measure the temperature of how things are going and how the staff is feeling about certain subjects. This is a great way to monitor company culture since you’re going directly to the source for your data — your people.
Essentially this is a data-gathering activity. Whether you’re scanning internally or externally, you are ultimately looking to identify trends that can give you insights and data so you can then use it to plan for the future.
Knowing vs guessing
It doesn’t matter how well trained someone is in business strategy, or marketing, or any other field for that matter. Unless they’re consulting reliable data, they’re essentially guessing at solutions.
That data can be gathered from a number of sources. These sources would include your own surveys (if done correctly), industry trends and reports, surveys done by outside firms, and so on. The point is that the data has to be reliable.
Consulting reliable data that illuminates trends and actionable strategy is the only real way to expand and thrive. Guessing your way through a maze is likely to get you stuck in a dark corner of a cave — with a minotaur closing in on you fast.
Environmental scanning is a process that systematically surveys and interprets relevant data to identify external opportunities and threats that could influence future decisions. It is closely related to a SWOT analysis and should be used as part of the strategic planning process.
SWOT analysis is a strategic planning and management technique used to help an organization identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to business competition or project planning.
Environmental scanning is an important component of strategic planning because it provides information on factors that will affect the organization in the future. The information gathered will allow leadership to proactively respond to external impacts.
The main steps of an environmental scan are (1)To identify the environmental scanning needs of the organization. (2) Gather information. (3) Analyze information. (4) Communicate results. And (5) Make informed decisions.
An entire handbook could be filled with techniques and nuances of this activity, since it is a whole field of expertise, but it is mentioned here as a point of reference so that we can apply a similar process and purpose for internal use.
An interesting history lesson: in the 1920s, surveys were introduced in the name of employee attitude surveys. After 20+ years of use in about 3500 companies, the National Industrial Advisory, in the 1940s, observed a growth factor of more than 200 percent in organizations who implemented these surveys.
Nowadays, more than half of all businesses use employee surveys and implement changes suggested by employees as a way to keep them engaged regularly and help with company expansion.
An employee survey is a type of survey or questionnaire to obtain opinions and reviews and measure employee mood and morale, engagement, and also monitor employee achievements. Generally speaking, employee surveys are used by HR and management of a company and are kept anonymous to motivate the staff to comment on both their good — and bad — experiences without any hesitation or fear of repercussions.
It’s basically a “don’t put your name on it, but tell me honestly how you feel” kind of thing. This feedback can provide some incredibly useful information for executives and managers in identifying trends in the office.
For example, if you weren’t aware of the fact that the staff toilets on the 3rd floor were routinely neglected and constantly smelled bad, you can bet you’d find out after a survey. That would be a trend you’d notice in just about every questionnaire collected from employees on that floor.
It is important to note that employee surveys only really bear productive results when designed tactfully from scratch — or you could use some well-constructed templates that have proven fruitful in the past — with carefully curated survey questions.
Also noteworthy is that when employees are acknowledged or thanked for their previously submitted responses (as a group, not individually of course, since that would negate the whole anonymity thing) they are far more likely to participate in future surveys.
Tips for using surveys
Here are some things that can help with your internal surveys.
Goals. What do you want to achieve with your survey? Do you want to know more about employee engagement, employee experience or morale, or measure performance? This will define how you word your questions because it will inform what you are trying to measure. A survey without a goal or without focus is pretty much useless.
Measurement. What are you trying to measure? With your end goal in mind, set up questions that will give you useful data on indicators surrounding that specific area of interest. Are you interested in engagement? Morale? Performance? General feedback? All of the above?
Structure. Be predictable and easy to follow. Avoid any confusing and open-ended questions. Stick to a structure. Some organizations run annual surveys, some run them weekly. Whatever your needs, define the frequency accordingly. Decide on how you would run surveys, function-wise or team-wise, online or offline, etc. and design your questionnaires from there.
Tools. There are consulting firms that do this activity as a specialty, and there are also online tools that you can use. Make sure to do a little research and only use tools that can actually help you gain useful data for improvement. Don’t just pick some random online tool for the sake of doing surveys so that you can say that you did one. That’s of no use to anyone.
Anonymity. If you want employee feedback to be genuine and candid then your surveys have to be truly anonymous. If they don’t feel surveys will be completely anonymous, they may shy away from giving you certain information. This may be due to fear of managers, backlash during appraisals, etc.
And whatever you do, please resist the urge to guess who wrote something. It doesn’t serve you or the company, and it doesn’t serve your employee’s sense of anonymity.
There are survey software tools and platforms that make sure your employee surveys are well constructed, anonymous, provide useful data, and ensure that all employee data is safe and secure.
If you want to know, ask
There’s that old saying “You won’t get something if you don’t ask for it.” This applies here. By simply asking people how long they intend to stay as an employee in your company, you’ll be more accurate at foretelling their future turnover than some computer forecasts by predictive analytics.
It’s also very telling even when people don’t participate in surveys. People who don’t contribute are far more likely to leave in the next six months, than those who believe their opinion is worth adding. This makes sense in that if you don’t think your opinion matters enough to share it with management, then your one foot is already out the door.
And for those who do participate, then you’re offering them an opportunity to be heard. They’re also giving you valuable information and ammunition to make changes for the better.